Revolutions Everywhere

The Dutch Republic ended on 18 January 1795 with the founding of the Batavian Republic. The authoritarian regime of the stadtholder, William V, Prince of Orange was overthrow by the Dutch Patriots demanding a democratic government, after which William fled to England, taking refuge in the “Dutch House” at Kew Palace.

Dutch Patriots of 18 Jan 1796Krayenhoff_Daendels_1795

During the last quarter 0f the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century, revolutions broke out everywhere. Everyone, it seems, wanted self-rule or a republic or more human rights. The Dutch were no different, and like most other places, the people were driven to revolt by the systemic inequality plaguing their society. The working class Dutchman was barely scraping along, but

the banks of the Dutch Republic held much of the world’s capital … This concentration of wealth (and the connections the government had to the House of Stuart) led to the formation of the Dutch Patriots by a minor Dutch noble named Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol …  the Patriots who, inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, desired a more democratic government and a more equal society. The Patriots built support from most of the middle-class, and founded militias (Exercitiegenootschappen) of armed civilians, which between 1783 and 1787 managed to take over several cities and regions in an effort to force new elections which would oust the old government officials … urging citizens to resist the government by distributing pamphlets, creating “Patriot Clubs” and holding public demonstrations. The government responded by pillaging those towns where the opposition was concentrated.

The Patriots supported the invasion of French troops, which had promised to liberate the Dutch from William V’s control and establish equality, in the harsh winter at the end of 1794. Even before French troops reached Holland, the Dutch used the opportunity to hold mini-revolts in most cities and set up Revolutionary Committees to take over the governmental functions. The French, however, were determined to conquer, not liberate, the Lowlands. By 1806 the French had replaced the Batavian Republic with the Kingdom of Holland was founded, and Napoleon made his brother, Louis Napoleon, King of Holland. In 1810, the Kingdom of Holland had been annexed into the First French Empire.

Happily for the Dutch, The Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands was created after Napoleon’s defeat in 1813. In exchange for British help, the Dutch invited William V’s son, William Frederick, to be the “Sovereign Prince” of the United Netherlands.

William I, King of the Netherlands

The new prince then declared himself to be King William I of the Netherlands and Duke of Luxembourg on 16 March 1815, after the unification of the Low Countries.


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