Anne, Princess Royal was better known in the Netherlands as Anna of Hanover. Anne was born in 1709 as the daughter of the future King George II of Great Britain and Caroline of Ansbach. Her father had been away on a hunting trip when she was born and wrote to his wife, “I have just received the good news of the birth of a daughter at which I feel all imaginable please…I am only a bit angry that it caused you pain. You should know me well enough my very dear Caroline to believe that everything that concerns you is infinitely precious to me.”
Her grandfather succeeded Queen Anne as King George I of Great Britain five years after her birth and the whole family moved to London. She studied languages, singing and painting. She even painted a self-portrait in 1740.
When her grandfather died in 1726, her father succeeded him as King, and she was created Princess Royal on 30 August 1727. By then marriage negotiations between her and William IV, Prince of Orange were underway. They were married on 25 March 1734 at St James’ Palace. Anne did not get along with her mother-in-law Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel, even though she had moved out of the Princessehof as soon as Anne arrived and gave her precedence as the daughter of a King. When William left on a campaign, Anne quickly returned to England and could barely be convinced to return.
Though their marriage was not a love match, their letters show they grew very fond of each other. Anne’s sisters reportedly called him ‘le monstre’, but Anne lovingly called him ‘Pépin’ or ‘Pip’, and he called her ‘my adorable Annin’.
Anne believed herself to be pregnant in 1734, and she grew heavier. However, after a ten-month ‘pregnancy’ it became clear that she was not pregnant. By 1736, Anne was really pregnant, but tragically her first child died at birth. Her labour had begun on 3 December, but there was no progress after four days, and Anne was quickly growing weaker. A male midwife was forced to kill the child to save Anne. The little girl lay in state for three days, and the coffin was taken to Delft for burial. Her mother Caroline wrote to her, “words cannot tell how I have suffered and my joy at receiving you back from God. I have you, and that is enough. May he grant you renewed strength and make a happy mother of a family, be certain that you will happier and have easier labours than this in the future.”
The same tragedy happened in 1739, and it was recorded that ‘on the evening of the 23rd December Madame the Princess of Orange Nassau was delivered of a young princess in whom the light of life never shone’. She finally gave birth to a healthy daughter, Carolina Wilhelmina, in 1743. Anne wanted to feed the baby herself. Carolina’s birth was followed by the birth of Anna Maria in 1746, but she would die later that same year. William wrote, “this special and dear baby we hope she will find peace and that one we shall be reunited.” In 1748, a healthy son was at last born; he was also named William. Anne was 37 years old at the time. The baby was created Count of Buren when he was just one hour old. William wrote proudly, “he takes the breast though he’s still a little bit clumsy about it.”
Anne’s husband died suddenly after a brief illness on 22 October 1751. Their son was just three years old. Anne was appointed regent for him, and she was known to be proud and stubborn. Anne’s health declined throughout 1758, and she wanted to settle the matter of her daughter’s marriage. “I must establish my daughter, she is very young, but the position of our house in the Republic makes me anxious for her to stay there to support the well-intentioned and discourage faction.” Carolina married Charles Christian of Nassau-Weilburg, but Anne did not live to see it. She had suffered from fever and a heaviness of her legs, and on 9 January 1759, the pain became so unbearable, that Anne was heard screaming. On 12 January, she rallied and told her chaplain, “I am ready to go when God calls me.'” She fell asleep and died later that day with her daughter beside her. Her son had been sent to bed.
A newspaper paid tribute to her:
“A princess who in her tenderest years already showed an upright and sincere piety, a princess who in all the blows of life showed a steadfast resignation, a princess skilled in different languages, a princess who although born and bred in another country was in no way an enemy to us.”1