WILLIAM I., OF NASSAU, Prince of Orange, surnamed THE SILENT; the first leader in the Dutch war of independ ence; born in Dillenburg, Nassau, April 14, 1553, of Lutheran parents, but descended from the ancient counts of that principality. Being trained to political employments at the court of Charles V., he conformed outwardly to Catholicism, and had become gover nor of the provinces of Holland, Zea land and Utrecht while the reformed doctrines were spreading, and events were ripening for the revolt of the Netherlands.
Philip II., King of Spain, having ap pointed Margaret of Parma, a natural daughter of his father, Charles V., stadtholdress, with the Cardinal of Granville for her adviser, the latter be gan his career by persecuting the Prot estants, and was preparing to intro duce the inquisition, when, in 1566, the nobles went in procession, and petitioned Margaret against this measure; and as they were treated with contempt, their remonstrances were followed by popular commotions. On this, Alva was sent, at whose approach 100,000 of the most in dustrious Flemings took refuge in foreign countries. This was the crisis at which William came forward, and raised the standard of independence.
Though the cruel Alva was recalled at the end of six years, 1574, and replaced by a milder ruler, the Dutch continued the war, and Holland was liberated by the relief of Leyden, which William ef fected by laying the whole country under water in 1575. He was now elected stadtholder, and Calvinism became the established religion, to the exclusion of Lutheranism as well as the Roman Catholic faith. By the "Pacification of Ghent" in 1576, William united all the provinces in one confederation, but he found it impossible to heal these internal causes of disunion, and the Spaniards, taking advantage of them, were able to repossess themselves of the S. provinces, under the Duke of Parma, whence arose the present distinction between Holland and Belgium. Philip had now set a price on William's head and, in 1582, an attempt was made to assassinate him, but he recovered from the wound. A second attempt, in 1584, was but too suc cessful. One Balthaser Gerard, being introduced to the stadtholder on the plea of business, suddenly drew a pistol loaded with three balls, and shot him in the body at Delft, July 10, 1584.