William the Silent

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For other people named William of Orange, see William of Orange (disambiguation).

One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere.

William I, Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg (24 April 153310 July 1584), also widely known as William the Silent, was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against Spain that set off the Eighty Years' War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648. He was assassinated in 1584. Today he is known as the De Vader des Vaderlands, or, in english, Father of the Fatherland.

Sourced[edit]

  • Sire, have pity on the Spanish infantry, which, for lack of pay and out of sheer starvation, is scouring the low country round, plundering the peasantry in mere need of food. These disorders I cannot repress, much less can I punish them, for necessity has no law.
    • William to Philip II while William was in command of the forces round Philippeville, January 5th, 1556, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 11
  • All in the world I have is yours; Next to God, you are the one I love best, and if I did not know that your love for me is the same, I could not be so happy as I am: May God give us both the grace to live always in this affection without any guile.
    • To William's first wife while she was dying, 1558, as quoted William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 15
  • I will say no more, than that I will act as I shall answer hereafter to God and to man.
    • After Williams Wedding Ceremony, marrying his 2nd Wife, who was a Lutheran, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 16
  • Tell the King, that whole cities are in open revolt against the prosecutions, and that it is impossible to enforce the decrees here. As for myself, I shall continue to hold by the Catholic faith; but I will never give any colour to the tyrannical claim of kings to dictate to the consciences of their people, and to prescribe the form of religion that they choose to impose. Call the King’s attention to the corruption that has crept into the administration of justice. Let the Government be reformed, the Privy Council and the Council of Finance, and increase the authority of the Council of State.
    • To the Count of Egmont about what to say to Philip II, 1565, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 22
  • The end will show the whole truth.
    • To his brother Louis, commenting on The Count of Egmont's visit to Philip II about the problems in the Netherlands, 1565, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 22
  • In all things there must be order, but it must of such a kind as is possible to observe...to see a man burnt for doing as he thought right, harms the people, for this is a matter of conscience.
    • William at a meeting about Philips actions, 1566-William the Silent, by C.V. Wedgwood pg 78
  • I have come to make my grave in this land.
    • William as he led his army into the Netherlands, 1572-C.V Wedgwood, William the Silent
  • I am no Calvinist, but it seems to me neither right nor worthy of a Christian to seek, for the sake of differences between the doctrine of Calvin and the Confession of Augsburg, to have this land swarming with troops and inundated with blood.
    • William to the Landgrave of Hesse, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 34
  • Would not the German princes at least intercede with Philip? Would they hinder the passage of the royal mercenaries from Germany? Saxony, Hesse, Wurtemburg, and the rest offer excellent advice, to beware of Philip, not to drive him to extremity, to avoid outrages.
    • William in a letter to the Elector of Saxony-William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 35
  • God save the King!
    • William in Antwerp, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 34
  • This mercy will be your ruin; you will be at the bridge across which the Spaniards will enter this land.
    • Talking to his friend, the Count of Egmont, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison pg 76
I cannot approve of monarchs who want to rule over the conscience of the people, and take away their freedom of choice and religion.
  • It would be the greatest disaster which could befall our House if any untoward accident befall you, which may God avert! Do not hesitate to open letters addressed to me. Your love for me and the absolute confidence between us make me feel that I cannot have any secrets from you.
    • William talking to his brother John, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison pg 54
  • We may see how miraculously God defends our people, and makes us hope that, in spite of the malice of our enemies, He will bring our cause to a good and happy end, to the advancement of His glory and the deliverance of so many Christians from unjust oppression.
    • William to his brother John on Williams 2nd Invasion of the Netherlands, 1572, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 62
  • I am resolved, to go and plant myself in Holland or in Zeeland, and there await the issue which it shall please Him to ordain.
    • Writing to his brother John after an unsuccessful campaign, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 64
