While not a monarchy in the traditional sense, the House of Orange-Nassau played an invaluable role in the history of the Netherlands. The first member of the House of Orange to earn great renown was William of Orange, known colloquially as "William the Silent." His political and military savvy helped to loosen the Spanish hold on the provinces of the Netherlands for the first time in almost a century. He eventually earned the position of Stadtholder, effectively placing the fate of the Netherlands in his hands. William would struggle valiantly, securing numerous concessions for his nation, before being assassinated in 1584.
The battle for Dutch independence continued after William's death - as did control of the position of Stadtholder by the House of Orange. Finally, in 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia granted the Netherlands complete self-rule. With the passing of William II of Orange - grandson of William the Silent - not two years after the passage of the treaty, and the successor to the Stadtholdership - William III - nothing more than a babe, the position was left vacant.
During this "Stadtholderless" period , the Netherlands became one of the most powerful commercial bodies in the world, creating an economy that rivaled that of Spain or Portugal. In 1672, England and France, tired of the Dutch meddling in international commerce, declared war on the Netherlands. William III, having already taken up his family's rightful position, led the Netherlands to war and was more successful than any could have expected. Not only did William defend his nation from the two of the most powerful countries in the world, but he took the throne of England as a trophy. In 1689, William III of Orange became King of England as well as the leader of the Netherlands.
Following William III, the power of the Netherlands began to wane. Yet even in its diminishing global strength, the House of Orange remained among the most important in the Netherlands. When, in 1815, fear of Napoleon was running rampant across Europe, the Prince of Orange at the time, William Frederick, declared himself King of the Netherlands, becoming the nation's first actual monarch. The Dutch monarchy remains to this day, although its powers have always been considerably more limited than those of more absolute monarchies.