Portrait of William II (1792-1849), Prince of Orange and heir to the throne of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815-1840), King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Limburg (1840-1849), 1833
William II (Dutch: Willem II der Nederlanden, Willem Frederik George Lodewijk van Oranje; 6 December 1792 – 17 March 1849) was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg. William II was the son of William I and Wilhelmine of Prussia. When his father, who up to that time ruled as sovereign prince, proclaimed himself king in 1815, he became Prince of Orange as heir apparent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With the abdication of his father on 7 October 1840, William II became king. During his reign, the Netherlands became a parliamentary democracy with the new constitution of 1848. William II was married to Anna Pavlovna of Russia. They had four sons and one daughter. William II died on 17 March 1849 and was succeeded by his son William III. Willem Frederik George Lodewijk was born on 6 December 1792 in The Hague. He was the eldest son of King William I of the Netherlands and Wilhelmine of Prussia. His maternal grandparents were King Frederick William II of Prussia and his second wife Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt. When William was two, he and his family fled to England after allied British-Hanoverian troops left the Republic and entering French troops defeated the army of the United Provinces. William spent his youth in Berlin at the Prussian court, where he followed a military education and served in the Prussian Army. After this, he studied civil law at Christ Church, University of Oxford. He entered the British Army, and in 1811, as a 19 year old aide-de-camp in the headquarters of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was allowed to observe several of Wellington's campaigns of the Peninsular War. Though not yet 20, the young prince, according to the customs of the time, was made lieutenant colonel on 11 June 1811 and Colonel on 21 October that year. On 8 September 1812 he was made an aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent and on 14 December 1813 promoted to major-general. His courage and good nature made him very popular with the British, who nicknamed him "Slender Billy". He returned to the Netherlands in 1813 when his father became sovereign prince. On 8 July 1814, he was promoted to lieutenant-general in the British Army and on 25 July to general. As such, he was senior officer of the Allied army in the Low Countries when Napoleon I of France escaped from Elba in 1815. He relinquished command on the arrival of the Duke of Wellington, and, though this was his first real battle, fought with the title of "General" I Allied Corps at the Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815), where he was wounded. He was 23. As a sign of gratitude for what the Dutch throne styled "his" victory at Waterloo, William was offered Soestdijk Palace by the Dutch people. In 1814, William became briefly engaged with Princess Charlotte of Wales, only daughter of the Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom and his estranged wife Caroline of Brunswick. The engagement was arranged by the Prince Regent, but it was broken because Charlotte's mother was against the marriage and because Charlotte did not want to move to the Netherlands. On 21 February 1816 at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, William married Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, youngest sister to Czar Alexander I of Russia, who arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Imperial Russia and the Netherlands. On 17 February 1817 in Brussels, his first son Willem Alexander was born, the future King William III. On 7 October 1840, on his father's abdication, he acceded to the throne as William II. Although he shared his father's conservative inclinations, he did not intervene in governmental affairs nearly as much as his father had. There was increased agitation for broad constitutional reform and a wider electoral franchise.
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