Portrait of William III (1817-1890), King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (1849-1890), Prince of Orange and Prince of the Netherlands (1840-1849), 1856
William III (Dutch: Willem III der Nederlanden; Willem Alexander Paul Frederik Lodewijk, Prins van Oranje-Nassau; English: William Alexander Paul Frederick Louis; 19 February 1817 – 23 November 1890) was King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg from 1849 until his death in 1890. He was also the Duke of Limburg from 1849 until the abolition of the duchy in 1866. William was the son of King William II and Anna Pavlovna of Russia. On the abdication of his grandfather William I in 1840, he became the Prince of Orange. On the death of his father in 1849, he succeeded as king of the Netherlands. William married his cousin Sophie of Württemberg in 1839 and they had three sons, William, Maurice, and Alexander, all of whom predeceased him. After Sophie's death in 1877 he married Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont in 1879 and they had one daughter Wilhelmina, who succeeded William to the Dutch throne. Meanwhile, being the last agnatic dynastic descendant of Otto I, Count of Nassau, the throne of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg passed to a 6-centuries-distant cousin, Adolphe. To date, he is the last Dutch monarch to die whilst on the throne. William was born on 19 February 1817 in the Palace of the Nation in Brussels, which was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time. He was the eldest son of the future king William II of the Netherlands and Anna Pavlovna of Russia. In 1827, at the age of ten, he was made an honorary colonel in the Royal Netherlands Army. In the 1830s, he served as lieutenant in the Grenadiers Regiment. In 1834, he was made honorary commander of the Grenadiers Regiment of Kiev nr. 5 in the Imperial Russian Army. He married his first cousin, Sophie, daughter of King William I of Württemberg and Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna of Russia, in Stuttgart on 18 June 1839. William loathed the 1848 constitutional changes initiated by his father (William II) and Johan Rudolf Thorbecke. His father saw them as key to the monarchy's survival in changing times. Sophie, who was a liberal, also shared this view. William himself saw them as useless limitations of royal power, and would have preferred to govern as an enlightened despot in the mold of his grandfather, William I. He considered relinquishing his right to the throne to his younger brother Henry and later to his older son. His mother convinced him to cancel this action. The Dutch constitution provided no way to relinquish one's claim to the throne. On 17 March 1849 his father died and William succeeded to the throne of the Netherlands. He was at that moment a guest of the Duchess of Cleveland in Raby Castle. Representatives of the Dutch government traveled to London to meet their new king in London. William was reluctant to return, but he was convinced to do so. Upon arrival the new Queen welcomed her spouse with the question "did you accept?". The new king nodded, but he remained uncertain about the matter for some time. William repeatedly contemplated abdicating as soon as his eldest son William, Prince of Orange, turned eighteen. This occurred in 1858, but as William was uncomfortable making a decision he remained king. His first act was the inauguration of the parliamentary cabinet of Thorbecke, the liberal designer of the 1848 constitution, whom William loathed.
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