King William ordered the planning of the canal, and construction started in 1823. The canal was completed in 1826 and named for the king. The 123 km-long canal runs through the Belgian province of Limburg, the Dutch province of Limburg and, for the largest part, through the Dutch province of North Brabant. At the time of the canal's construction, all of these regions were part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830/39).
The canal created new possibilities for development of the poor towns on the sandy grounds of North Brabant, such as Helmond and Veghel and created an alternative traderoute for ships that did not want to sail the Meuse.
Nowadays the channel is being enlarged to make more room for ships with higher tonnage and therefore the development of larger industries.