Definitions

billety

Coat of arms of the Netherlands

The Greater Coat of Arms of the Realm, (or "Grote Rijkswapen"), is the personal Coat of Arms of the Monarch (Queen Beatrix). The Government of The Netherlands uses a smaller version without the mantle and the pavilion or even only the shield and crown. The components of the coats of arms were regulated by Queen Wilhelmina in a Royal decree of July 10th 1907 and were affirmed by Queen Juliana in a Royal decree of April 23rd 1980. Of the two versions of the coat of arms shown here, the Queen uses the first. (See the website of the Dutch Royal House)

The description of the coat of arms

The blazon is follows:

Azure, billetty Or a lion with a coronet Or armed and langued Gules holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted Or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and bound together Or. The seven arrows stand for the seven provinces of the Union of Utrecht. The shield is crowned with the (Dutch) royal crown and supported by two lions Or armed and langued Gules. They stand on a scroll Azure with the text "Je Maintiendrai" (medieval French for "I will endure".)

The monarch places this coat of arms on a mantle Gules lined with Ermine. Above the mantle is a pavilion Gules again topped with the royal crown.

In the Royal decree it is stated that the male successors can replace the crown on the shield by a helm with the crest of Nassau (For a description see below at "Nassau").

History and origin of the coat of arms

This version of the coat of arms is in use since 1907 but differs only slightly from the version that was adopted in 1815. From 1815 until 1907 all the lions wore the royal crown and the supporting lions where facing.

The royal arms where adopted by the first king of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, William I, when he became king after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. As king, he adopted a coat of arms that combined elements of his family’s (Orange-Nassau) coat of arms and that of the former Dutch Republic that existed from 1581 until 1795.

From his family arms he used the azure, billety or with a lion or of Nassau. The "Je Maintiendrai" motto represents the Orange family since it came into the family with the princedom of Orange. These elements are also found in the arms of the English king William III (1689-1702). From the arms of the former States General of the Republic of the United Provinces he took the sword and arrows. The arrows symbolize the seven provinces that made up the Republic.

Nassau

The arms of Nassau exist since ca. 1250. There are two versions of the Nassau arms, representing the two main branches. This is a result of two brothers, Walram II and Otto I, agreeing to divide their father’s (Henry II) lands between them in 1255. The line of Walram added a crown to the lion in the Nassau arms to make it different from the lion used by the line of Otto.

The kings and queens of the Netherlands are descendants of Otto. The Grand Dukes of Luxemburg are descendants of Walram. They also still use "Nassau" in their arms. (See the pages 105 and 106 of this PDF-file on the Grand Ducal Family) Both lines are now extinct in the male line.

The helm and crest that can be used in the Royal arms by the male successors to the throne (and is in fact being used by some male members of the Royal Family) is: "On a (ceremonial) helm, with bars and decoration Or and mantling Azure and Or, issuing from a coronet Or, a pair of wings joined Sable each with an arched bend Argent charged with three leaves of the lime-tree stems upward Vert".

This crest is used by the descendants of Otto and differs from the crest used by the descendants of Walram. But in the Royal decree of 1815 the crest issuing from a crown on the Dutch Royal Arms was the one used by the Walram line. Why this was done is not sure. Maybe due to the "mistake" this crest was hardly used.

The crest of the Walram-line is: Between two trunks Azure billetty Or a sitting lion Or. The trunks are probably a misinterpretation of two cow horns, a crest that is frequently used in German heraldry. On the Grand Coat of Arms of the Grand Duke of Luxemburg the lion is crowned, armed and langued Gules.

Orange

The motto has been used by every "ruling" member of the Nassau family who was also the prince of Orange since it came into the family with the princedom of Orange in 1530. Count Henry III of Nassau-Breda, who was living in the Low Countries, was married to Claudia Orange - Châlon. Her brother, Philibert of Châlon, was the last Prince of Orange from the house of Châlon. When he died in 1530, Henry’s and Claudia’s son René of Nassau-Breda inherited the Princedom on condition that he used the name and coat of arms of the Châlon family. History knows him therefore as René of Châlon. With this inheritance came the "Je Maintiendrai Châlons" motto into the Nassau family. René died in 1544 without leaving a child. His cousin William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited all of René’s lands. William became William of Orange (in English better known under his nickname William the Silent) and the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau. William first changed the motto to "Je Maintiendrai Nassau". Later he (or his sons) dropped the family name from the motto.

The horn from the arms of the princedom of Orange is not used in the coat of arms of the kingdom but is part of the personal arms and flags of many members of the royal family. See for example the image of the Royal Standard of the Netherlands.

The Dutch Republic

The sword and arrows originated from the Habsburg rulers: The lion, as representing the Burgundian Netherlands, first appears as a crest on the tomb of Philip the Handsome. Later Charles V added the sword. The arrows where used, on coins etc, since the early 16th century to represent the Seventeen Provinces in the low countries under control of Charles V. In 1578, during the Eighty Years' War, the States General ordered a new great seal representing the lion, the sword and the 17 arrows combined. Although only seven provinces remained free from Spain, this seal stayed in use until 1795.

After the completion of its forming in 1584 the Republic of the Seven United Provinces used as its arms: Or a crowned lion Gules armed and langued Azure, holding in his dexter paw a sword and in the sinister paw seven arrows tight together Azure. The colours of this version where derived from the most important of the seven provinces, the county of Holland (its arms are still in use since being adopted by the counts of Holland in ca 1198) After ca 1650 the colours where reversed and the arms became Gules a crowned lion Or armed and langued Azure holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted Or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and tight together Or.

1795 - 1814 Revolution, Napoleonic years and Restoration

The arms of the Dutch republic where also in use as (part of):

- The arms of the Batavian Republic (1795-1806),

- The arms of king Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (brother of the French Emperor Napoleon) as king of the Kingdom of Holland (1806-1810)

- The arms William I as "sovereign prince" (1813-1815).

In this last coat of arms the lion of the Dutch Republic was placed in the I and IV quarter, in the II and III quarters was the arms of Châllon-Orange-Geneve and the arms of Nassau (Otto) was placed on an escutcheon in the center of the shield.

Further reading

Wapens van de Nederlanden : de historische ontwikkeling van de heraldische symbolen van Nederland, België, hun provincies en Luxemburg / Hubert de Vries. - 1995

Website: Dutch Royal House

Website: Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs

Website: International Civic Heraldry

Website: Nassau - Ottonian Line

See also

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