House of Wassenaer

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van Wassenaer
noble family
Van Wassenaer wapen 1815.svg
Coat of Arms
Country Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands
Style(s) count, baron
Founded 13th century
Founder Philips van Wassenaer
Ethnicity Dutch

Van Wassenaer is the name of an old Dutch noble family. It was first mentioned in the county of Holland on November 3, 1200. They are one of the few original noble families from Holland that has survived to this day. Members of the family carry the title of count or baron.

Origin of the name[edit]

The family was already noble from earliest times ("Uradel"). According to family legend, the name may be taken from the crescent (wassende) moon on the family coat of arms, borrowed from an Arabian banner that a member of the van Wassenaer family obtained while on a crusade. According to some family archives, Wassenaar means Wasser Herren, Sea Lords/Kings, which had been a traditional title that the invading Romans (under Caligula) had recognized while destituting the kings of Batavia.

History of the family[edit]

Seal of Dirk I (1226)

The earliest known member was Philip, who lived in the early 13th century, and owned lands in Wassenaar. He was a vassal of William I, Count of Holland who took part in the Third Crusade and the Fifth Crusade.

Philip's son Dirk I founded the branches van Wassenaer, van Cranenburch and van Groenevelt, while Dirk's brother Filips received the Kasteel Duivenvoorde in 1226 and founded the branch van Duvenvoirde (which only in the 17th century resumed the name van Wassenaer). A seal of Dirk I of 1226 shows a different coat-of-arms, but the crescent may have served as crest at the time.

The van Wassenaer branch was made Burgraves of Leiden by the Counts of Holland in 1340. Later, in the Hook and Cod wars, they were among the leading aristocratic families to support the "Hooks". In 1544 the branch extinguished.

Polanen Branch[edit]

Coat of arms of the House of Polanen

Philips III van Duivenvoorde (c. 1248 - after 1301) received the fief of Polanen (near Monster, South Holland) in 1295. His son Jan I van Polanen (ca. 1285 – 1342) founded the van Polanen branch. It played an important role, because through the marriage of Johanna van Polanen with Engelbert I of Nassau, the House of Nassau first gained territories in the Netherlands, namely Breda. Much later this fact, among others, led to the House of Orange-Nassau's rise to the ruling dynasty of the country.

See: House of Polanen

Other branches[edit]

The Duvenvoirde branch ended with Jacoba Maria van Wassenaar, baroness of Torck (1709–1771) whose descendants in the female line, the barons Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, still today own Kasteel Duivenvoorde.

Jacob II van Wassenaer Obdam (1645–1714) married Adriana Sophia von Raesfeld in 1676, who inherited Twickel Castle near Delden. The branch van Wassenaer Opdam was elevated to the rank of (non-ruling) imperial counts in 1711. This branch extinguished in 1850 with Marie Cornélie van Wassenaer Obdam (1799–1850) who left the castle to her children, barons van Heeckeren van Kell, who took on the name van Heeckeren van Wassenaer. Baroness Marie Amélie van Heeckeren van Wassenaer, née countess van Aldenburg Bentinck (1879–1975), gave the castle to her family foundation in 1953. It is now administrated by the heirs of her grand nephew, count Christian zu Castell-Rüdenhausen (1952–2010).

Jacob van Wassenaer, Lord of Voorschoten, Duivenvoorde and Veur (1649-1707), married Jacoba van Lyere, heiress of Katwijk, thus founding the branch van Wassenaer tot Catwijck which is still existing. Furthermore the castles of Hoekelum and Nederhemert were owned by Wassenaer family members until the late 20th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century, all family members were granted the title of baron in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Famous scions of the House of Wassenaer[edit]



  • J.C. Kort and R.C. Hol: Wassenaer, de oudste: Het archief van de familie Van Wassenaer van Duvenvoorde in Hollands archiefperspectief. Inventaris van het archief van de familie Van Wassenaer van Duvenvoorde, 1266-1996, Verloren b.v., Hilversum, 2002.
  • Nederland's Adelsboek 97 (2012), p. 131-188.

See also[edit]

  • Wassenaar, a municipality in South Holland.

External links[edit]