House of Amsberg

House of Amsberg

Armorial of Amsberg
Country Mecklenburg, Germany, Netherlands
  • King of the Netherlands
  • Count of Orange-Nassau
  • Jonkheer van Amsberg
  • Herr von Amsberg
Founded before 1686
Founder Jürgen Amtsberg
Current head Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
Cadet branches

The House of Amsberg (German: von Amsberg, Dutch: van Amsberg) is the name of a German noble family from Mecklenburg. A great-grandson of a blacksmith, parish pastor August Amsberg (1747–1820) started calling himself "von Amsberg" in 1795 and the family's right to use this name was confirmed by the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1891. By this permission to use a noble privilege, the family effectively became part of the untitled lower nobility of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The present King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander is an agnatic member of this family.

Members of the family live in the Netherlands and in Northern Germany. Its most notable member is the family's current head (i.e. senior male line descendant), King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. King Willem-Alexander, his brothers and his brothers children hold the title "Jonkheer (or female Jonkvrouw) van Amsberg," and have the surname "van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg."


The line traces back to one Jürgen Amtsberg (d. 1686), master blacksmith in the village of Schwichtenberg near Borrentin, then part of Swedish Pomerania. His great–grandson Johann David Theodor August Amsberg (1747–1820), Protestant pastor at the parish church of Kavelstorf near Rostock in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, from about 1795 styled himself von Amsberg without objection. The Amsbergs had been commoners at first, and the preposition probably was used to signify the family from the name of their ancestors, rather than from the name of a place they originated from. A notable member was his son Philipp August von Amsberg (1788–1871), who initiated the establishment of the Duchy of Brunswick State Railway inaugurated in 1838. The family received the official approval to hold the noble title by decree of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1891.

On 10 March 1966 Claus von Amsberg married the heir apparent to the Dutch throne, Princess Beatrix of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld, and from 1980 until his death in 2002 was prince consort of the Queen of the Netherlands. He is the father of Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands and Jonkheer van Amsberg. Willem-Alexander's younger brother Prince Friso van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg, due to his marriage with Mabel Martine Wisse Smit, lost his status as a Prince of the Netherlands but retained for himself royal status as prince of Orange-Nassau and for his children received the title of count/countess of Orange-Nassau. The marriage of the third-born son Prince Constantijn so far has produced the only male heir of the main Amsberg line, Claus-Casimir van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg born in 2004. In 2001 it was established by Decree that children born in the marriage of Prince Constantijn will hold the hereditary noble title and honorific Count (Countess) van Oranje-Nassau, Jonkheer (Jonkvrouw) van Amsberg and have the surname Van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg. In 2004 the same regulation was established for Prince Friso and the children born in his marriage. When Willem-Alexander became king in 2013 the House of Amsberg became the ruling House of the Netherlands. It is, however, likely to lose that status after two generations, since Willem-Alexander has only daughters, and membership of the Amsberg noble family descends via the agnatic line whereas the Dutch monarchy follows absolute primogeniture.

Several members of the family, mainly descendants of Philipp August von Amsberg and of Prince Claus' great–uncle General Joachim von Amsberg (1869–1945), still live in Northern Germany.

The Dutch branch of the family, i.e. Prince Claus, the former Claus von Amsberg, has some distant Dutch/Flemish ancestors who left the Low Countries during Spanish rule, such as the Berenberg merchant family and other prominent families of Antwerp.

Other notable family members include colonel Joachim von Amsberg, general Joachim von Amsberg and banker Joachim von Amsberg.

Heads of the family

This is a list of the heads, i.e. the senior male line members, of the Amsberg family, as well the patrilineal line of the current Dutch royal family. Before the 1891 ennoblement, being the senior male descendant didn't have any legal relevance, and such the term "head" is anachronistic before the family's rise as a noble and eventually royal family. The headship of the family since its recognition as noble in 1891 has some historical legal relevance prior to the formal abolition of the nobility's privileges in 1918.

  1. Jürgen Amtsberg, ca. 16401686, master blacksmith
  2. Jürgen Amtsberg, 16801756, master baker
  3. Georg Amtsberg, 17171772
  4. Johann David Theodor August Amsberg, who started calling himself "von Amsberg" from 1795, 17471820, pastor in Kavelstorf
  5. Joachim Karl Theodor von Amsberg, 17771842
  6. Gabriel Ludwig Johann von Amsberg, 18221899, received permission from the Grand Duke to use the particle "von" in 1891, effectively an ennoblement
  7. Wilhelm von Amsberg, 18561929
  8. Claus Felix von Amsberg, 18901953
  9. Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Jonkheer van Amsberg, né Klaus von Amsberg, 19262002, a former diplomat of Germany
  10. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Jonkheer van Amsberg, b. 1967.

Line of succession to the headship of the Amsberg family

Since German aristocracy practice agnatic primogeniture, the heir presumptive to the headship, and the ones next in line, are

  1. Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, Jonkheer van Amsberg, Willem-Alexander's younger brother
  2. Count Claus-Casimir of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg, Constantijn's son
  3. Dirk von Amsberg (b. 1961), a grandson of General Joachim von Amsberg
  4. Paul von Amsberg (b. 2002), Dirk's son


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