  • It is the will of God, and we must submit; but I call my God to witness that I have done all that in me lay to save the city, utterly desperate as I knew the attempt to be. When I took in hand the defence of these oppressed Christians, I made an alliance with the mightiest of all Potentates—the God of Hosts, who is able to save us, if He choose.
    • William to his brother Louis at the Siege of Harlem, 1573, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 68
  • It is not possible for me to bear alone such labours and the burden of such weighty cares as press on me from hour to hour, without one man at my side to help me. I have not a soul to aid me in all my anxieties and toils.
    • William showing his unhesitating trust in Providence, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 75
  • If they be dead, as I can no longer doubt, we must submit to the will of God and trust in His divine Providence, that He who has given the blood of His only Son to maintain His Church will do nothing but what will redound to the advancement of His glory and the preservation of His Church—however impossible it may appear. And though we all were to die, and all this poor people were massacred and driven out, we still must trust that God will not abandon his own.
    • William on the loss of his brothers in a letter to John, one of his other Brothers, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 76
  • They stormed Oudewater, and delivered it over to all imaginable cruelties, sparing neither sex nor age.
    • William on the cruel actions of the Spanish at Oudewater, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 87
  • We must have patience and not lose heart, submitting to the will of God, and striving incessantly, as I have resolved to do, come what may. With God’s help, I am determined to push onward, and by next month I trust to be at our appointed rendezvous. Watch Alva closely, and contrive to join me as arranged.
    • Writing in a letter to his brother, Louis of Nassau, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 93
Our friends and allies are all turned cold.
  • Our friends and allies are all turned cold.
    • Writing to his brother, Louis of Nassau, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 93
  • Now, we shall see the beginning of a great tragedy.
    • Quoted in The New York Times (July 10, 1884)
  • As in the beginning, so now, and it will be for ever after, we come of a race who are very bad managers in youth, though we improve as we get older. I have cut down the cost of my falconers to 1200 florins, and I hope soon to be out of debt.
    • William writing to his brother Louis, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 10
  • I cannot approve of monarchs who want to rule over the conscience of the people, and take away their freedom of choice and religion.
    • 1564- Havo Exam
  • My legal wife is to me dead; the only ecclesiastical authority I recognise pronounces me free; the attacks and threats of men do not disturb me. I am acting according to a clear conscience, and am doing hurt to no man. For my conduct, I will answer to my maker.
    • William talking about his personal life, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 176
  • You are staking your own head by trusting the King. Never will I so stake mine, for he has deceived me too often. His favourite maxim is, haereticis non est servanda fides. I am now bald and Calvinist and in that faith will I die.
    • William to a supporter of the King, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 92
  • One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere.
    • As quoted in O Canada: An American's Notes on Canadian Culture (1963) by Edmund Wilson
  • I am in the hands of God, my worldly goods and my life have long since been dedicated to his service. He will dispose of them as seems best for his glory and my salvation. … Would to God that my perpetual banishment or even my death could bring you a true deliverance from so many calamities. Oh, how consoling would be such banishment — how sweet such a death! For why have I exposed my property? Was it that I might enrich myself? Why have I lost my brothers? Was it that I might find new ones? Why have I left my son so long a prisoner? Can you give me another? Why have I put my life so often in danger? What reward can I hope after my long services, and the almost total wreck of my earthly fortunes, if not the prize of having acquired, perhaps at the expense of my life, your liberty? If then, my masters, you judge that my absence or my death can serve you, behold me ready to obey. Command me — send me to the ends of the earth — I will obey. Here is my head, over which no prince, no monarch, has power but yourselves. Dispose of it for your good, for the preservation of your republic, but if you judge that the moderate amount of experience and industry which is in me, if you judge that the remainder of my property and of my life can yet be of service to you, I dedicate them afresh to you and to the country.
    • Response after hearing he had been declared an outlaw by Philip II- New York Times (July 10, 1884)
  • I have heard that tomorrow they are to execute the two prisoners, the accomplices of him who shot me. For my part, I most willingly pardon them. If they are thought deserving of a signal and severe penalty, I beg the magistrates not to put them to torture, but to give them a speedy death, if they have merited this. Good-night!
    • Asking that two assassins who had tried to kill him be spared torture, as quoted in William the Silent, Frederic Harrison pg 109


