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Series / William of Orange

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William of Orange is a Dutch-Belgian series that was first broadcast in 1984.

It follows William of Orange as he first enters the court of Charles V and becomes one of his favourites. Ever pleasant and not showing strong opinions, he gets the nickname ‘William the Silent’. A popular noble man in the Low Countries, he nevertheless begins to question the harsh treatment of Protestants. After the ascension of the uncompromising Philip II, unrest increases.

William and many other nobles begin to question and resist orders given by Philip. When Catholic Churches in several towns throughout the Low Countries are destroyed by Protestants, William flees, rightly guessing he would be held responsible.

After two of his fellow nobles are decapitated, he invades the Netherlands from his German lands and starts the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain.He is finally murdered by a fanatic, who was incited by Philip.


Many famous Dutch and Belgian actors participated in the series, which was one of the most expensive ever made in Belgium or the Netherlands.

William of Orange provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Many of those appointed as governor of the Low Countries by Philip II lose their reputation or even their lives.
  • Arranged Marriage: William's first two marriages are arranged before he has met the ladies. The first is a happy marriage, the second not so much.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The people of Leiden rather set the city on fire than surrender to the Spanish. Not without reason, as several towns that did surrender were sacked.
  • Betty and Veronica: William's first, third and fourth wife are Bettys. His second a definite Veronica.
  • Blatant Lies: Don Juan promising to adhere to the Pacification of Gent.
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  • The Caligula: Matthias of Austria certainly dresses the part and is indeed a bit mad, but he's a non-violent example.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Both Charles V and Philip II think nothing of having this used on heretics. It is abhorrent to William and his parents.
  • Culture Clash: Spain and the Low Countries. Most clearly shown in the contrast between the sober, strictly religious Philip and the nobles of the Low Countries, who enjoy partying, drinking and whoring, but aren't eager to burn Protestants.
  • Decadent Court: Averted. Philip's own court in Spain is shown to be a sober place and he does not murder his advisors.
  • Despair Event Horizon: William has lost most his lands and had to flee to Dillenburg after a defeat. His wife despairs even more and becomes increasingly volatile.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Though Egmond had opposed the policy of the king at times, he was still a Catholic who remained loyal to Philip until the end. Yet, he is one of the nobles who is decapitated when Alva takes over.
  • Dying Alone: Anne of Saxony dies a miserable death being bricked in.
  • The Empire: The Spanish Empire. Philip thinks the Low Countries should be honored to be a part of this. Not everybody agrees.
  • Enemy Mine: The more sober Protestants of the Low Countries and the extravagant Duke of Anjou, who is Catholic. It does not end well.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • William humbly promises to Mary of Hungary that he would not be too frivolous. In the next scene he is completely drunk and throwing up out of a window. This man says what others want to hear.
    • We first meet Philip II praying by himself.
    • Anne of Saxony defies protocol by running in to meet William of Orange and speak about her dreams when he wants to courteously greet her.
  • The Evil Army: Truth in Television as the Spanish army did commit many atrocities.
  • Eyepatch of Power: A female example in the Princess of Eboli. She becomes the main mistress of Philip II and quietly influences his politics.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The Count of Egmond and the Count of Horne.
  • Fanservice: There is both some male and female nudity.
  • Femme Fatale: The Princess of Eboli again.
  • Foregone Conclusion: William leads the revolt against the Spanish and gets murdered.
  • Genre Savvy: William flees the Low Countries, knowing he will be blamed for the destruction of churches. He tries to persuade the Count of Egmond to flee as well, but he does not believe Philip would go as far as to kill him.
  • Get It Over With: Marnix of St Aldegonde's attitude when in his cell. He gets to live since the Spanish still see some use for him.
  • Golden Age: The Netherlands would enter this age soon after William's death. He refers to its upcomic economic strength.
  • The Good Chancellor: Though moved by self-interest as well, William definitely is abhorred by the prosecution and burning of people who are innocent. Most of the advice he gives is sound and takes into account the needs of the people. Had it been followed, the Low Countries would likely not have burst into revolt.
