the patriots 1782-1787
Batavian Republic
Prussia 1701-1795

The Prussian Invasion of the Netherlands in 1787

A.) The Diplomatic Pre-History of the Invasion

Prince WILLEM V. of Orange, Stadholder of Holland etc., was married to Princess WILHELMINA OF PRUSSIA. In 1781, with the publication of the pamphlet "Aan het Volk van Nederland" the PATRIOT movement began which pushed for a thorough reform of state and society in the Netherlands. Patriots from all parts of the country met at Utrecht, discussing reforms; the DUKE OF BRUNSWICK (commander of the Prussian troops at the Battle of Rossbach 1757), governor of s'Hertogenbosch in the service of the stadholder, had to leave the Netherlands in 1784.
Pro-patriot FREE CORPS formed the force behind the patriot organizations; the princely couple, very similar to the situation in France 1789 to 1792, had little choice but to reluctantly go along with the demands of the patriots. The princely party, the ORANGISTS, found itself outnumbered at most places; Prince Willem V. moved from s'Gravenhage to Hey Loo near Nijmegen.
In 1786, FREDERICK II., THE GREAT, King of Prussia, died. His successor FREDERICK WILLIAM II. , brother of Princess Wilhelmina, advised his brother-in-law to take stronger action. In 1787 a CIVIL WAR broke out between the Patriots, who held Holland and the city of Utrecht, while the Orangists held the states of Gelderland and Utrecht (without the capital city).

B.) The Military Course of Events

In May 1787, the stadholder's troops were defeated by Free Corps from the city of Utrecht near VREESWIJK. When Princess Wilhelmina was stopped by patriot free corps near Goejanverwellesluis on June 28th 1787, she applied to her brother King Frederick William of Prussia for help.
On September 13th a Prussian army of 20,000 men under the command of Ferdinand Duke of Brunswick crossed the border, demanding satisfaction and hardly meeting any resistance (as they were in Orangist territory). The Prussians found the fortress of VIANEN deserted; the city of Utrecht opened its gates. At the fortress of WOERDEN preparations for defense were made, but when the Prussians arrived, no resistance was offered. Knowing of the advancing Prussian troops, the mob in Amsterdam had plundered several houses of patriot regents. The stadholder returned to s'Gravenhage; Amsterdam, the last city to hold out, surrendered on October 10th.

C.) The Legacy

The Prussian invasion terminated the Patriot revolution; reformist acts were repealed, many patriots fled the country (mostly to Paris). Prussian diplomats treated the matter rather a family affair; Prussia demanded no territorial or other concessions.
Stadholder William V. was back in charge - for the moment. In 1789 the FRENCH REVOLUTION was to break out, and in 1795 the patriots would return from Paris to establish the BATAVIAN REPUBLIC.

"Ik zal dit in uwe ogen doen druipen", Story of the Patriot Revolution in the Netherlands and its crushing by Prussian troops 1787, by Annabelle Meddens-van Borsselen, in Dutch
The Dutch Patriot Movement of the 1780s : The Revolution That Failed, by Peter Botticelli
REFERENCE H.P.H. Jansen, Kalendarium. Geschiedenis van de Lage Landen in Jaartallen. (Calendarium. History of the Low Countries by Years), Utrecht 1979

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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