The bloody testament of Willem Frederik



This is a scrap of the testament of Prince Willem Frederik, stadtholder of Friesland, and the blood on it is his as he wrote it with a gun wound to the head.

Until fairly recently Willem Frederik was known to be a bit of a schmuck and the story of his death did nothing to lessen that reputation. During the hunt one of his pistols refused to fire and when Willem Frederik wanted to clean it back home, it went off. The bullet went through his chin and jaw, making it so he couldn’t speak for a week—and then he died.

In the week before his death on 31 October 1664 Willem Frederik was no longer able to speak and he used notes to communicate. In the note above, which is kept at the Tresoar in Leeuwarden, he asks that his ‘hofmeester’ (head of the household) stay with his wife and children.

Willem Frederik shot himself with a wheellock gun, an invention attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. It was improvement on previous pistols because it could be carried around while loaded. That made it a perfect gun for assassins—William of Orange was killed with one—and for less careful members of the house of Nassau alike.

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