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Creaturen van de Macht: Patronage bij Willen Frederik van Nassau (1613-1664).

Geert H. Janssen. Creaturen van de Macht: Patronage bij Willen Frederik van Nassau (1613-1664).

Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005. 304 pp. index. illus. tbls. bibl. [euro]29.50. ISBN: 90-5356-787-9.

Janssen's work is a carefully crafted study of the full range of patronage and clientage in the public sphere filled by William Frederick, a member of the House of Nassau in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. The study is associated by the author with those of Kettering, Neuchel, Harding, Mousnier, Price, and Israel, who consider the complex relationships within patronage that perpetuate the control of the old elites while still contributing to the development of modern states. Janssen acknowledges a scholarly debt to their studies throughout his own, but also includes the methods of cultural anthropology to give full scope to his own investigation. Indeed, he emphasizes many different sources which provided unique insight and suggested various strategies to follow in his investigation. The introduction discusses these influences and explains his method. However, it is also crowded with questions which arise from the subject, which is an amalgam of the influences of the single most powerful family in the Netherlands within the context of the amazing complexity of political, social, and religious relationships within the Dutch Republic. William Frederick, after a brisk and unpleasant competition for the offices with Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and head of the family, became stadholder of Frisia, Groeningen, and Drenthe. Each province had powerful traditions spelled out in instructions which regulated his powers. To compensate for irregular character of public life, Janssen concentrates on the personal relationships and objectives of patronage and clientage rather than trying to engage in a systematic structural analysis. Personal and public patronage mingled and the creation of a network of loyalties and dependencies affected both the aristocracy and the republic, the Dutch version of competition between castle and state. However, the House of Orange had its own court, which provided a center of power as well, making all relationships even more complex. William Frederick played many roles as stadholder, particularly at the Frisian center at Leeuwarden, and also as head of his own aristocratic court at Turnhout. However, he also resided once a year in The Hague, where he participated in the Orange court as client rather than patron, which, given the character of public life, actually enhanced his own powers at home. This study is divided into three sections that present all of these relationships clearly and thoroughly. The first part explores his personal and public development in the years after 1640, when he assumed the three stadholder positions. The second investigates his position at the Orange court, first during the awkward years under Frederick Henry and then in the cordial, positive times under William II. The third part discusses changes brought on by the death of William II, who had engaged in a major struggle with Amsterdam and the States General.

The career of William Frederick provides a perfect basis for a study of relationships within the entire political and social hierarchy, and, in Janssen's hands, it becomes a very personal story, drawing heavily on the stadholder's diary and correspondence. The use of these documents is exceptional and William Frederick comes to life through quotations. However, there is also a much broader perspective to this work, for Janssen balances the personal account with references to all the major historians who are engaged in studies of patronage and clientage, as well as the most significant new studies of the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century. Factual material blends with theoretical considerations freely in this wonderfully-written work. General studies of patronage, particularly the work of Sharon Kettering, provide firm general points of reference, but the most recent volumes of Price and Israel on ideological relationships within the Dutch Republic are equally vital to his presentation. Individual nuances of belief and behavior appear against the background of both Dutch and Western European experience.

There are many intriguing parts to this study, including consideration of the use of language, which is so vital to establishing clientage and patronage, the intricacies of Dutch social relationships, and the heavy presence of the reformed church in both the personal and public affairs of William Frederick. The ambitions of the aristocrat had to find common ground with the closely-held customs and laws of each province, and astute patronage enabled him to do this, attracting the admiration of even Jan De Witt, who was not in the habit of praising the political acumen of the aristocracy. Janssen charts his progress in several areas as William Frederick established a plan for city and country. He sought to create dependent relationships and offer honors and rewards which, if all acted correctly, would become friendships. He sponsored candidates in elections and controlled access to all military positions, playing what Janssen calls his military trump card. The insight provided by the diary shows how carefully William Frederick cultivated relationships, but also how he had to modify his own behavior because of his position as client of the House of Orange, particularly during the conflict between Holland and William II over conflicting political ambitions and troop subsidies in 1650. William Frederick's role in the effort to check Amsterdam was anything but glorious, but the real crisis began following William II's death. The period of freedom for the republic limited the aristocracy, and all relationships were troubled during a moment when fidelity became its own reward. William Frederick managed to keep his position intact, but the situation called for different, more balanced efforts. All of the problems arising from the new definitions of order and proportion in the mixed government of the Dutch Republic make this part one of the most interesting in the book. William Frederick did exceptionally well, consolidating his power and securing the right of succession to his offices for his sons, but he was always on the verge of attaining true power. He died at age fifty-one in 1664, leaving many of his ambitions unfulfilled.

The concentration of the author on the person of William Frederick is a true asset in this book, providing firm focus and context as the reader considers the larger issues of patronage and clientage. This value is enhanced by the excellent notes, which point toward others studies, interpretations, and questions. The bibliography is also exceptional and reveals Janssen's great depth and range.


University of New Mexico
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Author:Steen, Charlie R.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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