  • Then Kill me at once!
    • Reply to the people who preferred Philip II over the Duke of Anjou, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison
  • Do not kill him! I forgive him my death.
    • After an assassin had tried to kill him, he ordered his soldiers not to kill the assassin, 1581., as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 223
  • ’”Farewell count without a head”’
    • Williams last words to his friend Lamoral of Egmont after he said to him; „Farewell prince without a land”, as written in ‚Uilenspiegel’ by Charles de Coster


  • My God, my God, have mercy on me, and on my poor people!
    • Last words – De Vader des Vaderlands, Haarlem 1941, p. 29
      • Variants:
        O my God, have mercy on this poor people.
        My God, have pity on my soul; my God, have pity on this poor people.
        My God, have mercy on my soul and on these poor people.
        My God, have pity on my soul; I am badly wounded. My God, have pity on my soul and on this poor people!

Quotes about William the Silent[edit]

  • The Prince is a rare man, of great authoritie, universally beloved, verie wyse in resolution in all things, and voyd of pretences, and that which is worthie of speciall prayse in hym, he is not dismayed with any loss, or adversitie.
    • Dr. Wilson to Lord Beuleigh, 3rd December 1576., as quoted in William the Silent, Frederic Harrison pg 109
  • His circumspect demeanour procured him the surname of Silent, but under the cold exterior he concealed a busy, far-sighted intellect, and a generous, upright, daring heart.
    • Unknown- The Nuttall Encyclopædia
  • You have in American history one of the great captains of all times. It might be said of him, as it was of William the Silent, that he seldom won a battle but he never lost a campaign.
    • Von Moltke, comparing George Washington and William the Silent, Berlin 1974.
  • William, Prince of Orange, called William the Silent, was the natural leader of the Netherlands at this crisis, and he was chosen by Holland and Zealand as their governor. He was the determined foe of Spanish tyranny, and his strength of mind and farsighted statesmanship gave promise of success. Yet, for the little country of the Netherlands to stand out against the mighty power of Spain would have seemed fool-hardy, had it not been for the fact that the Protestants of Germany, England, and France could be relied upon for aid. In military strength and in the brilliancy of generals, Spain had greatly the advantage. her armies were commanded successively by the greatest soldiers of the time, -Don John of Austria (1576-1578) and after him Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma. Against their skill was pitted the high courage and inflexible will of William, who, like our Washington, was greatest in the time of difficulty and defeat.
    • On William-Colby, 1899
  • Orange is a dead man, his men desert him, and threaten to cut his throat, and sack his ancestral domain; he will be caught and annihilated as was his brother Jemmingen.
    • By the Protestant Languet, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 97
Never did arrogant or indiscreet word issue from his mouth, under the impulse of anger or other passion; if any of his servants committed a fault, he was satisfied to admonish them gently without resorting to menace or to abusive language. He was master of a sweet and winning power of persuasion, by means of which he gave form to the great ideas within him, and thus he succeeded in bending to his will the other lords about the court as he chose; beloved and in high favour above all men with the people, by reason of a gracious manner that he had of saluting, and addressing in a fascinating and familiar way all whom he met.
  • We may regard the Prince now as a dead man, he has neither influence, nor credit. They are broken, famished, cut to pieces.
    • Duke of Alva to Philip II, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 93
  • The Countess of Egmont sits with Madame while the Princess of Orange is kept standing, the Prince is dying of rage.
    • An observer on Williams troubles, 1565-William the Silent by C.V. Wegdwood, pg 70
  • The Prince has no head for such things; he writes too many manifestoes for a man of action.
    • Cardinal Granvelle, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 100
  • The Prince has changed his religion.
    • Secretary Armenteros, July 1566, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 26
  • The Prince very nobly hath travailed, both night and day, to keep this town from manslaughter and from despoil, which doubtless had taken place, if he had not been, — to the loss of 20,000 men; for that I never saw men so desperate willing to fight.
    • Sir Thomas Gresham to Cecil, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 37
  • Our godly Stadtholder has come to the communion, and therein has broken the Lord’s bread, and has submitted to discipline, which is no small event.
    • A minister writing to London shortly after William publicly professed the Calvinist faith, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 74
  • In patriotic history William was the little David sent against the Spanish Goliath.
    • On Williams impact on European History-Susan Brigden, quoted in a British Newspaper, author of New Worlds Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors
  • The Prince is a dangerous man, subtle, politic, professing to stand by the people, and to champion their interests, even against your edicts, but seeking only the favour of the mob, giving himself out sometimes as a Catholic, sometimes as a Calvinist or Lutheran. He is a man to undertake any enterprise in secret which his own vast ambition and inordinate suspicion may suggest. Better not leave such a man in Flanders. Give him a magnificent embassy or a viceroyalty, or perhaps call him to your own court. As to Egmont, he has been led away by Orange but he is honest, a good Catholic, and can easily be brought round, by appealing to his vanity and his jealousy of the Prince.
    • Cardinal Granvelle to Philip II, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 18
  • To have seized the Prince would have been more important than all the rest.
    • Cardinal Granvelle, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 41