  • The Good King: This is what the Dutch Nobles remember Charles V as. Though he also burned heretics and did not tolerate revolts, he had a better political sense for what he could and could not do in the Low Countries, as he had been born and raised there. In contrast, Philip was born in Spain and raised by fanatical clergy. Charles foresees the problems his attitude might have, but Philip does not heed his warnings.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Anne, Countess of Buren
  • Happily Married: William of Orange and Anne of Buren. William and Charlotte of Bourbon. William and Louise de Coligny. William's parents.
  • Hates Small Talk: Philip II. This in great contrast to William of Orange, who is good at talking small, but saying nothing of import.
  • Heir Club for Men: Averted with the first wife of William of Orange, who is the ruling Countess of Buren.
  • Held Gaze: When William and Anne of Saxony first meet.
  • The Heretic: When Philip II talks about his two main enemies, the Turks and the Dutch protestants, his tone of voice makes very clear whom he hates the most. Hint: It's not the Turks.
  • Heroes Love Dogs
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • What Balthasar Gérard thinks he did by killing William.
    • Jean Jaureguy likely had the same motive for trying.
  • Hidden Depths: People who knew William of Orange as he was at the court of Charles V, would never have expected him to become the leader of a revolt against his son.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: What the Dutch often use against the numerically superior Spanish army. It helps that they are used to the watery, cold environment.
  • Hot-Blooded: Anne of Saxony
  • I Did What I Had to Do:
    • When William does not help the Calvinist army outside Antwerp.
    • Also, when he does not use all means to save Harlem, since he believes it might have meant the end of the revolt.
  • Impoverished Patrician: William starts off very rich, thanks to him inheriting the principality of Orange. Fleeing the Low Countries, meant he also needed to leave most his lands behind. Raising an army further impoverished him. It is one of the reasons Anne of Saxony gets further unhinged. With some reason, as he also used the money she brought into the marriage.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Philip II was an acceptable king to the Spanish. However, his ruthless prosecution of Protestants and claims of absolutism in the Low Countries, which had always revolted against authocratic rules, make him unsuitable as Ruler there. The Holy Roman Empire (Germany) also opts to elect Charles V's brother as Emperor, since they do not expect Philip would accept Protestantism.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: Philip expects all his subjects to only work for the benefit of the Spanish Empire.
  • Insane Equals Violent:
    • Don Carlos pulls a dagger on the Duke of Alva. His father Philip also reprimands him over his violent behaviour to his courtiers.
    • Averted with Mathias of Austria, who shows signs of insanity, but is not violent.
  • In-Series Nickname: William the Silent. Philip the Careful.
  • Interclass Romance: William and Eva Elincx.
  • In the Back: Alva invites the Counts of Egmond of Horne for dinner, is pleasant throughout, but then has them arrested.
  • In Vino Veritas: The Count of Bredero often runs his mouth without alcohol, but it gets worse when he drinks. This to the extent that he trashes Philip in front of Granvelle.
  • Jumped at the Call:
    • The Count of Bredero, Louis of Nassau.
    • Averted with William, who tries to persuade the King to take a different course several times. This to the frustration of some of his allies.
  • Just Following Orders: When the Duke of Alva expresses remorse at the end of his life, the Prince of Eboli invokes this trope. The Duke denies it and says everyone is responsible for their own actions.
  • Kangaroo Court: One of the reasons the people in the Low Countries loathe the Spanish is because of all the executions taking place. Sometimes of people who were clearly innocent.
  • Karmic Death: Some of the more fanatical protestants consider it justified when they burn or torture Catholics. William does not agree.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Mercenaries threaten William for money when he is already very sick.
  • Kissing Cousins:
    • Philip II had four wives, and though the name of Philip II's Queen is not given, it is likely Anne of Austria, his niece (!).
    • Philip himself is also the son of two first cousins.
    • His first wife, mother of Don Carlos, was also a first cousin.
  • Knife Nut: The Count of Egmond draws his knife several times during arguments with other Nobles. In addition, he almost draws it on Granvelle as well during a council meeting. He's stopped every time, usually by William.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: How Louis of Nassau appears when he joins William, Egmond and Horne for the attack on San Quintin. He gets laughed at.
  • Mad Love: Anne of Saxony's love for William increasingly turned into this. Even when she is immured, and has totally lost her sanity, she still talks to him.
  • May–December Romance:
    • William and Louise de Coligny have a good, but unfortunately, short marriage.
    • Also, Philip and the Princess of Eboli.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Since most of William's wives, friends and brothers die before him, the cast of characters at the end is very different compared to those in the beginning.
