John William Friso

John William Friso (Dutch: Johan Willem Friso; 14 August 1687 – 14 July 1711) became the (titular) Prince of Orange in 1702. He was the Stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen in the Dutch Republic until his death by accidental drowning in the Hollands Diep in 1711. From World War II to 2022, Friso and his wife, Marie Louise, were the most recent common ancestors of all current European monarchs.

John William Friso
Johan Willem Friso, Prins van Oranje.jpg
Portrait by Joseph Küfner
Prince of Orange
Period19 March 1702 – 14 July 1711
PredecessorWilliam III
SuccessorWilliam IV
Prince of Nassau-Dietz
Reign25 March 1696 – ca. 1702
PredecessorHenry Casimir II
Prince of Orange-Nassau
Reignca. 1702 – 14 July 1711
SuccessorWilliam IV
Stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen
Reign25 March 1696 – 14 July 1711
PredecessorHenry Casimir II
SuccessorWilliam IV
Born14 August 1687
Dessau, Anhalt
Died14 July 1711(1711-07-14) (aged 23)
Hollands Diep, between Dordrecht and Moerdijk
Burial25 February 1712
SpouseLandgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel
IssueAmalia, Hereditary Princess of Baden-Durlach
William IV, Prince of Orange
FatherHenry Casimir II, Prince of Nassau-Dietz
MotherPrincess Henriëtte Amalia of Anhalt-Dessau


He was the son of Henry Casimir II, Prince of Nassau-Dietz, and Princess Henriëtte Amalia of Anhalt-Dessau who were both first cousins of William III. As such, he was a member of the House of Nassau (the branch of Nassau-Dietz), and through the testamentary dispositions of William III became the progenitor of the new line of the House of Orange-Nassau.[1] He was educated under Jean Lemonon, professor at the University of Franeker.[2]


With the death of William III of Orange, the legitimate male line of William the Silent (the second House of Orange) became extinct. John William Friso, the senior agnatic descendant of William the Silent's brother and a cognatic descendant of Frederick Henry, grandfather of William III, claimed the succession as stadtholder in all provinces held by William III. This was denied to him by the republican faction in the Netherlands.[3]

The five provinces over which William III ruled – Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel – all suspended the office of stadtholder after William III's death. The remaining two provinces – Friesland and Groningen – were never governed by William III, and continued to retain a separate stadtholder, John William Friso. He established the third House of Orange, which became extinct in the male line in 1890. His son, William IV of Orange, later became stadtholder of all seven provinces.[4]

John William Friso's position as William III's heir general was opposed by King Frederick I of Prussia, who also claimed (and occupied) part of the inheritance (for example Lingen). Under William III's will, Friso stood to inherit the Principality of Orange. However, the Prussian King Frederick I also claimed the Principality of Orange in the Rhône Valley, of which he later ceded the territory to France.[5]

Military career and deathEdit

On coming of age in 1707, John William Friso became a general of the Dutch troops during the War of Spanish Succession, under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, and turned out to be a competent officer. He was present at the Siege of Ostend, commanded Dutch infantry at the Battle of Oudenarde, the Siege of Lille, and the Battle of Malplaquet, while leading al operations at the Siege of Mons. The prestige that he acquired from his military service should have favored his eventual elevation as stadtholder in the remaining five provinces. However, in 1711, when traveling from the front in Flanders to meet the King of Prussia in The Hague in connection with his suit in the succession dispute, he drowned on 14 July when the ferry boat on the Moerdyk was overturned in heavy weather. His son was born six weeks after his death.[6]

Depiction of the drowning

Marriage and issueEdit

On 26 April 1709, he married Princess Maria Louise of Hesse-Kassel (1688–1765), daughter of Charles I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, and granddaughter of Jacob Kettler, Duke of Courland. They had two children.

Name Birth Death Notes
Anna Charlotte Amalia 1710 1777 married Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Baden-Durlach; had issue, including Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Baden
William IV, Prince of Orange 1711 1751 married Anne, Princess Royal; had issue, including William V, Prince of Orange




  1. ^ John William Friso. (2014). Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ Green, Michaël (31 December 2012). "Educating Johan Willem Friso (1687-1711) of Nassau-Dietz. Huguenot Tutorship at the Court of the Frisian Stadtholders". Virtus | Journal of Nobility Studies. 19: 103–124. ISSN 1380-6130.
  3. ^ State, P. F. (2008). A Brief History of the Netherlands. New York: Facts On File.
  4. ^ State, P. F. (2008). A Brief History of the Netherlands. New York: Facts On File.
  5. ^ John William Friso. (2014). Encyclopædia Britannica
  6. ^ State, P. F. (2008). A Brief History of the Netherlands. New York: Facts On File.
  7. ^ "Monument in Moerdijk voor tragisch verdronken Willem Friso". (in Dutch). Retrieved 21 November 2020.
John William Friso
House of Orange-Nassau
(second creation)
Cadet branch of the House of Nassau
Born: 14 August 1687 Died: 14 July 1711
Dutch nobility
Preceded by Prince of Orange
Title next held by
William IV
Regnal titles
Preceded by Prince of Nassau-Dietz
Title obsolete
merged into German
principality of Orange-Nassau
New title Prince of Orange-Nassau
Succeeded by
Preceded by Baron of Breda
Political offices
Preceded by Stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen
Succeeded by