Leader and icon of the Dutch revolt
"Het Wilhelmus" (The William) is the national anthem of the Kingdom of the Netherlands – Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden – and is the oldest national anthem in the world, though the lyrics of the Japanese, "Kimigayo", date as far back as the 9.th century.
It is also one of the very few anthems that do not focus on the History or military accomplishments of the people it represents; on the contrary, it tells of William of Oranje, his life and why he is fighting for the Dutch. As a result, the words of the anthem are as if they were said by William himself. The song is remarkably peaceful and was written around 1574.
On May 10.th 1932 it was decreed that on all official occasions requiring the performance of the national anthem "Het Wilhelmus" was to be played, hereby replacing Hendrik Tollens' "Wien Neerlands bloed door d'aderen vloeit" (Whom Dutch blood runs in the veins, Portuguese: A quem corre sangue neerlandês nas veias), which was the official Dutch anthem from 1815 till 1932.
"Het Wilhelmus" had been sung on many official occasions before and at many important events since 1568, such as the siege of Haarlem in 1573, and the ceremonial entry of the Prince of Oranje in Brussels on September 18.th 1578.
The tune of "Het Wilhelmus" is based on the French soldiers' song "Autre chanson de la ville de Chartres assiégée par le prince de Condé" (Another song about the city of Chartres under siege by the Prince de Condé, Portuguese: Outra canção da cidade de Chartres cercada pelo Príncipe de Condé), which was popular around 1569. During the siege the song had become quite popular among the Catholics of Chartres; the Protestants started to sing it too and made it spread to the Low Countries. Therefore the melody of "Het Wilhelmus" is older than the lyrics. The melody was further developed by the famous Dutch composer Adriaen Valerius (ca. 1575-1625), who made the melody's pace much slower, most likely to allow it to be sung in churches. The current official version is the arrangement by Walther Boer, dating from 1932.
The origins of the lyrics are less clear. Until today no one knows who exactly wrote the Dutch anthem. Soon after it was finished it was said that Philips of Marnix, a famous writer and statesman, former mayor of the city of Antwerp, or Dirk Coornhert, a politician and theologian, had written the anthem. However, this is disputed as both Marnix and Coornhert never mentioned they wrote the lyrics, which is strange given the fact that the song was immensely popular in their times.
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
ben ik, van Duitsen bloed, (*)
den vaderland getrouwe
blijf ik tot in den dood.
Een Prinse van Oranje
ben ik, vrij, onverveerd,
de Koning van Hispanje
heb ik altijd geëerd.
William of Nassau
Am I, of Dutch blood. (*)
Loyal to the fatherland,
I will remain until I die.
A Prince of Oranje,
I am, free and fearless.
The King of Spain
I have always honoured.
Guilherme de Nassau
Sou eu, de sangue neerlandês.
Leal à pátria
Serei até morrer.
Um Príncipe de Oranje
Eu sou, livre e sem medo.
O Rei de Espanha,
Eu sempre honrei.
(*) There is an ongoing confusion and dispute as to what the author meant with "Duitsen bloed", as the contemporary Dutch word "Duits" means German, not Dutch.
In singing "Duits" is often replaced by "Diets", "Deutsch" or "Deitsch", all meaning Dutch rather than German.
This is done mostly, or even exclusively, due to an anti-German sentiment, which has been present in the Netherlands – the Low Countries – since the 16.th century. Today's resentment of Germans, however, comes mainly from the Dutch appalling experiences during World War II.
Although the exact meaning is still – and will probably remain – unclear, the official version of the Dutch national anthem uses "Duits".
Wikipedia (abridged and rewritten)
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