The other day I received an email from the editor of the Dutch magazine Gay News, the biggest gay publication in the Netherlands, which, since 1992, comes out every once a month, and is Amsterdam’s gay magazine. Gay News is entirely bilingual (in both english and dutch) and is distributed in The Netherlands & Belgium. Hans Hafkamp, the editor of Gay News, wrote that he has always enjoyed my blog and appreciated my dedication to history. He attached an article published in the December issue of Gay News about Willem II, King of the Netherlands (1840-1849).
In 2007 Queen Beatrice, on the occasion of her jubilee, gave three historians permission to open up the archives of the royal family for biographies of the first three kings. As Willem II was only king for nine years, his rule did not get as much attention as those who ruled for much longer periods of time before and after him. Jeroen van Zanten of the Department of History at the University of Amsterdam took on the task of writing the biography of Willem II. Though other historians preferred to research the longer ruling kings, Dr. van Zanten believed they were very wrong to overlook Willem II. Dr. van Zanten remarked in an interview with newspaper “de Volkskrant”: “He (Willem II) led a very adventurous life. In addition to which, he is extremely interesting for leaving autobiographical notes. A prince and king with self-reflection!” Van Zanten also discovered through a series of letters that Willem II was often pressured (i.e. blackmailed) because of his “bisexuality.”
William II had a string of relationships with both men and women. The homosexual relationships that William II had as crown prince and as king were reported by journalist Eillert Meeter who published a book about Willem I and Willem II in 1857. Meeter’s biography of the two kings was published first In Great Britain, but did not get published in The Netherlands until 1966. King Willem II surrounded himself with male servants whom he could not dismiss because of his ‘abominable motive’ for hiring them in the first place. Willem’s male liaisons were not just focused on his servants but also on a few political figures as well. He was apparently blackmailed at least four times, once by a former lover who was at the time of the blackmail in a German prison, two soldiers, and his aide-de-camp when he was still the Crown Prince. The last blackmail by the jailed Petrus Janssen led to the blackmailing of Willem II by liberals during the liberal Revolution of 1848, which in turn forced the already liberal minded Willem to sign the Dutch Constitution.
The extent of how much the blackmail over his homosexual affair influenced Willem is up to debate. The Revolutions of 1848 broke out all over Europe. In Paris, the Bourbon-Orléans monarchy fell. William became afraid of revolution in Amsterdam. One morning he woke up and said: “I changed from conservative to liberal in one night”. He gave orders to Johan Rudolf Thorbecke to create a new constitution which included that the Eerste Kamer (Senate) would be elected indirectly by the Provincial States and that the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives) would be elected directly. The electoral system changed into census suffrage in electoral districts (in 1917 census suffrage was replaced by common suffrage for all men, and districts were replaced by party lists of different political parties), whereby royal power decreased sharply. That constitution is still in effect today.