Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s (1778-1846), exclamation ‘Iek ben Konijn van Olland’ (I am Rabbit of Holland) in poor Dutch is legendary. He meant to say ‘King of Holland’, which he was from 1806 to 1810. Despite being a humorous slip of the tongue, it attests to his effort to master his subjects’ language. The king was devoted to the Dutch people and took his duties very seriously, for which he was dubbed ‘Louis the Good’. His brother, Emperor Napoleon, allowed him little latitude during his reign. Louis nevertheless defied the emperor, defending Dutch trade interests and cutting back military expenditure, both in the armed and naval forces.
He was beloved for his compassion in visiting Leiden in 1807, when the explosion of a cargo ship laden with gunpowder ravaged the town. And in 1809 he personally oversaw relief efforts in the Betuwe region, which had suffered from serious flooding. The king was sympathetic to Dutch culture and founded the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science, the Royal Library and the Rijksmuseum.
Louis married Hortense de Beauharnais in 1802. The consort queen was miserable with this union and also disliked the Netherlands. Consequently, she resided in France as often as possible. The couple finally separated officially in 1810.
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