The Principality of Orange (French: principauté d’Orange, Dutch often also Principality) is a tiny former principality of the Holy Roman Empire, currently located in Provence, a region in southeastern France.
In Dutch, it was historically referred to as Oranghien and later further Dutchified as Oranje. It was initially a county and, after 1163, a principality that remained independent until 1713.
To the west, it was joined by the Rhone River, separated from France; on all other sides, it was enclosed by the Comtat Venaissin. It was officially declared a French territory at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. From 1731, it belonged to the French province of Dauphiné until it was abolished in 1789.
8th century – 1713 Kingdom of France (1589–1792) →
The Principality is named after the place Orange, a town in the Vaucluse, on the left bank of the Rhône, twenty kilometres north of Avignon.
The Principality’s territory measured approximately 19.31 by 14.48 km, or 279.71 km². It was, therefore, almost the same size as the island of Bonaire or about one and a half times the size of the island of Texel.
The current municipality of Orange covers approximately a quarter of this area.
Orange has a history dating back to Roman times.
History of Orange
According to tradition, the first Count of Orange was William with the Horn, a courtier of Charlemagne, who is said to have conquered the city of Orange from the Saracens in 793.
The county had belonged to the Holy Roman Empire since 1032 as the only part of the ancient Kingdom of Burgundy. The House of Counts split into two lines in 1150, one of which was elevated to the royal position by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1163.
House Les Baux
After the death of Rimbaud III of Orange, the area of this last branch belonged to her husband, Bertrand I of Les Baux, via his sister Tirburge III of Orange. The size of the count’s unit was initially ceded to the Order of Saint John, but Bertrand III of Les Baux reunited the whole of Orange in 1308.
After the death of Raymond V of Les Baux, Prince of Orange, his daughter Maria inherited the Principality; through her husband John III of Chalon, it passed to the house of Chalon and, with the death of the last member of this family, Philibert, to his nephew René of Chalon, the son of his sister Claudia and Hendrik III of Nassau-Breda.
Under René of Chalon, France occupied Orange several times as a bone of contention between Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and King Francis I of France. Because he also remained childless, he appointed his cousin William of Nassau with the approval of Emperor Charles V as successor.
This decision contradicted the will of Mary of Baux, who had brought the Principality of Orange into the House of Chalon. In the absence of male heirs, the Principality would have to go to the heirs of her daughter, Alix of Chalon.
Alix’s daughter Margarita married Rudolf of Baden-Hochberg (1427-1487) in 1449. Their only surviving granddaughter, Johanna of Neuchâtel (d. 1543) of son Philip (1452-1503), married Louis I of Longueville (1480-1516) in 1504. Their descendants were pretenders to Orange until this family became extinct in the male line in 1694.
This family protested against the hereditary law after 1544 and immediately took it to court. Given the critical position of William the Silent as leader of the revolt against Spain, the French kings decided that the court’s decisions would not be followed through and left the Principality to the Nassaus (1580-1713).
William the Silent, later stadtholder in various Dutch regions, became Prince of Oranghien in 1544 and founded the Orange-Nassau dynasty – but could only exercise absolute power over the Principality since 1559. Orange was also occupied several times under his rule.
After his death, it fell to his sons, Philip Willem, Maurits and Frederik Hendrik. The latter’s heir was William II, who was succeeded by William III in 1650. After the Dutch War (1672) outbreak, Louis XIV occupied the Principality.
Willem got it at the Peace of Nijmegen (1678) returned, but it was retaken in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was revoked. The Peace of Rijswijk (1697) definitively restored him to princely dignity.
After the death of William III in 1702, a succession conflict broke out between Johan Willem Friso of Nassau-Dietz and Frederick I of Prussia. As the grandson of Frederik Hendrik’s daughter Albertine Agnes, the former was designated as successor by will.
However, Frederik I, as the son of Frederik Hendrik’s eldest daughter, Louise Henriëtte, also claimed the Principality under Frederik Hendrik’s will. Meanwhile, Louis XIV declared the Principality of Orange surrendered to the French throne.
The Parliament of Paris assigned the Principality to Louis’s pretender, Francis Louis of Bourbon-Conti. He concluded an agreement with Louis XIV in which he retained the income from the Principality but recognized French sovereignty.
The Peace of Utrecht (1713) ratified this situation and assigned the coat of arms and title of Orange to Prussia. [source?] Frans Louis’s grandson, Louis Francis I, finally ceded the Principality of Orange to the king of France on April 23, 1731, in exchange for another territory.
It was recorded in the Dauphiné.
The dynastic title “Prince of Orange” from 1732
However, to hold on to his claim, Johan Willem Friso continued to use the title Prince of Orange. His son William IV was formally given the right to do so again in 1732 with the Treaty of Partage.
Since his grandson William VI became King of the Netherlands in 1815 as William I, the title Prince of Orange in the Netherlands has consistently been awarded to the king’s eldest living son.
Before the 1983 constitutional amendment, the title only belonged to direct heirs in the male line. The last bearer of the title Prince of Orange from the House of Orange-Nassau was Crown Prince Alexander, who died in 1884, a son of King Willem III and Queen Sophie.
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander was given the title Prince of Orange in 1980 after it had fallen into disuse for almost a century; this happened at his mother’s accession to the throne.
The current (and first) Princess of Orange has been Crown Princess Catharina-Amalia since the succession to the throne of King Willem-Alexander; the current Prussian Prince of Orange is Georg Friedrich.