  • Lonely at the Top: Philip is implied to be this. He has trouble showing affection, though he does feel it for certain people.
  • Love at First Sight: All William's wives are quickly taken with him. Justified, as he had always been known for his charm.
  • Nice to the Waiter: One of the reasons William is popular. Philip II loathes him and other nobles for their easy popularity with the people.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: Though Philip inherited the Netherlands through his Burgundian forebears, he is raised in Spain and shows much less affinity with the culture there than his father. His use of Spanish troups is seen as a humiliation and one of the reasons the people resent him.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When William learns about the secret pact to kill Protestants from the French King.
    • The Duke of Alva when he hears Den Briel was taken, though he tries to pretend he's not bothered.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with William's first two wives. It also helped that, unlike with many other stories set in the sixteenth century, most main players did actually have different first names.
  • One-Woman Wail: Anne of Saxony is good at this.
  • Only in It for the Money: Many of the mercenaries on both sides.
  • Parental Abandonment: Charles V tells Philip he regrets not having been able to be more involved when he was young. Somewhat justified in that Charles ruled over large territories with hostile territory in between. Traveling from crisis to crisis was not always without danger.
  • Parental Substitute: William says that Mary of Hungary was like a mother to him. Charles V almost sees him like a son as well.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: William's father is shocked that he does not inherit the principality of Orange. The Emperor explains he can not have a protestant inheriting this and therefore William will become the next prince of Orange.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: William and Anne of Buren.
  • Pet the Dog: Philip II is courteous to some of his advisors and is concerned when the Prince of Eboli takes ill.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The Princesses of Orange, especially Anne of Saxony. Justified in that both she and William of Orange started out as very rich nobles.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Granvelle tried to save the counts of Egmond and Horne, which surprises William when he hears about it.
  • Really Gets Around: William has four wives, a few long term-mistresses and likely also sleeps with prostitutes. Most nobles are shown to do this. Also goes for Charles V, whose bastard daughter and son both become governor of the Low Countries at some point.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: William gives one about Philip.
  • Renaissance Man: William got a broad education, likes to read, but also practices shooting and fencing.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Philip has William's son taken to Spain. They never met again.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
    • The Geuzen, who are named after a league of more minor nobles that offered a petition to Margaret of Parma.
    • Margaret's advisor Berlaymont invokes this trope when calling them this in the first place, even though the people who offered the petition where all part of the nobility.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: William tries to keep the rebels from doing this, but does not always succeed.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Don Carlos. The House of Habsburg is most famous for this, due to their extreme intermarrying of cousins. The picture example on this trope's page is also one of them.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Philip II has a strong say in governance and is shown to be a hard-working monarch.
  • Team Mom: Juliana of Stolberg
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: How William sees himself when he marries the young, beautiful Louisa de Coligny. She does not care.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Anne of Saxony becomes this. She has often embarassed William in public, drinks too much and is clearly dissatisfied with her lot, while also showing signs of madness. Her downfall comes when she cheats on William and becomes pregnant with another man's child.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Charles V and Philip II truly believe that burning heretics will purify their soul. Philip especially goes far in this, claiming he would burn his own son if he was a heretic. The actor's performance is such that we all believe this.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Granvelle says that he regrets them having grown apart.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Averted. Louise de Coligny is quickly popular with her many step-children. After William's death, she would continue to support and sometimes intercede between them.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: William when he's young. The Emperor remarks on this and William quickly becomes one of his favourites.

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