A regent is “a person appointed to administer a state because the monarch is a minor, is absent or is incapacitated.”
Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont was born on 2 August 1858 as the daughter of Georg Viktor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, and Princess Helena of Nassau. On 7 January 1879, she married King William III of the Netherlands, who was 41 years older than she was. He had previously been married to Sophie of Württemberg, who had died in 1877. With Sophie, he had had three sons, of which one died young. At the time of his marriage to Emma, William and Alexander were still alive. However, William would die later that same year, supposedly drinking himself to death after being unable to marry the woman he loved.
Emma gave birth to her only child, the future Queen Wilhelmina, on 31 August 1880. Wilhelmina was just four years old when her only surviving sibling, Alexander, also died. She was now the heiress presumptive to the throne. That same year Emma was named regent in the event of the King’s death and four years later as William’s health deteriorated she was also named Wilhelmina’s guardian.
In November she took the oath as regent for her dying husband, but he died just three days later. The kingship passed to her daughter, but the regency remained with Wilhelmina, and she again took the oath on 8 December 1890.
I swear allegiance to the Queen; I swear to do all the guardianship commands me to do, and to especially commit myself to the Queen’s attachment to the Constitution and to instil in her a love for her people. So help me God almighty!
Emma was inexperienced, but she learned quickly, and she also began sharing her experiences with Wilhelmina early on. Wilhelmina admired her mother.
She had a strong personality and great willpower. She also had born friendliness and goodwill towards others. She was always willing to believe in the good intentions of others, while not being naive and remaining balanced. She had a completely natural balance between her heart and her mind.
Emma chose to continue to follow precedent where she could and was always well-informed on matters. While William found it difficult to work with ministers, Emma was more compliant. Nevertheless, she followed the Constitution to a tee.
Her duties had aged her tremendously, and at the age of 30, she looked much older. Despite this, she lived to the age of 75. She saw her daughter assume the full duties of Queenship; she saw her marry and continue the line with the birth of the future Queen Juliana.1