William of Orange (or of Nassau)
(1533-1584)
   William of Nassau, the prince of Orange, was born on 24 April 1533 at Dilling-ham in Germany. A favorite page of Emperor Charles V, he was educated at the court in Brussels from age 11 and reared a Roman Catholic. He inherited (1544) the holdings of the branch of the Nassau family in the Netherlands and the principality of Orange in southern France. William owned several residences in Brussels. Following his marriage to Anne of Egmont in 1531, he resided at the Palais de Nassau, where he entertained lavishly. He attended Charles V's abdication in Brussels and he later opposed Philip II's policies. One among a number of nobles who organized resistance, William fled to Germany following the arrival of the duke of Alba in 1567. Raising an army, he carried on active resistance. Defeated by Spanish forces as leader of an invading force from the northern Netherlands (1572), William persevered. The northern base was secured, and, following growing opposition to Spanish rule in Brabant, he was appointed governor by the Estates. He returned to Brussels on 23 September 1577, acclaimed by the populace as the restorer and defender of liberty. William left on 20 October and returned again on 18 January 1578 together with Archduke Matthias of Austria. He took the oath of governor of Brabant at the Hôtel de Ville on 20 January. A Calvinist convert (October 1573), William, who was dubbed the "Silent," never lost his hope for an independent, united, and tolerant Netherlands. He continued to lead the opposition forces in fighting the Spanish and was assassinated in Delft, the Netherlands, by Balthazar Gerards, a French Catholic fanatic, on 10 July 1584. William was buried in a mausoleum in the New Church at Delft.
   See also Wars of Religion.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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