Louise de Coligny was the fourth and final wife of William, Prince of Orange. Louise was born on 23 September 1555 at Castle Châtillon-sur-Long as the second child, and first daughter of Gaspard de Coligny and Charlotte de Laval. She had four brothers and a half-sister.
She was only two years old when her father, who was an Admiral of France, was captured by the Spanish. He was held captive for almost two years, and during those years he converted to Calvinism. By 1562, he and the Prince of Condé were the commanders of the Huguenot Army. Louise’s mother brought Louise and her siblings to the besieged city of Orléans, and her mother cared for the wounded soldiers in the army hospitals. Her mother died of typhoid just six years later. After her mother’s death, Louise spent some time at the court of Jeanne d’Albret, Queen Regnant of Navarre, and a Calvinist.
At the age of 16, Louise was married for the first time. The groom was Charles de Téligny, who served as a soldier and diplomat under her father. It was to be a short marriage, and during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris, both her husband and her father were brutally murdered. Louise then received an offer of marriage from The Prince of Orange without having met him. He had been a widower since 1582. She agreed to marry him, and she arrived in the Netherlands on 8 April. The couple were officially married in Antwerp on 12 April. It would be a happy marriage, but it would again be short.
On 29 January 1584, Louise gave birth to a son named Frederick Henry. On 10 July 1584, William was assassinated in Delft by Balthasar Gerards. She was with him when he was shot.
After her husband’s death, Louise received custody of four of William’s six daughters from his third marriage. Louise, her four stepdaughters, and her young son lived in Vlissingen. She was in financial trouble, and it wasn’t until 1592 that the States General granted her an allowance. She was quite the matchmaker, and she travelled to France to arrange marriages for two of her stepdaughters. She returned to France in 1598 to introduce her son at the French court. Louise then remained in France for five years before returning to the Hague in 1603. She divided her time between the two countries she felt closest to, but France was her absolute favourite. From 1605 to 1608, she again went to live in France.
Louise became an essential political link between the French Court and the Dutch Republic. She mediated between Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who preferred peace with Spain and her stepson Maurice, who was against peace with Spain. In 1619, Louise asked her stepson Maurice to spare the life of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, but he did not listen. Johan was executed 13 May 1619. In 1620, she decided to return to France for good. She lived with the French Queen Marie de’ Medici at the Fontainebleau Palace. She died just shortly after her arrival – on 13 November 1620. Her body was embalmed and returned to the Netherlands on 24 May 1621 so that it could be interred with her husband.
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