After a weekend of dark tales, today we return to more familiar territory with the life of a noble lady, Queen Wilhelmine of the Netherlands. Born into the House of Hohenzollern, she became Queen of the Netherlands though not a wildly popular lady due to her withdrawn personality. A lover and patron of the arts, Wilhelmine's life was an unsettled one as she and her husband fled the forces of Napoleon.
Princess Wilhelmine was destined for a privilege from the moment of her birth as the daughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia and Queen Frederica Louisa. She was brought up by her great-uncle, Frederick the Great, who kept a strictly disciplinarian household. Educated with an eye to making a good match, at the age of 16 a marriage was brokered that would secure a valuable political alliance and Wilhelmine was wed to her cousin, William, Prince of Orange, making their their home at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague. Although their marriage was one of political convenience, Wilhelmine and William fell in love; their partnership produced four children, three of whom survived into adulthood and went on to illustrious marriages of their own.
|William I of the Netherlands by Joseph Paelinck, 1819|
When France invaded the Dutch Republic in 1795 the couple fled the Palace and within the year made a new home for themselves in Berlin. Here they would remain for a decade when they were forced to flee the French again, eventually settling in Poland. Throughout their roaming and when they fell into reduced financial circumstances, William and Wilhelmine remained devoted to one another and she was to remain her husband's closest and most trusted adviser.
After Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig the family finally returned to the Netherlands, eventually to be named king and queen. Although William was an active and politically involved king, Wilhelmine's naturally unassuming and shy demeanour meant that she rarely appeared in public and this was the cause of some considerable criticism from the people of the Netherlands who saw her as haughty and aloof.
In fact, her years as queen were limited by her failing health and the last 20 years of her life were plagued by illness and infirmity. She died in Noordeinde Palace and was buried in the New Church in Delft, William passing away six years later following an abdication and scandalous remarriage.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.