Monday 18 November 2013

The Life of Wilhelmine of Prussia, Queen Consort of the Netherlands

Wilhelmine of Prussia (Potsdam, Germany, 18th November 1774 – The Hague, The Netherlands, 12th October 1837) 

Wilhelmine of Prussia, Queen of the Netherlands

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 Born into the House of Hohenzollern, she became Queen of the Netherlands though not a wildly popular lady due to her withdrawn personality.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
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.


Unknown said...

Ooh, a scandalous remarriage. I sense another great post in the making!

Raymond Uppelschoten said...

Nice to see an article on the second (!) queen of my country. Lodewijk Napoleon and his wife Hortense de Beauharnais
were the first Dutch king and queen, though not of the Netherlands, but of Holland. One remark: William was not "of the Netherlands" when he married Wilhelmine. He was "only" a hereditary Prince of Orange, for his father William V was "only" stadholder. We had been a republic for 200 years then.

Catherine Curzon said...

My apologies! I ran the article past a friend from the Netherlands as I wanted to be sure of the detail; I shall have him dispatched to the pillory forthwith. Edits duly made, do let me know if anything further is required.

Catherine Curzon said...

You never know!

Jude Knight said...

Poor lady, to be regarded as haughty when she was only shy. I know the feeling!

Catherine Curzon said...

It's an easy confusion!

caroline Wrarfield said...

I am also intrigued. After a long and devoted marriage a scandalous remarriage? Bring it on, Madame.

Catherine Curzon said...

Ooh, I must go back to it!