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It had been sung on many official occasions and at many important events since the outbreak of the Dutch Revolt in 1568, such as the siege of Haarlem in 1573 and the ceremonial entry of the Prince of Orange into Brussels on 18 September 1578. During the Dutch Golden Age, it was conceived essentially as the anthem of the House of Orange-Nassau and its supporters – which meant, in the politics of the time, the anthem of a specific political faction which was involved in a prolonged struggle with opposing factions (which sometimes became violent, verging on civil war).It has been claimed that during the gruesome torture of Balthasar Gérard (the assassin of William of Orange) in 1584, the song was sung by the guards who sought to overpower Gérard's screams when boiling pigs' fat was poured over him. Therefore, the fortunes of the song paralleled those of the Orangist faction.The Wilhelmus originated in the Dutch Revolt, the nation's struggle to achieve independence from the Spanish Empire.It tells of the Father of the Nation William of Orange who was stadholder in the Netherlands under the King of Spain.Hence some believe that the lyrics of the Dutch national anthem were the creation of someone who just wrote one poem for the occasion and then disappeared from history.

Some see this as evidence that neither Marnix or Coornhert wrote the anthem as they were both experienced poets when the "Wilhelmus" was written and they would not have taken these small liberties.

However, a melody was added only in the late 19th century, making it a poem rather than an anthem for most of its lifespan.

Although the "Wilhelmus" was not recognised as the official national anthem until 1932, it has always been popular with parts of the Dutch population and resurfaced on several occasions in the course of Dutch history before gaining its present status.

Like many of the songs of the period, it has a complex structure, composed around a thematic chiasmus: the text is symmetrical, in that verses one and 15 resemble one another in meaning, as do verses two and 14, three and 13, etc., until they converge in the 8th verse, the heart of the song: "Oh David, thou soughtest shelter from King Saul's tyranny.

Even so I fled this welter", where the comparison is made between not only the biblical David and William of Orange as merciful and just leader of the Dutch Revolt, but also between the tyran King Saul and the Spanish crown, and between the promised land of Israel granted by God to David, and a kingdom granted by God to William.

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