The Return of King Willem 1 to the Netherlands

Captain -Royal Navy & Rear Admiral Dutch Navy, Job Seaburne May – H.M.S. Warrior
sails to the Netherlands with Prince William of Orange

On November 19th 1813 Jacob baron Fagel set sail in a “pink” ( fron the Dutch “pincke” a small flat-bottomed, narrow sterned boat) from town of Scheveningen. His mission was to report to The Prince of Orange in England about the state of the Nation at home.On the 30th of November 1813 the Prince of Orange returns to Dutch soil and lands in Scheveningen. It was said, that in this spot – Plein 1813 it was possible to see the Prince approaching the city of The Hague.


This statute was erected to celebrate the return of Prince William of Orange to the Netherlands. On the rear side is a list of names of people that helped him return – Rear Admiral Job Seaburne May was one of them
The relationship between the Prince of Orange and the May family must have continued over the years as when William Henry May was born July 31st 1849 Prince William of Orange, (King Willem 1 of the Netherlands) became the Godfather to William Henry May.


A little history lesson

After Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig (October 1813), the French troops retreated to France from all over Europe. The Netherlands had been annexed to the French Empire by Napoleon in 1810. But now city after city was evacuated by the French occupation troops. In the power vacuum that this created a number of former Orangist politicians and former Patriots formed a provisional government in November 1813. Although a large number of the members of the provisional government had helped drive out William V 18 years earlier, it was taken for granted that his son would have to head any new regime. They also agreed it would be better in the long term for the Dutch to restore him themselves, rather than have the Great Powers impose him on the country. The Dutch population was pleased with the departure of the French, who had ruined the Dutch economy, and this time welcomed the prince.

After having been invited by the Driemanschap (Triumvirate) of 1813, on 30 November 1813 William disembarked from HMS Warrior and landed at Scheveningen beach, only a few yards from the place where he had left the country with his father 18 years previously, and on 6 December the provisional government offered him the title of King. William refused, instead proclaiming himself “sovereign prince”. He also wanted the rights of the people to be guaranteed by “a wise constitution”.

The constitution offered William extensive (almost absolute) powers. Ministers were only responsible to him, while a unicameral parliament (the States General) exercised only limited power. He was inaugurated as sovereign prince in the New Church in Amsterdam. In August 1814, he was appointed Governor-General of the former Austrian Netherlands (modern-day Belgium) by the Allied Powers who occupied that country. He was also made Grand Duke of Luxembourg, having received that territory in return for trading his hereditary German lands to Prussia and the Duke of Nassau. The Great Powers had already agreed via the secret Eight Articles of London to unite the Low Countries into a single kingdom. It was believed that a united country on the North Sea would help keep France in check. With the de facto addition of the Austrian Netherlands and Luxembourg to his realm, William had fulfilled his family’s three-century quest of uniting the Low Countries.

King of the Netherlands

Feeling threatened by Napoleon, who had escaped from Elba, William proclaimed the Netherlands a kingdom on 16 March 1815 at the urging of the powers gathered at the Congress of Vienna. His son, the future king William II, fought as a commander at the Battle of Waterloo. After Napoleon had been sent into exile, William adopted a new constitution which included many features of the old constitution, such as extensive royal powers. He was formally confirmed as hereditary ruler of what was known as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the Congress of Vienna.

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