Anna Pavlovna was born on 18 January 1795 as the daughter of Paul I of Russia and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, who was known as Maria Feodorovna after marriage. She was their eighth child. Anna was just six years old when her father was assassinated, and he was succeeded by her 23-year-old brother Alexander I. Anna was close with her younger brothers Nicolas and Michael, and they even had rings to represent this intimate bond. Anna spoke Russian, German and French fluently and she was also taught mathematics and physics. In her free time, she liked to paint and embroider.
She was considered to be a great catch, and several candidates for her hand were turned down, including Napoleon, the Duke of Berry, the future Ferdinand I of Austria and the Duke of Clarence. In 1815, her brother settled on the Prince of Orange, the future King of the Netherlands. William travelled to St. Petersburg to meet Anna. Though Anna considered herself to be above him in birth, the meeting went well. She agreed to marry him, and her dowry was settled at 1 million rubles. Anna could remain Russian Orthodox as long as any children they would have were raised as Protestants. They were married on 21 February 1816, and they arrived in the Netherlands in August of that same year. Anna was now Her Imperial and Royal Highness The Princess of Orange. They lived in The Hague and Brussels. However, William was popular in Brussels, and Anne enjoyed the Brussels court life more than that of The Hague.
Between 1817 and 1824 Anna gave birth to five children. Her oldest son, yet another William, was born in Brussels on 19 February 1817, followed by Alexander on 2 August 1818, Henry on 13 June 1820, Ernst Casimir on 21 May 1822 and Sophie on 8 April 1824. Only Ernst Casimir did not survive to adulthood. Her favourite son Alexander died of tuberculosis on Madeira at the age of 29. She was close to Henry and Sophie, but she was often at odds with her eldest son William.
Anna and William’s marriage was rocky. William had relationships outside of the marriage with both men and women, and when several pieces of jewellery were stolen in 1829, she suspected him of taking them to settle his debts. He was blackmailed several times for his homosexual relationships. They lived apart until 1843, but she remained loyal to him during the years of the Belgian troubles. Anna finally became Queen consort of the Netherlands when her father-in-law abdicated on 7 October 1840 to marry his late wife’s lady-in-waiting. She was known to be a cold and arrogant Queen, but she was still very involved. She even spoke better Dutch than William.
In March 1849, her husband suddenly fell ill while he was in Tilburg. Anna and her son Henry travelled to be with him, and he died in their presence on 17 March 1849. He was interred in the royal crypt Delft, and according to custom, Anna did not attend his funeral. Despite their often troubled relationship, Anna was devastated at her husband’s death, and she completely withdrew from public life. Her relationship with her son the new King continued to be strained. She disliked his wife – the daughter of her sister Catherine – whom she considered sly and his ‘scourge here on earth’, but her son disliked her too finally giving the two something to agree on. Anna died on 1 March 1865. She was interred in the royal crypt in Delft.