Charlotte Brabantina of Nassau was born on 17 September 1580 as the fifth daughter of William the Silent and his third wife, Charlotte of Bourbon. She was born in Antwerp and was baptised on 25 October, and for the occasion, she was given a stipend of 2,000 guilders per year.
She was still less than two years old when her mother died, and two years later, her father followed. She was taken in by her stepmother, Louise de Coligny. She was raised at the Oude Hof, known now as Noordeinde Palace in The Hague. She was apparently quite close to her stepmother.
Charlotte Brabantina and her sister Elisabeth were introduced at the court of Henry IV in 1594. Charlotte Brabantina received an offer of marriage from the 15-year-old Henri, Duke of Rohan but Louise thought Charlotte Brabantina was too young to be married. She eventually married Claude de la Trémoille, Duke of Thouars in 1598. He was 15 years older than her. They had a happy marriage, but at first, they had money troubles. It was apparently off to a rocky start as Charlotte Brabantina’s brother-in-law wrote to a friend, “The marriage is done but not yet consummated. There have been some beautiful fights about it.”
The couple settled in the castle of Tremoilles in Thouars, and Charlotte Brabantina was close to her two sisters, Elisabeth and Charlotte Frandrina, who were also living in France. They had four children: Henri (1598-1674), Charlotte (1599-1664), Elisabeth (1601-1604) en Frederik Maurits (1602-1642) and a delighted Louise wrote at the birth of Charlotte Brabantina’s first son, “My daughter, a son! I am crying with happiness. I have no words to express my happiness because it accends all words. Truly, you have beaten your sisters, by starting so early and so soon. No less than ten days (she, of course, means months) after your wedding. I am burning with desire to see my grandson and to see your little hands care for him. Your brother (Frederick Henry) is very proud of his little nephew, and My lord de Bourbon is angry at your sister (Elisabeth) for not having given him a son yet.”
Their financial worries ended when Claude inherited from the Lavals. He was now one of the richest men in France. Claude died after just six years of marriage on 25 October 1604, followed shortly by their daughter Elisabeth, who had come down with the pox. It was a terrible blow to Charlotte Brabantina, and a year later, her sister wrote to her, “You cannot be a good mother if you do not take care of your health. For the sake of your children, who need you so much, you must conquer yourself. Think about what would happen if they lost you too. We beg God daily that he may strengthen and comfort you and that he never leaves you.”
Charlotte Brabantina had some political influence, and she often acted on behalf of the Protestants. She acted on behalf of her sisters after the death of their eldest half-brother Philip William in 1618. In 1626, Charlotte Brabantina travelled with her daughter Charlotte to The Hague, where she married James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby and she travelled with them to London. Her eldest son married his cousin, Maria de La Tour d’Auvergne, a daughter of Charlotte Brabantina’s sister Elisabeth. She was very distressed to learn that he converted to Catholicism and she left Thouars for the Castle of Chateaurenard, which had belonged to Louise. She died there on 19 August 1631.1
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