Carolina of Orange-Nassau was born on 28 February 1743 as the daughter of William IV, Prince of Orange and Anne, Princess Royal, the daughter of King George II and Caroline of Ansbach, after whom she would be named on the King’s request. Anne had suffered several miscarriages and stillbirths, and so the relief at the birth of a healthy child was great, even if she was just a girl.
There has never been a child so easy to wean and she sleeps elevens hours a night.
In 1746, she was joined in the nursery by the shortlived Anna Maria, who died at the age of just one month. In 1748, her only surviving sibling was born, the future William V, Prince of Orange. She would be devoted to him for the rest of her life. Before the birth of her brother, Carolina had been made a possible heiress in case she had no brothers, and while her brother had no heirs, she remained his heiress. Her father died in 1751 at the age of 40, making her younger brother Prince of Orange.
By 1755, a possible candidate for marriage was on hand for Carolina. His name was Charles Christian, Prince of Nassau-Weilburg and the only objection was the fact that he was a Lutheran. Any sons they had would need to be raised in the Reformed faith to have any chance of being William’s heirs. Just before the marriage negotiations were concluded, her mother too died. Her daughter’s marriage was her final wish. Carolina had stayed with her mother until the end.
I have no fear of death, I have been ready for it too long and I know where I am going. I have often prayed to God for a swift and painless death.
Her mother died on 12 January 1759 and was interred next to her father and shortlived sister in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft.
Carolina and Charles Christian were married on 5 March 1760 in The Hague, and the couple initially settled near The Hague. Their first son named George William was born on 18 December 1760. A second son named William Louis was born on 12 December 1761. Their joy was shortlived as George William died on 27 May 1762.
It has pleased the Almighty to take my eldest son from this life
It would not be the only child the couple would lose. Carolina would be pregnant a total of 16 times, resulting in the births of 15 children. Four children were stillborn; four others would die before reaching adulthood. Carolina was particularly devastated when William Louis died at the age of 8. Charles Christian had been in military service in the Netherlands, but his brother-in-law quickly allowed him to go him to comfort his wife.
The friendship which we have had for each other in our childhood leaves me no doubt as to the part you will take in the sensible loss which we have just made by the death of my dear Louis, who died this morning at five o’clock after a 7-day illness.
Carolina had inherited a taste for music from her mother and grandmother. She played several instruments and sang. At one point she had around 300 musicians in her service. She twice played host to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose life she would save when she sent her own physician to the typhoid-stricken boy and his sister. He still remembered her many years later and even wrote sonnets for her. She often played “her” sonnets.
As her brother grew older, her presence was less needed in the Netherlands, and she moved to her husband’s Germans lands, where they settled in Kirchheimbolanden and Weilburg. In an attempt to put the death of George William behind her, she visited her aunt, Mary of Great Britain, Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel, at Schloss Philipsruhe. She didn’t stay very long.
The image of my Lutz is always present and I miss it all the time. I was ungrateful and I was insensible to all the goodnesses. I flatter myself that God has made me subject to his will
She was most cheered by the birth of her niece Louise, the daughter of William V and his wife, Wilhelmina of Prussia. She was asked to be godmother and joyfully accepted. The birth of a nephew, the future King William I of the Netherlands, made her remember the nickname she had once given her own brother, “Bololo.”
While Carolina was nearing the end of her childbearing years, her own children were getting married. Her eldest surviving son married the heiress Isabella of Kirchberg, and her daughter Louise married Henry XIII, Prince Reuss of Greiz. She may have lived to see the birth of her first grandchild, but Louise’s first son was stillborn.
Carolina died suddenly after an illness of just two days on 6 May 1787. She was buried in the reformed Peterskirche in Kirchheimbolanden while her husband, who would follow her in death not much later, would be buried in the Lutheran Paulskirche, also in Kirchheimbolanden.
Believe me, for life is all yours
Her most lasting legacy is perhaps that all the eight Kings and Queens of the current reigning dynasties are descended from her, making her truly a grandmother of Europe.