Amalia of Nassau-Dietz was born on 23 October 1710 as the daughter of Johan Willem Friso of Nassau-Dietz, who succeeded King William III of England as Prince of Orange in 1702, and Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel. She was born in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands and had a younger brother, William IV, Prince of Orange, who was born in 1711.
Amalia would never know her father. In April 1711, he left for the front and tragedy struck on his return journey. On 14 July 1711, he tried to cross the Hollands Diep by ferry during a storm. He was thrown from the ferry and disappeared into the waves. His body was found a week later. Six weeks later Marie Louise gave birth to their son, who immediately became Prince of Orange. Amalia and her little brother grew up at the Stadholderly Court in Leeuwarden while their mother became regent. Both Amalia and William were considered to be good students. However, Amalia was considered to be quite introverted and often melancholic.
Amalia would be part of marriage negotiations from a young age, and a husband was found for her in Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Baden-Durlach. During negotiations, it was decided that any sons they may have would be raised Lutheran, while any daughters would be raised in the Reformed religion. The wedding took place on 8 September 1727, shortly before Amalia’s 17th birthday.
Shortly after arriving in Baden-Durlach, Amalia became homesick, and her new husband worriedly wrote to his mother-in-law that Amalia wasn’t doing well. On 22 November 1728, Amalia gave birth to her first child – a son named Charles Frederick. Despite this happy occasion, Amalia’s condition deteriorated further. Her mother wrote, “You become enraged by every little thing, to me and everyone who approaches you. You want to live your life without any order, you turn days into nights, your moods have no boundaries. You should keep to the times of the religious services, you should be friendly and forthcoming to your husband, be obedient to your parents-in-law and keep order in your daily life and finances.”
In 1730, Amalia was able to return to the Netherlands to visit her mother at Soestdijk Palace. She reportedly cried of relief as she crossed the border. Once back in Baden-Durlach, she suffered from headaches, and she wrote that she was unable to do her embroidery. She gave birth to a second son named William Louis on 14 January 1732. After that, things went downhill fast.
Amalia began to suffer from religious delusions and had angry outbursts before becoming completely limp, making people think she had died. They sent her to take the waters at several spas, but nothing helped. To make matters even worse, her husband became ill, and he died on 26 March 1732 – still only 29 years old. Amalia was moved to Karlsburg Castle in Durlach where she would be cared for by twenty people. When her brother William visited her in 1734, he wrote home that Amalia was completely apathetic in a dark room, drinking coffee. She did recognise him but randomly asked him what religion he practised before going into an angry tirade. Over time, Amalia became even more isolated as she was the calmest when no one was around. She spent her time writing letters that made no sense. She often mumbled to herself and grimaced. Often she would not recognise those around her, and she would also attack those who cared for her.
Amalia spent 45 lonely years at Karlsburg Castle in Durlach before dying on 18 September 1777.1
B. Bilker, ‘Anna Charlotte Amelia 1710-1777, het ongelukkige leven van een Leeuwarder prinses’, Leovardia 5 (2001) 9-12.