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Maurits of Nassau
Prince of Orange

Stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland
In office
1585 – 1625
Preceded by William the Silent
Succeeded by Frederick Henry

Stadtholder of Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel
In office
1590 – 1625
Preceded by Adolf van Nieuwenaar
Succeeded by Frederick Henry

Stadtholder of Groningen
In office
1620 – 1625
Preceded by William Louis
Succeeded by Ernst Casimir

Born 14 November 1567
Dillenburg, Nassau
Died 23 April 1625 (aged 57)
The Hague, Dutch Republic
Resting place Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, Netherlands

Maurice of Nassau (Dutch: Maurits van Nassau) (14 November 1567 – 23 April 1625), Prince of Orange (1618–1625), son of William the Silent and Princess Anna of Saxony, was born at the castle of Dillenburg. He was named after his maternal grandfather, the Elector Maurice of Saxony, who was also a noted general.



Maurice never married but was the father of illegitimate children by Margaretha van Mechelen (including Willem of Nassau, lord of the Lek and Louis of Nassau, lord of den Lek and Beverweerd) and Anna van de Kelder. He was raised in Dillenburg by his uncle Johan of Nassau (Jan the Old). Together with his cousin Willem Lodewijk he studied in Heidelberg and later with his brother Philip in Leiden where he met Simon Stevin. The States of Holland and Zeeland paid for his studies, as their father had run into financial problems after spending his entire fortune in the early stages of the Dutch revolt.

Only 16 when his father was murdered in Delft in 1584, he soon took over as stadtholder (Stadhouder), though this title was not inheritable (The monarchs of England and France had refused, and there simply was no one else to take the job). He became stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland in 1585, of Guelders, Overijssel and Utrecht in 1590 and of Groningen and Drenthe in 1620 (following the death of Willem Lodewijk, who had been Stadtholder there and in Friesland).

Maurice was preceded as Prince of Orange (not a Dutch title) by his elder half-brother Philip William. However, Philip William was in the custody of Spain, remaining so until 1596, and was thus unable to lead the Dutch cause.

He was appointed captain-general of the army in 1587, bypassing the Earl of Leicester, who returned to England on hearing this news.

Military career

Maurice organized the rebellion against Spain into a coherent, successful revolt. He reorganised the army together with Willem Lodewijk, studied military history, strategy and tactics, mathematics and astronomy, and proved himself to be among the best strategists of his age. Paying special attention to the siege theories of Simon Stevin, he took valuable key fortresses and towns: Breda in 1590, Steenwijk in 1592, and Geertruidenberg in 1593. These victories rounded out the borders to the Dutch Republic, solidifying the revolt and allowing a national state to develop behind secure borders. They also established Maurice as the foremost general of his time. Many of the great generals of the succeeding generation, including his brother Fredick Henry and many of the commanders of the English Civil War learned their trade under his command.

His victories in the cavalry battles at Turnhout (1597) and at Nieuwpoort (1600) earned him military fame and acknowledgment throughout Europe. Despite these successes, the House of Orange did not attain great respect among European Royalty, as the Stadtholdership was not inheritable.

The training of his army is especially important to early modern warfare. Previous generals had made use of drill and exercise in order to instill discipline or to keep the men physically fit, but for Maurice, they "were the fundamental postulates of tactics."[1] This change affected the entire conduct of warfare, since it required the officers to train men in addition to leading them, decreased the size of the basic infantry unit for functional purposes since more specific orders had to be given in battle, and the decrease in herd behavior required more initiative and intelligence from the average soldier.[2]

Maurice and Oldenbarnevelt

Medal in silver, cast and with original gilt, 1615, by A. Rottermont of Prince Maurice

Maurice started out as the protégé of Landsadvocaat (Land's Advocate, a kind of secretary) Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. But gradually tensions rose between these two men. Against Maurice's advice, and despite his protests, Van Oldenbarnevelt decided to sign the Twelve Years' Truce with Spain, which lasted from 1609 - 1621. The required funds to maintain the army and navy, and the general course of the war were other topics of constant struggle.

With the religious troubles between Gomarists (Calvinist) and Arminians, the struggle between Van Oldenbarnevelt and Maurice reached a climax. Van Oldenbarnevelt was arrested, tried and decapitated despite numerous requests for mercy. From 1618 till his death Maurice now enjoyed uncontested power over the Republic.

Maurice urged his brother Frederick Henry to marry in order to preserve the dynasty.

In 1621 the war resumed, and the Spanish, led by Ambrogio Spinola, had notable successes, including the Siege of Breda of Breda, the Nassau's old family residence, in 1625. Maurice died on 23 April 1625, with the siege still underway. Justin of Nassau surrendered Breda in June 1625 after a costly eleven-month siege. Mean time, the Dutch also lost formerly occupied Baia de Todos os Santos, Salvador de Bahia, 12°48′S 38°38′W in Brazil, 1 May 1625, under the heavy attacks of the Spanish - Portuguese Fleet, commanded by Admiral, Captain General of the Spanish Navy, since 1617, Fadrique II de Toledo Osorio y Mendoza , (Naples, Italy, May 1580 - 11 December 1634), 1st Marquis of Villanueva de Valdueza since (17.1.1624), Knight of the Order of Santiago.


Maurice's ancestors in three generations
Maurice of Nassau Father:
William the Silent
Paternal Grandfather:
William I, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John V of Nassau-Dillenburg
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Elisabeth of Hesse
Paternal Grandmother:
Juliana of Stolberg
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Botho VIII of Stolberg-Wernigerode
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Anna of Eppstein-Königstein
Anna of Saxony
Maternal Grandfather:
Maurice, Elector of Saxony
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Henry IV, Duke of Saxony
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Katharina of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Maternal Grandmother:
Agnes of Hesse
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Christine of Saxony

Cultural References

  • The island nation of Mauritius, located in the Indian Ocean, was named after him. The island was named in the prince's honor by Dutch explorers in 1598 and was first settled by Dutch settlers in 1638.
  • In 1624, English explorer Henry Hudson named what is now known as the Hudson River the Mauritius River in honor of the prince.
  • In Age of Empires 3, by Ensemble Studios, Maurice of Nassau is the leader of the Dutch civilization.


  1. ^ Roberts, Michael. The Military Revolution 1560-1660 in Rogers, Clifford. The Military Revolution Debate, p. 14. ISBN 9780813320540
  2. ^ Roberts, op. cit. p. 15

See also

Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange
Cadet branch of the House of Nassau
Born: November 14 1567 Died: 23 April 1625
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Philip William
Prince of Orange
Succeeded by
Frederick Henry
Baron of Breda
Political offices
Preceded by
William of Orange
Stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland
Succeeded by
Frederick Henry
Preceded by
Adolf van Nieuwenaar
Stadtholder of Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel
Preceded by
Willem Lodewijk
Stadtholder of Groningen
Succeeded by
Ernst Casimir


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