Princesses of Orange – Anna of Saxony

Linda van Dyck as Anna of Saxony in Willem van Oranje
Linda van Dyck as Anna of Saxony in Willem van Oranje (1984 - Screenshot/Fair Use)

After the death of Anna of Buren, William, Prince of Orange, remarried to Anna of Saxony. Anna was born on 23 December 1544 in Dresden, the daughter of Maurice, Elector of Saxony and Agnes of Hesse. She would be their only surviving child, and she was just nine years old when her father died. She continued her education at her uncle’s court, who was now the Elector. Marriage negotiations began for a Swedish match but when that fell through a second candidate presented himself in the form of The Prince of Orange, who had been a widower since 1558.

William was 11 years older than her, and the marriage negotiations would last over a year. William was born Lutheran, but a condition of his inheritance stated that he had to be a Catholic and fears arose that any children he and Anna would have would be raised as a Lutheran. Things were eventually settled, and they were married on 24 August 1561 in Leipzig.

Five children were born from this marriage, but things would soon turn sour. After her eldest son Maurice died in infancy, Anna fell into a depression and supposedly had suicidal thoughts. She also began to drink excessively. Just three of their children would live to adulthood, and like William’s first wife, Anna would be left alone a lot. She became more and more annoyed living under the watchful eye of William’s mother Juliana of Stolberg. She complained to anyone who would listen.

In 1568, Anna had gone to Cologne on her own, but she soon fell into debts, and she requested more money as she had brought quite a fortune to the marriage. Her dowry had fallen into Habsburgs hands and had not yet been reclaimed by her husband. By the time things were settled, she and her husband were ordered to go to Erfurt, but Anna had different plans. Anna had fallen in love with her legal advisor, Jan Rubens. They were not careful enough, and things were soon found out. Jan was arrested in March 1571, and he confessed, but we do not know if he confessed under torture. Anna denied the affair but by August 1571 she was obviously pregnant, and she gave birth later that month to a daughter, who would be known as Christina von Dietz.

Though Anna and Jan should’ve faced the death penalty, her husband needed Anna’s influential family, and he wanted to keep the whole affair a secret. Anna would have to wait for a year and a half to find out what her fate would be. In the meantime, her mental state deteriorated. She drank, fought with the servants, and suffered from extreme mood swings. By the end of 1572, she was ordered to Castle Beilstein where she was put under house arrest. She was given religious books to read, and the only one allowed to visit was a Lutheran priest. She wrote several letters to her husband, but he never responded.

By 1575, William was hoping to marry again. He managed to secure a dubious annulment, and Anna was secretly brought back to Dresden. She was then locked in a room where the windows were bricked up, and food would be handed to her through a hatch. She had no contact with the outside world, and her mental state deteriorated further. We do not know exactly what she died of, but there are reports of ‘constant haemorrhaging’. She died imprisoned and alone – just 32 years old.

About Moniek Bloks 2659 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.


  1. I read a book about the Coburgs recently and it was noted that Prince Albert’s mother Louise, when first coming to Coburg to marry, had seen a portrait of Anna of Saxony and remarked that she should have just been a faithful wife. After what happened to Louise one wonders if she later reflected in the date of Anna of Saxony.

  2. I recently read the biography about Anna and with every page I get the feeling that she was just abused like so many women in those days.
    Everything about money and status and her end is barbaric and the history of Anna has changed my view of William of Orange very much.
    In my eyes William was a great opportunist who didn’t give a damn about Anna’s well-being, I understand she fled into the arms of a lover.
    May she rest in peace.

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