King Willem II

1792-1849 1840-1849

Willem II was the oldest son of Willem I and Wilhelmina of Prussia. When he was three years old, his family were forced to flee the Netherlands after the invasion of the French army invaded the Netherlands. After studying at Oxford Willem joined the army, commanding the troops of the northern and southern Netherlands against the French Emperor Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Because of his role in this victory he was known as ‘the hero of Waterloo’.

Willem II succeeded his father as king when the latter abdicated in 1840. Revolutions broke out in several European countries in 1848, and the Dutch people were also demanding greater democracy. To prevent a revolution – which might mean him losing his throne – the King agreed to a revised constitution in which ministers were responsible for decision-making, rather than the king. Willem II died a year later.