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While looking at a bit of Dutch history, I saw William holding a stick in this portrait. I looked for a description of the portrait on another site and it only says:

This autograph portrait is a triumph of Kneller's art and portrays the future King its subject as he would most wish to be seen - a great and heroic general, a champion of his cause equal in stature to the Romans whose dress his costume recalls.

The portrait in question:

William III of Orange, England, Ireland and William II of Scotland

Is it a form of symbolism or was there a particular use to it?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It is the baton of the Constable of France, or rather an imitation of it. The explanation of this particular baton is that William of Orange was originally the disciple and member of the court of Holy Roman Emperor, King Charles V. Charles fought many wars in France and as a sort of propaganda measure Charles let himself out as following in the tradition of the Constables of France, such as Bernard du Guesclin. The emblem of the Constables of France was a plain constable's baton. In the painting below you can see Charles V depicted holding the Constable's baton:

Charles V as Constable of France

As you can see, it is identical to William's baton. William simply imitated Charles and used the same style of baton, even though he had no intention of claiming to be Constable of France. For William, it was just a plain marshal's baton. Phillip II, Charles' son, and Phillip III, his grandson also used exactly the same style of baton.

In later years, William, who was mentored as a young man by Charles, became his deadly enemy.

To address your question about the symbolism of this baton, you may want to learn more about Betrand du Guesclin and the Constables of France. The Constable was supposed to be the chief of the army under the king, but some of the Constables, such as du Guesclin, were quasi-independent military dictators. These men were sort of like Oliver Cromwell, styled "protectors" of the people. Their sceptre was a plain wooden rod, a watchman's club, because it symbolized their role as being sort of a chief policeman of the country.

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Sorry, -1. You've got the wrong William - your answer refers to William the Silent who predates William III by a century. –  Felix Goldberg Jul 8 at 11:08
    
@FelixGoldberg True, but the origin of the baton is the same. After William the Silent the succeeding stadtholders, including William III, used the same baton, apparently out of tradition. All of William III's predecessors are depicted holding the same type of baton. –  Tyler Durden Jul 8 at 11:37
    
It's “Bertrand”, not “Bernard” or “Betrand” du Guesclin. –  Relaxed Jul 9 at 0:54
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This is most likely a Baton, which is a symbol for a field marshal or high ranking military officer. He was involved in the Invasion of England in 1688 and War in Europe later on, so is probably a symbol to show his military involvement.

The Baton does not have any practical use.

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