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William the Silent Paperback – August 16, 2001

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About the Author

C.V. Wedgwood, one of the only two women to be made a member of the Order of Merit, began writing history when she was a child. Her first book was published in 1935 and she went on to specialise in the English, Scottish and European sixteenth centuries.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson History (August 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842124013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842124017
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,989,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Deborah on August 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
I just finished rereading this excellent biography of one of the great men in history and one of the few who genuinely cared about the welfare of the people he governed and put their needs above his own.

C.V. Wedgwood's writing is a pleasure to read and she has a talent for making the historical figures she is writing about come alive. She also does an excellent job explaining the reasons behind the revolt of the Netherlands. Some of them are very familiar to an American. Her greatest achievement in this book is her three-dimensional portrayal of William the Silent. As I reread her description of his assassination, I could feel the tears running down my face, and that tells you just how vivid and descriptive her writing is.

I highly recommend this biography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PadmaPriya on November 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
Scanning shelves of my favorite N.Cal used book store, one name reached out to me: C.V. Wedgwood. I’d spent decades thinking about but not quite getting around to reading her histories. Now was the time to seize the moment and pick up this perfectly preserved hardback from the Book of the Month Club and put an end to a life of procrastination. What a treat! Was it made sweeter by a long period of anticipation? Maybe, but one thing is certain, Wedgwood deserved her reputation: she synthesized the craft of storytelling with the rigor of scholarship.

William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584, was born in the Rhineland in a era when the “unsolved Protestant problem was tearing the political framework to shreds.” His parents abandoned the Catholic faith for Lutheranism within months of his birth, a switch in religious allegiance that was responsible for William’s unlikely inheritance at the age eleven to the Principality of Orange in the Netherlands, an elevation that made him one of the richest noblemen in Europe. An older cousin had made the child William his heir at the behest of the Emperor Charles V who did not want the principality falling into the hands of a Protestant, namely, William’s father. The religion of a child could be readily changed. And was. The now Catholic child heir became a favored ward of Charles V and his sister Mary, Regent of the Netherlands, who schooled him to be “a loyal servant of the dynasty.” What a blow he dealt that dynasty when he emerged as the leader of a rebellion against their family, their politics, their religious intolerance, and their rule.

In 1555, Charles V abdicated and retired to Spain.
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By Al on October 13, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent biography of William the Silent which is also a story of the founding of the Dutch republic. Wedgwood’s style of writing makes this an effortless and very enjoyable book to read. Moreover, she makes the reader truly care for and invest in the figure of William of Nassau. In describing the founding of the Dutch republic, it is important to remember that our own founders looked at Dutch history as one of the models in the founding of our own republic. A key factor in this was the legalities involved in overthrowing the authority of the king of Spain. William had to show that this was not a revolt against a legitimate sovereign, “…but a resolution taken by the whole state of the Netherlands for the preservation of their lives and privileges.” Wedgwood points out that the Act of Abjuration shows that a true king is a shepherd to his people who preserves their rights and actively protects their well-being. But when the king, “…does not behave thus but oppresses them, seeking to infringe their ancient customs, exacting from them slavish compliance, then he is no longer a prince but a tyrant, and they may not only disallow his authority, but legally proceed to the choice of another prince for their defense.” In a world where law makes a king, only law can unmake him. Wedgwood’s narrative, while a biography of a remarkable man, is also a lesson in political theory and an insight into the minds of our own founders.
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