William II of Holland

William II (February 1227 – 28 January 1256) was a Count of Holland and Zeeland from 1234 until his death. He was crowned German anti-king in 1248 and ruled as sole King of the Romans from 1254 onwards.

William II
Count of Holland
Effigy of William II on his seal.
King of the Romans
Reign3 October 1247 – 28 January 1256
Coronation1 November 1248, Aachen
PredecessorConrad IV of Germany
SuccessorRichard of Cornwall
BornFebruary 1227
Died28 January 1256(1256-01-28) (aged 28)
SpouseElisabeth of Brunswick-Lüneburg
IssueFloris V, Count of Holland
HouseHolland (Gerulfings)
FatherFloris IV, Count of Holland
MotherMatilda of Brabant
ReligionRoman Catholicism


He was the eldest son and heir of Count Floris IV of Holland and his wife Matilda of Brabant.[1] When his father was killed at a tournament at Corbie, William was only seven years old. His uncles, William and Otto (Bishop of Utrecht), were his guardians until 1239.

With the help of Duke Henry II of Brabant and the Cologne archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden, he was elected King of the Romans after the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick II was excommunicated by Pope Innocent IV.[2] He succeeded the Thuringian landgrave Henry Raspe who had died within a year after his election as anti-king in 1246.

The next year, William decided to extend his father's hunting residence to a palace which met his new status. This would later be called the Binnenhof (Inner Court) and was the beginning of the city of The Hague. Meanwhile, after a siege of five months, William besieged Aachen for six months before capturing it from Frederick's followers. Only then could he be crowned as king by Archbishop Konrad of Cologne. He gained a certain amount of theoretical support from some of the German princes after his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of the Welf duke Otto of Brunswick-Lüneburg, in 1252; but, although "William lacked neither courage nor chivalrous qualities... his power never extended beyond the Rhineland."[3]

In his home county, William fought with Countess Flanders for control of Zeeland. He made himself (being king of Germany) count of Zeeland. In July 1253, he defeated the Flemish army at Westkapelle (in modern-day Belgium) and a year later a cease-fire followed. His anti-Flemish policy worsened his relationship with France.

From 1254 to his death he fought a number of wars against the West Frisians. He built some strong castles in Heemskerk and Haarlem and created roads for the war against the Frisians.

William gave city rights to Haarlem, Delft, 's-Gravenzande and Alkmaar.

According to the Annales Wormatienses, on 10 November 1255 William "eliminated the rights of citizens who are called Pfahlbürger so that among other restrictions, none of the cities were permitted to have them or receive them"; a later scribe added a gloss to clarifty that the Pfahlburgers "were citizens who were not resident in the city".[4]

Marriage and issue

William married Elisabeth of Brunswick-Lüneburg, daughter of Otto the Child, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, in 1252. They had:


In battle near Hoogwoud on 28 January 1256, William tried to traverse a frozen lake by himself, because he was lost, but his horse fell through the ice. In this vulnerable position, William was killed by the Frisians, who secretly buried him under the floor of a house. His body was recovered 26 years later by his son Floris V, who took terrible vengeance on the West-Frisians. William was then buried in Middelburg.[5] Contemporary sources, including the chronicle of Melis Stoke, portray William as an Arthurian hero.[6] A golden statue of William can be found on the Binnenhof in The Hague, the inner court of the parliamentary complex of the Netherlands.



  1. M. A. Pollock, Scotland, England and France After the Loss of Normandy, 1204-1296, (The Boydell Press, 2015), xv.
  2. Germany and Flanders: Welfs, Hohenstaufen and Habsburgs, Michael Toch, The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 5, C.1198-c.1300, ed. David Abulafia, (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 391.
  3. Kantorowicz, Ernst, Frederick II, p. 638.
  4. David S. Bachrach, ed. (2016), The Histories of a Medieval German City, Worms c. 1000–c. 1300: Translation and Commentary, Routledge, p. 145.
  5. Graaf, Ronald P. de (2004). Oorlog om Holland, 1000-1375. Verloren. pp. 231ff. ISBN 9789065508072.
  6. Tom Verschaffel, ed. (2000). Koningsmoorden. Leuven UP. pp. 150ff. ISBN 9789058670731.

See also

William II of Holland
Born: February 1228 Died: 28 January 1256
Preceded by
Floris IV
Count of Holland
19 July 1234 28 January 1256
Succeeded by
Floris V
Preceded by
Henry Raspe
(as anti-king)
King of Germany
3 October 1247 28 January 1256
(anti-king to Conrad IV until 21 May 1254)
Succeeded by
Richard of Cornwall and
Alfonso of Castile
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