Titles: Prince(ss) of Orange

On 30 April 2013 the eldest daughter of the new King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Catharina-Amalia, became the first Princess of Orange in her own right in modern times. The title is however much older.

© RVD – Frank Ruiter 2021

Orange (Principauté d’Orange) was a principality in what is nowadays part of the Departement of Vaucluse, Provence, in the southeast of France. The County was created around the year 800, possibly by Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Lombards, and Emperor of the Romans. The first count was called Guillaume, who is said to have been a courtier of Charlemagne and conquered the city from the Saracens in 793. Orange was named after the city with the same name. Since 1032 it was part of the Holy Roman Empire, as only part of the Kingdom of Burgundy. Around 1070 the County of Orange passed to the house of Orange-Nice.. It was Emperor Frederik Barbarossa who elevated the County to a sovereign principality within the Empire in the year 1163.

Not long afterwards the last Count/Prince of Orange of the house Orange-Nice died. Princess Thiburge of Orange married 1173 Bertrand I. of Les Baux, who in 1178 received the right to qualify himself as Prince of Orange by the new Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. He also received the right to take up arms, to use the prerogatives and to wear a closed crown and all the insignia of sovereignty. He possibly died in 1181. The countal territory was initially ceded to the Order of Saint John. It was not until 1308 that Bertrand III would reunited the whole territory.

After the death of Raymond III of Les Baux in 1393 his daughter Marie inherited the principality. She was married to Jean III de Chalon. The last Prince of Orange of this family, Philibert, died in 1530. He had named the son of his sister Claude, Count René of Nassau-Breda, as his heir, on condition that René would use the name and coat of arms of the Chalon-Orange family. He is more known as René of Chalon. He died on 15 July 1544 of wounds received in the siege of Saint-Dizier, with Emperor Charles V at his bedside. René however had no surviving children. For the first time in the history of the Principality of Orange the territories would not pass on via the female line.

In his will René left all his lands, including the principality, to the son of his late father’s brother. The Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, Wilhelm, only 11 years old, who was to receive a Catholic upbringing. The founder of the House of Orange-Nassau would go into history as William I (Dutch: Willem) the Silent. The next Princes of Orange were his sons Philips Willem (1584-1618), Maurits (1618-1625), Frederik Hendrik (1626-1647), Willem II (1647-1650) and Willem III (1650-1702).

Three Princes of Orange

And then the trouble began. Who had the right to use the title now the last descendant in male line of Willem I had become extinct? In his will Willem III had designated Johan Willem Friso of Nassau, a male line descendant of a brother of Willem I, as his heir. He also based his claim on the wills of Maurits and René of Chalon. He furthermore was a descendant in female line of Willem I’s granddaughter Albertine Agnes. Close to home it was King Friedrich I of Prussia, who claimed the title, being the son of Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange’s daughter Louise Henriëtte. Frederik Hendriks will said that if there were no male heirs, the descendants of Louise Henriëtte would inherit. King Louis XIV of France had already reunited the Principality of Orange with France in 1673. In 1712 he gave the principality itself to Louis Armand II of Bourbon-Conti, who recognised the French sovereignty. However in 1706 he had already given Louis de Mailly-Nesle, Marquis de Nesle (1688-1764) the right to bear the title of Prince of Orange. During the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 this situation was confirmed. It was also assigned the title and coat of arms of Orange to Prussia. The King of Prussia however at the same time renounced his rights to the Principality of Orange itself. Johan Willem Friso however didn’t accept this and it was not until 1732 that his son Willem IV regained the formal rights through a treaty with Prussia.

The current head of the House of Prussia, Prince Georg Friedrich, still can use the title Prince of Orange. While Louis de Mailly-Nesle, Marquis de Nesle, Prince of Orange, only had daughters. Although the past had learnt that the title could be inherited in female line, it was a younger branche of the family de Mailly, who took the courtesy title of Prince of Orange in the 19th century.

Photo & Copyright: RVD – Erwin Olaf
The heir to the throne

When Willem I became King of the Netherlands on 16 March 1815 the title of Prince of Orange was awarded to the eldest living son of the King, the later King Willem II. The next holders were the later King Willem III and his sons Willem and Alexander, who died in 1884. Until a change in constitution in 1983 the title could only be carried by direct heirs in the male line.Therefore the next heirs to the throne, Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix were never Princess of Orange. Only Willem-Alexander became Prince of Orange again when his mother Beatrix became Queen of the Netherlands on 30 April 1980. It turned out by then the title was largely forgotten and the media in 1980 even managed to call Beatrix’ sons “the Princes of Orange”. Thanks to the 1983 change of Constitution his eldest daughter Catharina-Amalia is since 30 April 2013 the Princess of Orange. The title is being used without first name, thus “The Princess of Orange”.

The colour orange

The Dutch flag is red-white-blue. But orange has widely become known as the national colour of the Netherlands, as an homage to the Royal House of Orange-Nassau. At national events and sports games fans love to dress in orange, and also sportsmen and -women at international events often wear outfits that include the colour orange.

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