Did Maurice of Nassau have a serious drinking problem?

Just the other day I was browsing a bookstore and thumbed through a pop-history type book, the really thick kind with lots of color illustrations and glossy pages that’s always in the “Bargain” section. It was something like “100 Great Generals From History.” I was pleasantly surprised to see a chapter on Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange - a woefully neglected leader, so I read on. And I recall reading something saying that he had a serious problem with alcohol and “was often drunk.” Now for the life of me I can’t find any other references to this supposed drinking of Prince Maurice, except one claiming that “Maurice was a heavy drinker and died on April 23, 1625 from liver disease.” It’s on the Wiki page of William the Silent and has no citation whatsoever.

Everything I’ve read about him has painted a picture of a very calm, cautious and focused man, who lived a simple private life, and was not given to vice like many other leaders were. Is there any account of his supposed drinking problem?

I rummaged in my books and didnt find anything, and oddly enough nothing about his death either. I am only working in english as my german sucks, and i am not where I can access a university library computer system to get any interesting broadside or pamphlets to work on …


I tend to take a lot of information with a grain of salt, many writers of histories back in the day that are now being used as source material were writing a fairly biased piece [either biased toward and glowingly good, or against and they attribute all sorts of vices or problems to them]

People in the past did drink a lot more casually than we do now in the US, water was mostly unpotable without being boiled and filtered through cloth, brewing was one way to reduce the chance of catching something nasty from the water [and it tastes good to when made properly] You can die of liver troubles and it is not from drinking, liver flukes can be gotten from infected water and is pretty nasty.

just curious … why German? Maurice was Dutch.

The Dutch wikipedia(for what it’s worth) claims that Maurice died of liver cancer - but not a word about any drinking problems.

I did a bit of research in the Dutch on-line information on Maurits van Oranje (his name in Dutch). Not a word about a drinking problem.

It is probably safe to assume that any 17th or 18th Century European political or military luminary imbibed more that we would think appropriate. They probably had more syphilis and bad teeth that we are use to, too. It was a hard drinking and hard loving age (his Lordship pleasured me in his riding boots). The fact that Maurice was able to function and not fall off his horse too often is an indication that he was, by the standards of the age, no falling down drunk.

Because most of the european pamphlets collections I have worked with before are actually in german … because I go through to a couple of german universities that a friend works with. I take what uni access I can get =)

Actually, for some reason, I have found that there are a serious number of geneological works in German, and the germans were avid pamphleteers/broadsiders. Perhaps they had a higher literacy rate than England. Or maybe they were all packrats so more survived being used as toilet paper =)

[actually as an example most of our documentation on Dracula comes from German sources, the famous one is the one illustrated with Dracula feasting in the forest of impaled victims…]

but did he speak of the pompatus of love? (sorry!)

I wouldn’t buy the argument that advanced alcoholism is disproved given his military abillities. Death by alcohol poisoning seems to have been a standard exit for Mongol khans.

For centuries, people thought alcohol fortified them, not necessarily incapacitated them. It wasn’t how much you drank, but rather how you somehow chose to cope with the effects.

(did I imply that this is an extinct concept?)

Apparently. The most frequent moral failure I’m seeing put forward ( excluding supposed negative character traits like “vengeful”, “calculating” and “ambitious” ) is promiscuity. “Compulsive pursuit of women of every description”, is one of the exact phrases - from The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 by Jonathan I. Israel ( 1995, Oxford University Press ).

So far no allusions too boozing, but like others I wouldn’t necessarily doubt it. Plenty of alleged alcoholic generals in history, from Alexander the Great to Ulysses S. Grant.