In Orange

We made an excursion to the provencal city of Orange, in the northern part of Provence, and naturally in the car going there a discussion arose regarding the word “orange.” My daughters insisted that the name for the fruit existed before the name for the color. That Europeans called it “red-yellow” before the fruit appeared in Europe all the way from China. This still leaves the issue open regarding the connection to the city of Orange.

In fact, the plot thickens since it turns out that William of Orange who came to the English throne in 1688 derived his title from the city of Orange. The color orange is of course very closely associated with him in British — and in Irish — history. In northern Ireland dressing up in the color orange and marching into a Catholic neighborhood is considered an act of aggression. The color orange symbolizes British occupation and discrimination.

Lets start with the fruit. Some Europeans, like the Swedes, call it apelsin, meaning “apple from China,” but most Europeans call it something like naranja (Spanish), taronja (Catalan), oranje (Dutch) ororanžinis (Lituanian). These latter all have the same origin in the Sanskrit naranga, meaning “orange tree,” which entered European languages in the 14th century via the Arabic naranj and the Provencal auranja. It was when the first oranges began appearing in Europe in the early 16th century by means of Portuguese ships traveling to the east that the fruit became popular. The first recorded use of “orange” to refer to the color is from 1512.

The city Orange has actually nothing to do with any of it.

In 1544, William I “the Silent”, count of Nassau, with large properties in the Netherlands, inherited the title Prince of Orange. William, 11 years old at the time, was the cousin of René of Châlon who died without an heir when he was shot at St. Dizier in 1544 during the Franco-Imperial wars. René, it turned out, willed his entire fortune to this very young relative. Among those titles and estates was the Principality of Orange. René’s mother, Claudia, had held the title prior to it being passed to young William since Philibert de Châlon was her brother.

When William inherited the Principality, it was incorporated into the holdings of what became the House of Orange. This pitched it into the Protestant side in the Wars of Religion, during which the town was badly damaged. In 1568 the Eighty Years’ War began with William as stadtholder leading the bid for independence from Spain. William the Silent was assassinated in Delft in 1584. It was his son, Maurice of Nassau (Prince of Orange after his elder brother died in 1618), with the help of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who solidified the independence of the Dutch republic. After the defeat of Napoleon the United Provinces morphed into the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the House of Orange-Nassau still the formal head of the government.

As an independent enclave within France, Orange became an attractive destination for Protestants and a Huguenot stronghold. William III of Orange, who ruled England as William III of England, was the last Prince of Orange to rule the principality. Since William III died childless in 1702 the principality became a matter of dispute between Frederick I of Prussia and John William Friso of Nassau-Dietz, who both claimed the title Prince of Orange. The principality was captured by the forces of Louis XIV under François Adhémar de Monteil Comte de Grignan, in 1672 during the Franco-Dutch War, and again in August 1682. The territory was finally ceded to France by Frederick I of Prussia in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht that ended the wars of Louis XIV. Frederick I, however, did not give up the title of Prince of Orange.

Formally John William Friso of Nassau-Dietz, the other claimant of the principality, did not cede the territory in 1713. Only in 1732, with the Treaty of Partage, his successor William IV renounced all his claims to the territory, but not to the title (like Frederick I). In the same treaty an agreement was made between both claimants, stipulating that both houses are allowed to use the title.

In 1702, Louis XIV enfeoffed François Louis, Prince of Conti, a relative of the Châlon dynasty, with the Principality of Orange. In 1713, after it was officially ceded to France by the Holy Roman Empire, Orange became a part of the Province of the Dauphiné.

Following the French Revolution of 1789, Orange was absorbed into the French département of Drôme in 1790, then Bouches-du-Rhône, then finally Vaucluse.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna took care of a French sensitivity by stipulating that the (then new) kingdom of the Netherlands would be ruled by the House of Oranje-Nassau – “Oranje,” not “Orange” as had been the custom until then. The English language, however, continues to use the term Orange-Nassau.[2]

Nowadays, both Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Dutch crown princess Amalia carry the title “Prince(ss) of Orange”, Amalia in the official form of Prinses van Oranje.

Due to its connection with the Dutch royal family, Orange gave its name to other Dutch-influenced parts of the world, such as the Orange River and the Orange Free State in South Africa, and Orange County in the U.S. state of New York. The orange portion of the flag of Ireland, invented in 1848, represents Irish Protestants, who were grateful for their rescue by William III of England in 1689-91. The flag of New York City and the flag of Albany, New York (which was originally known as Fort Orange) also each have an orange stripe to reflect the Dutch origins of those cities. The color orange is still the national colorof the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch flag originally had an orange stripe instead of a red, and today an orange pennant is still flown above the flag on Koningsdag. Dutch national sports teams usually compete in orange, and a wide variety of orange-colored items are displayed by Dutch people on occasions of national pride or festivity. The flag of South Africa from 1928 to 1994 had an orange upper stripe and was very similar to the old Dutch flagalso called Prince’s Flag, because it was inspired in the history of the Afrikaners, who are chiefly of Dutch descent.

The town of Orange, Connecticut, USA is named after the principality.

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Twitter war about the Barbary Coast

I’m writing about the “Barbary Coast.” I’m interested in the corsairs who were roaming the coast of North Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries since I’m interested in non-territorial ways of organizing politics. The corsairs were nomads of the sea, as it were.

I put a twitter feed on this page and one of the first tweets that popped up was this:

I couldn’t help myself.  I had to point out to Sue that it’s called the “Barbary coast” because it’s the part of North Africa where the Berber people live.  “Barbary,” that is, refers to “Berber” not to “barbarian.” Few people realize this but North Africa is still predominantly Berber, not actually Arab.

My new friend Sue is consequently wrong: there are some 50 million Berbers in the area.

A second question, and this is more interesting, is why the Berbers got their name. The reason it seems is that the Arabs who arrived in North Africa in the 7th century called them bárbaros.  This was the generic label which the Greeks applied to all foreigners.  They were “barbarians” since they stuttered and spoke incomprehensible gibberish — ba, ba, ba, ba.  “Barbarian” to the Greeks was not necessarily a pejorative term, but it was at the same time obvious to them that foreigners were not quite human. For one thing they had no poleis, no city-states.

“Barbarian” as a term applied to people who loot, destroy and in general fail to respect the lives of others caught on in Europe in the 18th century when it came to serve as the antithesis of “civilization.”  Yet the Europeans, as already Michel Montaigne pointed out, were often greater barbarians than the alleged barbarians themselves. I wrote a book about this.