King William I (1772-1843), king-merchant

Up with Orange! Holland is free! Cheered on by the people, William was proclaimed the first king of Orange in his fatherland in 1815. Forced to live in exile for many years, he had regularly doubted whether the Orange dynasty could be restored. King William was a forceful character, a man of action. His interests lay primarily in economics and he proved to be an avid entrepreneur. He stimulated trade, shipping and industry by building roads and canals. He also invested his own capital, for instance in the Dutch Trading Company. When it was founded, he immediately subscribed to it for four million guilders. However, he showed little talent for other affairs of state, which eventually led to the secession of Belgium from the Northern Netherlands in 1831. His disapproval of an amendment to the constitution, and criticism of his intended marriage to a Catholic Belgian countess finally caused him to abdicate the throne. Deeply disillusioned, he once again bade his country farewell and settled in Berlin.

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