  • We need fear no more when the head is gone.
    • Remark by a Spanish councillor who believed William to be dead-William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 43
  • William the Silent, Prince of Orange, was a distinctive character, cast in a peculiar period of history. He was in thought and desire centuries ahead of the possibilities of his time, and had to contend with ideas among those he served that were as difficult to overcome as were the forces of the Spanish Crown, with which his life was spent in doing battle.
    • Ruth Putnam-Quoted in the New York Times, June 16, 1895
  • To my mind, he builded better than he knew and the real worth of his character developed slowly.
    • Ruth Putnam-Quoted in the New York Times, June 16, 1895
  • The Prince will have much ado to escape from his creditors.
    • Alva remarking on Williams attempts to raise funds for an army, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 56
In patriotic history William was the little David sent against the Spanish Goliath.
  • If the Prince acted with spirit he would crush Alva; if Alva acted with spirit, he would crush the Prince.
    • An observer remarking on the Battle between William and Alva, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 63
  • O wondrous fate that joins Moses and Orange. The one fights for the law, the other beats the drum. And with his own arm, frees the Evangelium. The one leads the Hebrews through the Red Sea flood. The other guides his people through a sea...of tears and blood.
    • Comparision of Moses and William-Etching in a piece of Art, fogg Art Musem, Harvard University
  • He is the pilot who steers the ship; he alone can wreck it or save it. Peace, the Catholic religion, your Majesty’s rule, can only be established through him; we must make a virtue of necessity and come to terms with him, if we are not to lose all. I see no other way to prevent the ruin of the State but the defeat of this man, who exerts such an influence over the nation.
    • Don John of Austria to Philip II, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 92
  • The people here, are bewitched by the Prince; they love him, they fear him, they desire him for their lord. They inform him of everything, and take no step but by his advice. That which the Prince most abhors in the world, is your Majesty. If he could, he would drink your Majesty’s blood.
    • Don John of Austria to Philip II, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 92
  • They welcome him as the Jews would their Messiah.
    • A Royalist, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 96
As long as he lived, he was the guiding star of a whole brave nation, and when he died the little children cried in the streets.
  • People everywhere ceased to trust him, and thought that the Prince must regret that he had ever left Holland at all. He had lost all authority in the Netherlands, after allowing so many thousands to be butchered. He cannot even withdraw with honor; he is not safe even in Antwerp, where his popularity is gone.
    • Landgrave’s agent after the Pacification of Ghent, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 101
  • The very fear of it, will paralyze or kill him.
    • Cardinal Granvelle after Philp II offered a reward for Williams death or capture, William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison, p. 208
  • As long as he lived, he was the guiding star of a whole brave nation, and when he died the little children cried in the streets.
    • Dutch Historian- New York Times (July 10, 1884)
  • There have been politicians more successful, or more subtle; there have been none more tenacious or more tolerant...He is one of that small band of statesman whose service to humanity is greater than their service to their time or their people.
    • William the Silent By C.V. Wedgwood, introduction-C.V. Wedgwood
  • For these causes we declare him traitor and miscreant, enemy of ourselves and of the country. As such we banish him perpetually from all our realms, forbidding all our subjects, of whatever quality, to communicate with him openly or privately — to administer to him victuals, drink, fire, or other necessaries. We allow all to injure him in property or life. We expose the said William of Nassau as an enemy of the human race, giving his property to all who may seize it. And if any one of our subjects or any stranger should be found sufficiently generous of heart to rid us of this pest, delivering him to us, alive or dead, or taking his life, we will cause to be furnished to him immediately after the deed shall have been done, the sum of twenty-five thousand crowns in gold. If he have committed any crime, however heinous, we promise to pardon him; and if he be not already noble, we will ennoble him for his valor.
    • Cardinal Granvelle announcing William as a traitor- New York Times (July 10, 1884)
  • Never did arrogant or indiscreet word issue from his mouth, under the impulse of anger or other passion; if any of his servants committed a fault, he was satisfied to admonish them gently without resorting to menace or to abusive language. He was master of a sweet and winning power of persuasion, by means of which he gave form to the great ideas within him, and thus he succeeded in bending to his will the other lords about the court as he chose; beloved and in high favour above all men with the people, by reason of a gracious manner that he had of saluting, and addressing in a fascinating and familiar way all whom he met.
    • Pontus Payen, a sincere Catholic and opponent-William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison pg 10
  • Never did a man more weary go to eternal rest.
    • C.V Wedgwood, on William's Assassination-William the Silent, by C.V Wedgwood, pg 250.
  • The wisest, gentelest, bravest man who ever led a nation.
    • G.M Trevelyan-Introduction to Fruin, Siege and Relief of Leyden
  • Faithless traitor, it is thou who art the cause of this massacre of our brothers!
    • Angry man yelling at William, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison pg 71
  • Better late than never.
    • Philip II after hearing William had been killed, as quoted in William the Silent (1902) by Frederic Harrison pg 114

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