From Academic Kids

A stadtholder (Dutch: stadhouder meaning "representative", a literal translation of the French lieutenant or the Latin locum tenans) was the person who ruled an area in the name of the land owner, in the Netherlands (which includes present-day Belgium) from the 15th to the 18th century. The title therefore roughly corresponds with "governor".


The office of stadtholder

Stadtholders were appointed by feudal lords to govern parts of their territory. Stadtholders could be appointed for the whole or parts of their territory by the local rulers of the independent provinces in the Low Countries, e.g. the Duke of Gelre appointed a stadtholder to represent him in Groningen. During the sixteenth century, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles V one by one acquired all Low Country provinces and became their sole feudal lord. Stadtholders continued to be appointed to represent him and his successor, Philip II.

After some of the Dutch provinces declared their independence in 1581 with the Oath of Abjuration, the function of stadtholder became obsolete in absence of the (abolished) land owner, but the function was continued in the (still semi-independent) provinces of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Although each province could assign its own stadtholder, most stadtholders ruled over several provinces at the same time.

In 1747, the office of stadtholder was made hereditary with the stadtholder of Friesland becoming stadtholder for the entire Republic (which in effect became a monarchy under the House of Orange-Nassau). The function of stadtholder was abolished in 1795 with coming of the French and the start of the Batavian Republic.

List of stadtholders for the Low Countries provinces

Stadtholders of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht

The stadtholdership of Holland and Zeeland has always been combined. Since the office was instuted there in 1534, the stadtholder of Utrecht has been the same as the one of Holland, with one exception.

In 1572, William of Orange was elected as the stadtholder, although Philip II had appointed a different one.

First Stadtholderless Era, 1650-1672

Second Stadtholderless Era, 1702-1747

During the Stadtholderless Eras, the provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht were governed by a college of regents. The Second Stadtholderless Era in Holland ended when the Frisian stadtholder became hereditary stadtholder for all provinces of the Dutch Republic.

Stadtholders of Friesland

Stadtholders of Gelre

First Stadtholderless Era, 1650-1675

Second Stadtholderless Era, 1702-1722

Stadtholders of Groningen

From 1584 to 1594, there were two stadtholders: one appointed by the king of Spain, whose authority was only recognized in the city of Groningen, and one on the side of the United Provinces.

  • Cristoffel van Meurs, 1519-1522
  • Jasper van Marwijck, 1522-1530
  • Karel van Gelre, 1530-1536
  • Ludolf Coenders, 1536
  • Georg Schenck van Toutenburg, 1536-1540
  • Maximiliaan van Egmond, count of Buren, 1540-1548
  • Jan van Ligne, count of Arenberg, 1549-1568
  • Karel van Brimeu, count of Megen, 1568-1572
  • Gillis van Berlaymont, heer van Hierges, 1572-1574
  • Caspar van Robles, 1574-1576
  • Georges van Lalaing, count of Rennenberg 1576-1581
  • Francisco Verdugo, 1581-1594 (from 1584 only recognized in the city of Groningen)
  • Willem Lodewijk, 1584-1620 (until 1594 only recognized in the province of Groningen; from 1594 also in the city of Groningen)
  • Maurice of Nassau, 1620-1625
  • Ernst Casimir, 1625-1632
  • Hendrik Casimir I, 1632-1640
  • Willem Frederik, 1640-1664

Albertine Agnes van Oranje-Nassau, regentess for Hendrick Casimir II, 1664-1673

Henriette Amalia von Anhalt, regentess for Johan Willem Friso, 1696-1707

Marie Louise von Hessen-Kassel, regentess for William IV, 1711-1729

Stadtholders of Overijssel


Hereditary stadtholders of the United Provinces

  • William IV of Orange, 1747-1751 (had been stadtholder for all provinces except Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht for some time)

Anne, Princess Royal, regentess for William V, 1751-1759
Marie Louise von Hessen-Kassel, regentess for William V, 1759-1765
Carolina of Orange-Nassau, regentess for William V, 1765-1766



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