Amalia of Solms-Braunfels jumped from relative obscurity to being one of the leading ladies of the 17th century. She was part of the court of Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen of Bohemia, and followed her mistress into exile in the Netherlands. In The Hague, she met Frederick Henry, the brother of Maurice, Prince of Orange. He became infatuated with her, but Amalia held out for marriage.
On his deathbed, the unwed Maurice pressured Frederick Henry to marry, or he would not be made his heir. Frederick Henry and Amalia were married on 4 April 1625, and Maurice died on 23 April 1625, with Frederick Henry succeeding him as Prince of Orange and Stadtholder. Amalia adopted the motto “Quid reddam domino?” – How shall I repay the Lord?
Amalia immediately became a much-loved figure in the republic and took up a rivalry with her former mistress – Elizabeth Stuart. This was covered a few years ago by the Haags Historisch Museum with their exhibition Courtly Rivals.1 Frederick Henry and Amalia not only began many building projects, but they also began to build their family. They went on to have nine children, of which five – one son and four daughters – survived to adulthood. Amalia became a cunning marriage broker and eventually secured Mary, Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria, for her son. Their son – Amalia’s grandson – became King William III of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Her daughters married Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, William Frederick, Count of Nassau-Dietz, John George II, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau and Louis Henry, Count Palatine of Simmern-Kaiserslautern, respectively.
Although her male line died out with her grandson King William III, she is an ancestor of the Dutch Royal House through her daughter Albertine Agnes.
The new exhibition Amalia. Ambition and Allure in the Prinsenhof in Delft puts the Princess in the spotlight. We learn about Amalia through magnificent portraits and items and through the seven As. The As stand for Avontuurlijk (adventurous), Aanwezig (present), Aanzien (allure), Autoritair (authority), Assertief (assertive), Atypisch (atypical) and Aanhouder (one who perseveres).
In the exhibition, you’ll also find a partial replica of the so-called Orange Room, which was commissioned by Amalia to celebrate her husband’s achievements. This room is not open to the public as it is in King Willem-Alexander’s private residence, but it has links to the present as his eldest daughter, also named Amalia, had official photos taken there to mark her 18th birthday.
The exhibition is also accompanied by an audio tour, but I did not use this as I really dislike audio tours in general. Luckily, there’s plenty of written information, so I do not feel as though I missed out on anything. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, and I would like to especially note the lighting that did not wash out the paintings, as it so often does in exhibitions. If you don’t speak Dutch, you’ll also be able to find all texts in English. Unfortunately, it does appear that the official publication only comes in Dutch.
Amalia. Ambition and Allure exhibition will run from 16 September 2022 until 8 January 2023. You can plan your visit here.