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The marriages of seven Dutch monarchs
A review of House of Orange history since 1791
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander as successor to the Dutch throne is the seventh monarch to enter marriage since his ancestor Prince Willem of Orange Nassau (1772-1843) tied the knot with Princess Frederika Louise Wilhelmina of Prussia in 1791. The son of Stadtholder Prince Willem V, he and his family lived in exile for nearly twenty years while the French under Napoleon occupied the country. Upon the return of Prince Willem VI at the beaches of Scheveningen in 1814, the Dutch led by statesman Gijsbert Karel Van Hogendorp instituted a constitutional monarchy headed by the House of Orange Nassau. Willem assumed the throne as King Willem I. From 1559 to 1795, the House gave - much of the country - an appointed leader who served as Stadtholder (Commander-in Chief and Governor) although two lengthy hiatus occurred during that period.
King Willem I (1772-1843) The wedding of Willem and Frederika at Berlin was a lengthy affair and lasted seventeen days. Three days after the newly-wed couple arrived at Palace Huis ten Bosch in The Hague, Dutch officials and the public gave them an official welcome in the city. The couple had met each other at the Prussian capital in 1789 when Prince Willem was 17. Queen Wilhelmina (the name by which she became known) died in 1837 after a happy marriage of 46 years.
In 1840, King Willem I remarried. Wide-spread resistance against this union with a lady of the court, Henriette d’Oultremont, led to his abdication soon after. The couple settled in Berlin where the former king died in 1843.
King Willem II (1792-1849)
Willem II who lived in exile in Britain in 1813 was jilted by English Princess Charlotte. The Czar of Russia then suggested that his younger sister might be a possible partner to the Dutch Crown Prince. The liaison served the interests of both countries, as Europe continued to struggle in the aftermath of the Napoleonic era. The wedding took place at the Czar’s winter residence (now the Hermitage Museum) in St. Petersburg where a lengthy Russian Orthodox ceremony at the imperial chapel was followed by a very plain wedding service conducted by Dutch Walloon pastor De la Saussaye of The Hague, “according to the religion of the groom.”
Royalty enthusiasts will be interested in knowing that heir-starved Napoleon earlier had proposed marriage to Anna, one of the many women considered by the French dictator. Anna’s family refused the honour citing she was too young.
King Willem III (1817-1890)
An unhappy union, it was opposed by Willem’s mother while the bride also lacked enthusiasm for it. The wedding took place in Stuttgart. The couple unofficially separated in 1855 although publicly they celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1864. Queen Sophia died in 1877 and was buried in her wedding gown.
The wedding of King Willem III (62) with Princess Emma, who was his junior by 40 years, also was not without controversy. Two of the king’s three sons even boycotted the ceremony. The marriage in 1888 produced a daughter, Princess Wilhelmina. With the early deaths of her half brothers, the male lineage of the House of Orange Nassau ceased to exist. After the king died in 1890, Queen Emma as Regent assumed the duties of a Dutch monarch and prepared her daughter to become Queen.
Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962)
Popular queen-mother Emma researched the German nobility scene thoroughly before she introduced her daughter to potential partners. Equally eager was Emperor Wilhelm who sent a distant cousin to the Dutch royal court to bring his greetings. By then Princess Wilhelmina already had set her eyes on Count Hendrik. Both were related to the Russian czars. Upon the marriage, it was the first royal wedding to be officiated on Dutch soil, the young duke receives the title of prince.
Queen Juliana (1909-) The wedding of Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard was the first to extensively use modern communication: the public in huge numbers listens to radio broadcasts covering the event. In another first, the couple received a motorized yacht as a national gift. On their honeymoon, Juliana and Bernhard traveled throughout Europe with Paris as the last stop on the journey. A Dutch daily reported that the journey ended with the bride going on a shopping spree for fashionable outfits. They recently were married 65 years, a record for the House of Orange Nassau.
Queen Beatrix (1938-) The publication of an unauthorized snapshot in early May 1965 showing Princess Beatrix leisurely walking with an unidentified man, sent a shock wave through the country. By late June, she introduced her fiancé to the country in a television program. The following year, the couple’s wedding received live coverage on television, also a first for the royal family. Later that evening the bridal couple thanked the nation for its interest in their wedding. In Amsterdam, protesters had decried the princess’ wedding to a German national. Elevated a prince, Claus, who had been enrolled in the Hitlerjugend as a youth, now is rated as one of the most popular members of the royal family. He has suffered from ill health for years.