Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate – Princess, artist and abbess

(public domain)

Louise Hollandine has been dubbed the most talented and difficult of the children of the King and Queen of Bohemia. Born in April 1622, Louise was the sixth child (out of thirteen) of Elizabeth Stuart and Frederick V Elector Palatine who were living in The Hague at this time. Louise’s parents had recently lost their Electoral lands in the Palatinate and the crown of Bohemia which Frederick had accepted at the request of Czech nobles. The family were forced into exile and lived under the protection of the States of Holland. The name Hollandine was given to the Princess to show appreciation to Frederick’s uncles the Princes of Orange.

Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II had placed Frederick V under an Imperial ban or Reichsacht because of his actions in Bohemia as the crown has not been free to take. This Imperial ban made life uncertain for the unfortunate children of Frederick and Elizabeth. The children were grandchildren of James I of England as well as part of the prestigious Palatinate-Simmern line in Germany, but under the ban, their circumstances and opportunities were greatly reduced. The family were effectively excommunicated from all of the Holy Roman Empire.

Despite growing up as an exile, Louise Hollandine thrived. Louise grew up, like most royal children of the time, away from her parents. She lived under the tutelage of the Plessens, a strict but fair couple in Leiden. The children were close enough to their parents to visit regularly, and each moved back to The Hague as they entered adolescence. Louise was well educated, she loved the entertainment on offer at court, and she followed in her mother’s footsteps with a passion for riding and hunting. Louise’s true love was art, and she became a great artist herself as time went on. Elizabeth arranged for Gerard von Honthorst, the families usual portrait artist to teach the children how to paint and Louise’s talents flourished with his guidance. Princess Louise was said to have dressed and acted a lot more like an artist than a princess, putting her efforts into her work instead of caring for herself.

By the time Louise’s family regained at least part of the Palatinate lands, her father had died, and her brother Charles Louis became Elector. This was in 1648, and sadly although suitors had been discussed, no suitable marriage had been found for Louise. The Imperial ban meant that the Winter children (so-called because of their parent’s short reign in Bohemia) were pretty much unmarriageable. The restoration to their titles and lands came too late for most of the older children. Only four of the nine children who lived until adulthood were married, only two of these marriages produced legitimate Protestant heirs for the continuation of the dynasty.

Louise and her older sister Elisabeth both took another common path for impoverished princesses and noblewomen and took the veil. Louise’s path to becoming a nun was very different from her sister Elisabeth’s who became Princess-Abbess of the Herford Abbey, which was a Protestant convent, with the backing of her family. Louise becoming a nun, caused a great scandal for the family because the daughter Elizabeth and Frederick who had fought for the Protestant cause had become a Catholic.

In 1657, Louise was the only child still living with her mother. This changed suddenly on 19th December when Louise suddenly fled the family home in The Hague, never to return. When Louise failed to come to dinner, a lady-in-waiting found a note when searching her bed-chamber. Louise had written to her mother, Elizabeth, that she had left to take the veil and become a Catholic nun. Louise had been aided by a close friend of Elizabeth’s, the Princess of Zollern. Elizabeth failed in her attempt to have Louise arrested and brought back home. Princess Louise made her way through Antwerp and arrived in Paris welcomed by Henrietta-Maria: the exiled mother of the soon to be Charles II of England. Louise received further support from her brother Edward who had also converted to Catholicism and lived in France. In time, Louise became the Abbess of Maubuisson convent where she lived until she died at the age of eighty-eight. Abbess Louise continued to paint until her final years and lived happily in the countryside. The Princess-Abbess was reluctantly forgiven by her mother but was the only child to be left out of her will.1

  1. Sources:
    *Akkerman, N., Courtly Rivals in The Hague: Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662) and Amalia von Solms (1602-1675)
    * Duggan, J.N., Sophia of Hanover: from Winter Princess to Heiress of Great Britain, 1630- 1714
    * Green, M.A., Elizabeth Electress Palatine and Queen of Bohemia
    * Oman, C., Elizabeth of Bohemia
    *Rait, R.S., Five Stuart Princesses: Margaret of Scotland, Elizabeth of Bohemia, Mary of Orange, Henrietta of Orleans, Sophia of Hanover

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