A descendant of the Ottonian line of Nassau, he was born at Dillenburg, near Wiesbaden, Germany, of Protestant parents. After inheriting (1544) the holdings of the branch of the Nassau family in the Low Countries and the principality of Orange in S France, William was reared a Roman Catholic at the insistence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, whose favorite page he became. In 1555 he was made stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.