Sint Maartensdijk and the House of Orange-Nassau
Two places in the community of Tholen possess a special relationship with the Oranges: St.Maartensdijk and Scherpenisse.
On Queen's day 1996 Beatrix visited the small town of St.Maartensdijk.Since his accession to the throne king Willem Alexander wears the title “Lord of St.Maartensdijk”. The relationship with the Oranges is already many centuries old. The oldest son of Willem de Zwijger, prince Philips Willem, was the first “Orange” who got the loan of the manor by king Philips II in 1558.This happened after his mother Anna van Egmond, the first wife of Willem of Orange and countess Van Buren, died. In the centuries before the manor had been successively in possession of the families Van Overbordene and Van Borssele and came in 1485 in possession of the family Van Egmond.
None of the Oranges has actually lived in St.Maartensdijk, in spite of possessing a prominent castle there. It is true that they visited their manor regularly. The estate-steward took care of the castle and the other properties, when the gentlemen themselves were not there.
Prince Frederik Hendrik has not only spent money on his castle, but also on the town itself. In 1628 he has done a large financial contribution to the rebuilding of the decayed town hall of St.Maartensdijk. This town hall was fitted then with a new front with a reference to the contribution of Frederik Hendrik for the construction. The building has been restored thoroughly around 1964 and from 1979 to 2008 it served as town hall for the merged municipality of Tholen.
Various movables still recall to the relationship with the family. An important remnant of the presence of the Oranges in St.Maartensdijk is a series of painted portraits from circa 1625.Several members of the stadtholder family have been pictured. Very probably, these portraits came from the former castle. Nowadays 12 of these portraits adorn the walls of the council room in the new town hall of Tholen.
Besides the manor of St.Maartensdijk the Oranges also possessed the nearby manor of Scherpenisse. Formally Beatrix is also still ”Lady of Scherpenisse”. Here you can still perceive the infuence of the Oranges. The court-house has been built in the period that Maria van Nassau managed the domains of her brother Philips Willem. She also founded in 1595 the still existing guild of arquebusiers (Kloveniersgilde).