Saturday, January 07, 2012
The TH Daughter and I went for a good walk this afternoon, out my front door, around town, and past the one-time capital of the United States three blocks from my house.
The others listed here.
I always presumed that the Nassau reference was in honor of King William, Dutch stadtholder and preserver of the protestant reformation in England. When I googled "Laurenburg" I see that the von Laurenburgs were an early Hessian ancestor family to the Dutch branch (and the origin of the Oarnge family name), and also I see that there is a similarity between the Princeton seal and one of the early von Lauenburg family arms.
Is that it? Or was it simply that the Laurenburg family gave some early seed money to Princeton?
I looked it up; I'm right I guess, but barely. The capitol building is where legislature's meet. But he capital of the country is the city seat of federal governance. I had thought capital always means assets.
Laurenburg is the name of a rock on the Lahn River in Germany where a local warlord built his castle in the early middle ages. Usually, the warlord took the name of the rock as their last name, since everybody referred to them as being from (von) the rock.
But in this case there was a better looking rock further down the river called Nassau which controlled an overland trade route from the Netherlands. So the enterprising Laurenburgs moved downriver and changed their name to that of the new rock, Nassau.
The counts of Nassau went on to various arranged marriages on the Hapsburg model, in the process acquiring some new real estate in Provence in Southern France (which is where the Orange tree came in) and the city of Breda in the Netherlands, while collateral branches ended up in possession of Wiesbaden, Luxembourg and the Saarland.
The Breda branch of the family led the revolt against the Spain which resulted in independence for the Netherlands, composed of the Calvinist provinces in the North. William of Orange-Nassau married Charles Stuart's daughter Mary, and they became co-regents after invading England in the glorious revolution of 1688, while Mary's papist brother James II absconded.
There was a tendency to name colleges and facilities after regents in early America, such as Queen's College (Rutgers) or King's College (Columbia). Even though Nassau hall was in built in 1756 during the reign of George the II, apparently his Hannoverian Lutheran roots did not appeal to the Calvinists (Presbyterians) of Princeton, so they chose to name it after the royal house of the by then long dead William of Orange-Nassau instead.
So Calvinism was involved, and if the Laurenburgs had not changed their name in their relentless drive for self improvement, it might have been Laurenburg hall instead. That's how the hall came to be named after a big rock on the River Lahn in the Taunus area of Germany. The whole Lahn valley from Limburg on is a nice drive and worth a visit, as is the small city of Nassau, and they actually do medieval dinners with entertainment at the castle restaurant.