How important was the role of William of Orange to the success of the Dutch revolt?

Essay by MrMysteryD+, May 2005

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Orange was a key figure in many aspects of the revolt. To analyse his impact to the revolt we must ultimately consider the contribution he made to the revolt in terms of what he achieved of the revolt's aims that would not have been achieved had he not been present.

Orange helped start the first revolt by leading the opposition to Granvelle, seeing him as infringing upon the liberties of the Netherlands nobility; giving himself a position of respect and therefore influence as a result. Whilst the events that followed the revolt of the grandees' against Granvelle were important to Orange; he played little part in them. He played no part in the revolt of the confederates or Iconoclastic fury, and therefore cannot be directly associated with the events following Alva's arrival in the Netherlands. His 1568 attack was not important because it failed to make a significant impact on the direction of the Netherlands.

Orange's true importance can be found in a variety of contexts later on in the revolt.

Orange played a key role in uniting a very diverse group of rebels in an anti-Spanish coalition from 1572-6. The rebels were a very diverse group of people: Calvinists and religious moderates; lesser nobles and guildsmen, among others, and their interests did not always coincide. Orange went to great efforts to focus the efforts of these different groups into resistance against Spanish infringement of their liberties. Through careful manoeuvring, such as his politically motivated decision to become Calvinist, Orange was able to solicit the support of Calvinists, towns-men, sea-beggars and guildsmen in fighting the Spanish; ultimately contributing to the survival of the revolt 1572-6. His efforts towards unity were especially crucial for the survival of the revolt in terms of the Netherlands estates. The States-General was made up of...

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