Saturday 2 November 2013

An Abrasive Regent: Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange

Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange (Hanover, Germany, 2nd November 1709 – The Hague, The Netherlands, 12th January 1759) 

Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange, 1736
Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange, 1736

Not so long ago we met the well-meaning if not always successful William IV, Prince of Orange and today I'm pleased to introduce his wife, Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange. A lady of illustrious lineage, Anne was the daughter of the future King George II and granddaughter to the man who would become King George I. A woman of strong will and no small amount of political talent, she endured personal trials on the road to power.

When Anne was born to George and Caroline of Ansbach at Herrenhausen Palace, her grandfather was not yet King of Great Britain and she was titled Duchess Anne of Brunswick-Lunenburg, named in honour of her grandfather's second cousin Queen Anne. As was usual for a young lady of her station, Anne enjoyed a comprehensive education and excelled in music under the illustrious tuition of our old friend, Handel. These lessons with the composer left Anne with a lifelong appreciation for music and she was particularly fond of the work of her tutor, who would later provide the music to accompany her own words at her wedding to William.

Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange by Johann Valentin Tischbein, 1753
Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange by Johann Valentin Tischbein, 1753

The young Duchess spent much of her childhood in England and at the age of eleven Anne was laid low by smallpox; her suffering caused Caroline of Ansbach to have her other daughters inoculated but by then, it was too late for the young Duchess. Permanently scarred by the disease, Anne was not cowed by her misfortune and returned to her studies as she recovered, her parents already on the lookout for a suitable match. She was named Princess Royal in 1727 by her father, becoming the second holder of the title.

Anne was one of the many potential candidates on the shortlist of possible brides for King Louis XV of France but nothing came of this particular negotiation. Instead, she was married to William IV, Prince of Orange on 25th March 1734 in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace. The couple formed an immediate fondness for one another and once their honeymoon at Kew was over, the newlyweds sailed for Holland. As we will see, their life was not always picture-perfect but they eventually had five children, two of whom would survive into adulthood.

Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange by Bernard Accama, 1736
Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange by Bernard Accama, 1736

Although happy in the company of her husband, when William left his bride at home and travelled to the Rhineland on military business, Anne found herself utterly at sea in her new home and became dreadfully homesick for the familiar surroundings she had left behind. Absolutely convinced that she was pregnant, she travelled back to England and remained there until her father and husband decided that enough was enough, and told her to return to Holland. In fact, there was no pregnancy and Anne returned to her husband and tried once again to settle into married life, finally establishing herself at court and creating a home of her own. A force to be reckoned with, Anne was politically astute and opinionated, two traits that would certainly come to the fore in later years.

In 1751 the 40 year old William died, leaving his widow as regent for their three year old son, William V. She served in this role until her death, proving herself as a leader even as her somewhat abrasive personality made her less than popular. Not all of her policies were successful though and she was not able to secure Dutch support for England in the Seven Years' War, finding increasing antagonism between her adopted homeland and that of her childhood difficult to reconcile.

The formidable regent finally succumbed to dropsy at the age of 49; more regents would follow until William V finally reached majority in 1766, beginning an eventful reign and a story for another time!

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

1 comment:

Mary Seymour said...

She looks clear skinned and almost pretty in her portraits. I wonder if the smallpox scars were edited out or if she really did escape the visual effects of this hideous disease.