If anybody ever left his mark on Tilburg, it's King Willem ll. ‘’This is where I can breathe freely and feel happy’’, he once declared about the town in which he regularly stayed until his death in 1849. Tilburg is proud of this statement and often honours it. The football team, and its stadium, were named after him, as well as the prison and a secondary school.
His statue dominates the city’s main square and references to this King who thought highly of Tilburg can be found in many places. He even had a palace built here!
Williem Frederik George Lodewijk was born in 1792 in The Hague to William I and Wilhelmina van Pruisen. He fought in the Prussian and English armies and in 1815 he became heir to the throne. As an English general he took part in the famous battle that became Napoleon's demise and returned from the battlefield a ‘hero of Waterloo’.
In 1816 William married Anna Paulowna, the daughter of the Russian tsar Paul I. They had five children and he was rumoured to have had a number of extramarital affairs and children out of wedlock. In 1840 he ascended to the throne as William II, a conservative king who stopped every single constitutional change. The King’s power decreased in the years that followed due to revolutions in several European countries. Therefore William declared himself a liberal overnight. The constitution was rewritten by Johan Rudolph Thorbecke and Holland became a parliamentary democracy. In 1847 Willem ordered the building of a palace in Tilburg. He already stayed in the town regularly, but he wanted his own, representative home. The palace is still here, although it was renovated and changed several times over the years.
King William’s health quickly deteriorated after the death of his son Alexander. He also had problems with his eldest son, who later became William III, who strongly disagreed with the 1848 constitutional changes. In March 1849 he announced that he would retire to his beloved Tilburg. He passed away on March 17 in the presence of his wife. He was buried in the crypt of the House of Orange in Delft.