|Coat of Arms of the House of Nassau (since the 13th century)|
The Walram line, those descendents of Count Walram II, inherited Wiesbaden, Idstein and Weilburg. It was the senior line but the one that never expanded beyond the Holy Roman Emperor. Nassau-Weilburg was the largest county in the Walram line. It added to its territory the county of Saarbrücken and Merenberg via marriage in the 14th century and retained those borders throughout the Medieval and Early Modern Eras. Nassau-Weilburg eventually was elevated to a "princely" county in 1688 and in 1816 was reformed into the Duchy of Nassau following its occupation during the Napoleonic Wars. The Duchy of Nassau was annexed to Prussia without a fight in 1866 as a punishment since Duke Adolf had sided with Austria during the Second Prusso-Austrian War. All other branches of the Walram line had already gone extinct by that point and thus the hereditary lands of the Walram line were no more.
|Map of Nassau-Weilburg and Walram Line lands|
|Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and last of the House of Nassau|
The junior branch of the House of Nassau was the Ottonian line, although it is rarely known as that today. Its first count was Otto I who ruled the Nassau territories of Siegen, Dillenburg, Beilstein, and Ginsberg. In 1303 the lines divided due to Salic Law and the branches of Nassau-Dillenburg and Nassau-Hadamar were born. Hadamar arose twice from Dillenburg, but was eventually reincorporated into the main line. Other minor branches of the family came and went but none was as important as the Dillenburg branch.
In 1504, a scion of the Dillenburg branch, Count Henry III, inherited territories in the Low Countries including the Barony of Breda in Brabant. Henry became a companion of King Charles I of Spain, who later became Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Henry was chosen as Stadholder of Holland and Zeeland in 1515 and maintained the role for six years. His son, René of Châlon, succeeded him and brought the French Principality of Orange into the family. When he inherited Breda, he was required to adopt the name of his mother's house, Orange, rather than the traditional Nassau-Breda title. When he died, his cousin, William, inherited all his lands and titles, thereby founding the House of Orange-Nassau.
|William I the Silent, Stadholder of Holland, Zeeland & Utrecht, Prince of Orange, Baron of Breda, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg|
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, Maurice had been elected stadholder and was rabble-rousing against the Spanish king. Maurice was an organizer and successfully turned William's rebellion into a stately affair. Maurice led the Dutch Revolt until 1625 when he died besieging his own hereditary city of Breda. His brother, Frederick Henry, was immediately elected stadholder and captain-general after Maurice's death. The Dutch Republic reached its height under Frederick by expanding overseas to Indonesia and Japan, even while waging a long war against Spain. Frederick sacrificed safety for success by allying with France and it paid off for many years by allowing him to reclaim Breda and numerous other Dutch possessions from Spain. Frederick died in 1647 during negotiations that resulted the next year in peace between Spain and the Dutch Republic via the Treaty of Münster. The Dutch Republic as an independent nation faired far worse in subsequent years than it had during its rebellion from Spain.
|Multi-generational portrait of William I, Maurice, Frederick Henry, William II, and William III – Stadholders of Holland, Zeeland, & Utrecht, Princes of Orange, Barons of Breda, Counts of Nassau-Dillenburg|
Just because the Dutch Republic faired poorly doesn't mean the House of Orange-Nassau failed. Actually, it did, but in very odd ways. First, it became a truly royal house. William II, son of Frederick Henry, married the daughter of Charles I of England. Second, William II's son William III invaded and conquered England in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. That expanded the Orange domains immensely, even if the English were about as skeptical of William III as the Dutch were of England's political system. Sort of luckily, it was at precisely this point that the House of Orange-Nassau failed utterly to produce an heir. Not only did the family not have a male heir to continue in the Netherlands, but it even failed to produce a female heir to continue in England. Mary II of England, William III's wife, died in 1694 and William never remarried. The senior Orange-Nassau line was dead and Holland and Zeeland decided they'd prefer no stadholder rather than have another royal-wannabe. Fortunately, the other four provinces of the Dutch Republic wised up and elected an Orange cousin to the position.
|John William Friso, Stadholder of Friesland|
|William I, King of the United Netherlands|
|Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands|
Thus ends the tale of the House of Nassau. Now, back to the beginning. Why is the capital of the Bahamas named Nassau? It's because it is named after the royal house that William III belonged to. But you probably figured that out already. Cheers!