It began with William of Orange
Leiden University was founded in 1575, thanks to William of Orange. According to tradition, he founded the University to reward the citizens of Leiden for their resistance to the Spanish occupiers.
William of Orange was the wealthiest and most powerful nobleman of the Northern Netherlands. As a stadtholder he was able to found the first university of the Northern Netherlands. He considered Leiden to be a suitable place. His choice may have been a reward for the successful resistance of the city during the Spanish siege.
‘Een vast blochuys ende bewaernisse der gantscher landen’ (A firm stronghold for the whole country). This is how William of Orange decribed the proposed university to the States of Holland and Zeeland in 1574. The sentence is woven into the carpet of the Senate Room, where PhD candidates are called to defend their dissertation, sitting at a table below his portrait.