William of Orange is also known as the 'Father of the Fatherland'. His connection to Delft and the New Church happened purely by chance. Following his unexpected demise in the Prinsenhof in Delft, there was no way to get his body to his family plot in Breda...

Mortal enemies
William of Orange was born to a noble German family - the Nassaus. At the age of 11, he inherited the title of Prince of Orange and became part of the court of King Charles V. He was a favourite of Charles, and became a confidant of the king after his abdication. Charles told his son and heir Philip II: ‘Honour this young man. He can be your most valuable adviser and support'. Nobody suspected at the time that William and Philip would become mortal enemies...

Violence
Eventually, Philip II named William of Orange stadholder of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht. But as William's social standing increased, so did his aversion to Philip II. The king's ambition was to force Europe to unite into a single Roman Catholic state. William, on the other hand, believed in freedom of worship.

Resistance
The protestants in the Low Countries suffered increasing oppression. The conflict came to a head and in April 1567, William was forced to flee to Germany with his family. From there, William of Orange - himself a Roman Catholic - attacked the Spanish ruler with a small army of his own making. But it was not enough, and he could not stop Philip II.

Murder
On March 15, 1580, the king declared William of Orange an outlaw. He survived several attempted murders. William's final days were spent in Delft, in what is now the Prinsenhof. He felt relatively safe there, but the Frenchman Balthasar Gerards managed to force his way in, and shot William at close range. Legend has it that William's last words, spoken in French, were: ‘My God, my God, have pity on me and these poor people.'

Final resting place
Under normal circumstances William of Orange would have been buried in Breda, but the city was at that time occupied by the Spanish. That is why he ended up being buried in the New Church in Delft. Every member of the Dutch Royal Family since then has been laid to rest in the same place.

 

Historical timeline

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