The Proud Dutch National Anthem
Flag of the Netherlands
The Dutch national anthem, the "Wilhelmus," has 15 eight-line verses. It was written between 1569 and 1578. Based on older songs, the "Wilhelmus" takes the form of an acrostic on the name of William of Orange, the leader of the Dutch revolt against Philip II of Spain. The lines were probably composed by a Dutch exile in Germany and polished by the poet and diplomat Philip van Marnix, Seigneur of Sint Aldegonde.
The first and sixth verses are usually sung on national occasions. In the first verse, Prince William vows that he will remain true to his country unto death; in the sixth, he prays to God for strength to rid the land of tyranny. In periods of oppression especially, these verses have had a powerful appeal for the people of the Netherlands.
On 10 May 1932, it was decreed that on all official occasions requiring the performance of the national anthem, the "Wilhelmus" was to be played. Before that time, the "Wilhelmus" had been sung on many official occasions and at many important events since 1568: events such as the siege of Haarlem in 1573 and the ceremonial entry of the Prince of Orange into Brussels on 18 September 1578. Trumpets sounded the "Wilhelmus" when Prince Maurice visited Breda, and again when he was received in state in Amsterdam in May 1618. When William V arrived in Schoonhoven in 1787, after the authority of the stadholders had been restored, the church bells played the "Wilhelmus" continuously.
By then, it had come to be called the "Princes' March", having been banned during the rule of the Patriot party. At the celebrations marking the birth of the child who would later be King William II on 16 December 1792, it was sung after High Mass in the Catholic church in Venlo. Following the surrender of 's-Hertogenbosch to the French on 9 October 1794, the garrison withdrew with full military honours to the sound of the "Wilhelmus."
However, by the foundation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1813, the "Wilhelmus" had fallen out of favour. After a contest for a national anthem was held in 1815, a poem by Hendrik Tollens - "Wien Neerlands Bloed" (Whose Dutch Blood) - became popular. The music was by the composer J.W. Wilms. "Wien Neerlands Bloed" was gradually replaced by the "Wilhelmus" during the 19th century; the latter gained ground particularly after the southern Netherlands seceded in 1830. Indeed, the "Wilhelmus" was played and sung when new Acts of Parliament were promulgated. It was also played at the unveiling of the Plein 1813 independence memorial in The Hague in 1869, and again at the inauguration of Queen Wilhelmina in 1898. However, the Royal Netherlands Navy and the National Police Force continued to require a salute to honour both anthems until 1939.
In 1567, Prince William of Orange fled the Netherlands with thousands of other opponents of Spanish rule. The following year, he tried in vain to free his country from tyranny and religious persecution. But his three invasions with mercenaries from the Holy Roman Empire failed completely.
Source: Royal Netherlands Embassy.
William of Orange
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe