Listen to the song, performed by Nico van der Meel
View this melody in musical notation
The Wilhelmus was written by William of Orange around 1570 to the melody of the French song 'Chartres'. The song had a political bearing and was used by the royal family of Orange as their family anthem.
In the eighteenth century, the melody was changed to that of the cheerful 'Princes' March'. Mozart used this march as the basis for his variations on the Wilhelmus during his stay in the Netherlands as a young man. The lyric is mostly forgotten by now: only the first two lines are usually really sung.
When the Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded in 1813, the Wilhelmus could not be considered as the national anthem. It did however remain in use at occasions for the royal family. In 1932, the Wilhelmus was yet chosen to be the Dutch national anthem, albeit with the lyric and melody as it was originally sung and played in the sixteenth century.
Hundreds of other lyrics have been written to the Wilhelmus melody throughout the ages, from light musical variants ('Mauricius van Nassouwen') to completely new lyrics. Although the Wilhelmus has also been used as a dancing and hunting song, the collection does clearly contain mostly national and patriotic lyrics to this melody.
The Wilhelmus can be listened to on this website both as the previously mentioned 'Princes' March' and as the alternative version from the nineteenth century. The song is performed by Nico van der Meel, He is accompanied on piano by Kees Schul.