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Orange and Nassau

The links between the House of Nassau and the Netherlands date back to 1403, when Count Engelbrecht I of Nassau married Johanna van Polanen, the lady of Breda.

As they acquired more and more land, the Breda branch of the family soon entered the ranks of the highest nobility. Over time they were entrusted with ever more important offices by the Dukes of Burgundy and then the members of the House of Habsburg, who ruled much of the Low Countries.

Count Hendrik III of Nassau (1483-1538), for example, held high civil and military offices and was involved in the education of the future Emperor Charles V. He married the Burgundian noblewoman Claudia de Chalon, and their son René inherited the sovereign principality of Orange from his uncle Philibert de Chalon.

When René died childless in 1544, he left his estates to his German cousin William of Nassau (1533-1584), who, as Prince William I, founded the House of Orange-Nassau.