1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/William II., King of the Netherlands
WILLIAM II. (1792–1849), king of the Netherlands, son of William I., was born at the Hague on the 6th of December 1792. When he was three years old his family was driven out of Holland by the French republican armies, and lived in exile until 1813. He was educated at the military school at Berlin and afterwards at the university of Oxford. He entered the English army, and in 181 1, as aide-de-camp to the duke of Wellington, took part in several campaigns of the Peninsula War. In 1815 he commanded the Dutch and Belgian contingents, and won high commendations for his courage and conduct at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, at the latter of which he was wounded. The prince of Orange married in 1816 the grand duchess Anna Paulowna, sister of the tzar Alexander I. He enjoyed considerable popularity in Belgium, as well as in Holland for his affability and moderation, and in 1830, on the outbreak of the Belgian revolution, he betook himself to Brussels, and did his utmost by personal conferences with the most influential men in the Belgian capital to bring about a peaceable settlement on the basis of the administrative autonomy of the southern provinces under the house of Orange. His father had given him powers to treat, but afterwards threw him over and rejected the terms of accommodation that he had proposed. He withdrew on this to England and resided there for several months. In April 1831 William took the command of a Dutch army for the invasion of Belgium, and in a ten-days’ campaign defeated and dispersed the Belgian forces under Leopold I. after a sharp fight near Louvain. He would have entered Brussels in triumph, but his victorious advance was stayed by the intervention of the French. In 1840, on the abdication of his father, he ascended the throne as William II. The peace of 1839 had settled all differences between Holland and Belgium, and the new king found himself confronted with the task of the reorganization of the finances, and the necessity of meeting the popular demand for a revision of the fundamental law, and the establishment of the electoral franchise on a wider basis. He acted with good sense and moderation, and, although by no means a believer in democratic ideas, he saw the necessity of satisfying public opinion and frankly gave his support to larger measures of reform. The fundamental law was altered in 1848 and the Dutch monarchy, from being autocratic, became henceforth constitutional. The king’s attitude secured for him the good will and affection of a people, loyal by tradition to the house of Orange, and the revolutionary disturbances of 1848 found no echo in Holland. William died suddenly on the 17th of March 1849.
See J. J . Abbink, Leven van Koning Willem II. (Amsterdam, 1849); J. Bosscha, Het Leven van Willem den Tweede, Koning der Nederlanden, 1793–1849 (Amsterdam, 1852); P. Blok, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Volk (Leiden, 1908). (G. E.)