The House of Orange-Nassau (in Dutch: Huis van Oranje-Nassau, pronounced [ˈɦœy̯s fɑn oːˈrɑɲə ˈnɑsʌu̯]), a branch of the European House of Nassau, has played a central role in the politics and government of the Netherlands — and at times in Europe — especially since William I of Orange (also known as "William the Silent" and "Father of the Fatherland") organized the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule, which after the Eighty Years' War led to an independent Dutch state.
Several members of the house served during this war and after as governor or stadtholder (Dutch stadhouder) during the Dutch Republic. However, in 1815, after a long period as a republic, the Netherlands became a monarchy under the House of Orange-Nassau.
The dynasty was established as a result of the marriage of Henry III of Nassau-Breda from Germany and Claudia of Châlon-Orange from French Burgundy in 1515. Their son René inherited in 1530 the independent and sovereign Principality of Orange from his mother's brother, Philibert of Châlon. As the first Nassau to be the Prince of Orange, René could have used "Orange-Nassau" as his new family name. However, his uncle, in his will, had stipulated that René should continue the use of the name Châlon-Orange. History knows him therefore as René of Châlon. After the death of René in 1544 his cousin William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited all his lands. This "William I of Orange", in English better known as William the Silent, became the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau.
The House of Nassau
1544 - "Orange-Nassau" symbolized by adding the "Châlon-Orange" arms in an escutcheon to the "Nassau" arms
The Castle of Nassau was founded around 1100 by Count Dudo-Henry of Laurenburg (German: Dudo-Heinrich von Laurenburg), the founder of the House of Nassau. In 1120, Dudo-Henry's sons and successors, Counts Robert I (German: Ruprecht; also translated Rupert) and Arnold I of Laurenburg, established themselves at Nassau Castle with its tower. They renovated and extended the castle complex in 1124.
The first man to be called the count of Nassau was Robert I of Nassau (Ruprecht in German), who lived in the first half of the 13th century (see family tree below). The Nassau family married into the family of the neighboring Counts of Arnstein (now Kloster Arnstein). His sons Walram and Otto split the Nassau possessions. The descendants of Walram became known as the Walram Line, which became Dukes of Nassau, and in 1890, the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg. This line also included Adolph of Nassau, who was elected King of the Romans in 1292. The descendants of Otto became known as the Ottonian Line, which inherited parts of Nassau County, and properties in France and the Netherlands.
William the Silent, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch War for Independence, and stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht.
The House of Orange-Nassau stems from the younger Ottonian Line. The first of this line to establish himself in the Netherlands was John I, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, who married Margareta of the Marck. The real founder of the Nassau fortunes in the Netherlands was John's son, Engelbert I. He became counsellor to the Burgundian Dukes of Brabant, first to Anton of Burgundy, and later to his son Jan IV of Brabant. He also would later serve Philip the Good. In 1403 he married the Dutch noblewoman Johanna van Polanen, and so inherited lands in the Netherlands, with the Barony of Breda as the core of the Dutch possessions and the family fortune.:35
A noble's power was often based on his ownership of vast tracts of land and lucrative offices. It also helped that much of the lands that the House of Orange and Nassau controlled sat under one of the commercial and mercantile centers of the world (see below under Lands and Titles. The importance of the Nassaus grew throughout the 15th and 16th centuries as they became councilors, generals and stadholders of the Habsburgs (see armorial of the great nobles of the Burgundian Netherlands and List of Knights of the Golden Fleece). Engelbert II of Nassau served Charles the Bold and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, who had married Charles's daughter Mary of Burgundy. In 1496 he was appointed stadtholder of Flanders and by 1498 he had been named President of the Grand Conseil. In 1501, Maximilian named him Lieutenant-General of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands. From that point forward (until his death in 1504), Engelbert was the principal representative of the Habsburg Empire to the region. Hendrik III of Nassau-Breda was appointed stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland by Charles of Ghent in the beginning of the 16th century. Hendrik was succeeded by his son René of Châlon-Orange in 1538, who had inherited the principality of Orange and the title Prince of Orange from his maternal uncle Philibert of Chalon. René died prematurely on the battlefield in 1544. His possessions, including the principality of Orange and the title Prince of Orange, passed by his will as sovereign prince to his paternal cousin, William I of Orange. From then on, the family members called themselves "Orange-Nassau.
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