Louise of Orange-Nassau – A devoted Princess (Part one)

Princess Louise is the sweetest person that lives.1

Louise of Orange-Nassau was born on 28 November 1770 as the daughter of William V, Prince of Orange and Wilhelmina of Prussia. She was thus the niece of Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau, who was also her godmother. Louise would be their eldest surviving child as her mother had given birth to a short-lived son the previous year. Another short-lived son would follow in 1771. The future King William I of the Netherlands was born in 1772 and Prince Frederick was born in 1774. She was nicknamed Loulou in the family.

Remembering her youth in 1801, Louise wrote, “When I go back to the past in my thoughts, I remember so many good things. Not a lot of Princesses were as happy as I was in my childhood, and I thank God daily.”2 Her mother Wilhelmina had kept her daughter close to her in childhood, traumatised as she was by a negligent governess and an absent mother from her own childhood. Her father, too, cared a lot for all of his children. Louise had her own lessons with a governess called Mademoiselle Hollard, but she also had lessons with her brothers under the tutelage of Professor Tollius. She was close to her two brothers.

In 1789, Louise received an offer of marriage from the Brunswick court. Her future husband was to be Karl Georg August, Hereditary Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, but although he may have been kind and friendly, he was also sickly, mentally underdeveloped and utterly dependent on his father. He was even described as a “well-nigh imbecile.”3 However, it was a great match, and Wilhelmina warned her daughter to adjust her expectations. She also wrote several letters to her to prepare her for the challenges ahead. She dreaded being separated from her daughter and wrote, “This wound will bleed for a long time and can only be lessened by the hope that you will be happy. Let’s not make each other weak, my darling, but let’s arm ourselves with courage and strength. When you were born, I knew that I could not have hoped to keep you with me.”4

On 14 October 1790, Louise and Karl were married in The Hague. The newlyweds travelled to Brunswick, where they were received by cheering crowds. Her father-in-law was delighted by Louise’s friendliness, kindness and musical tastes. Her departure from The Hague was the beginning of a long correspondence with her mother. She began writing her mother three times a week, and initially, she was happy in Brunswick, despite being homesick. Her brothers were often at the court of Brunswick when they attended the military academy. Louise was reportedly unhappy with the undrinkable tea, and inedible butter and Wilhelmina often sent her care packages.

Louise was interested in science and art, and Brunswick became a safe haven for émigrés. She also loved music – a trait she shared with her aunt – and she loved to sing and dance. The dancing was less to Wilhelmina’s taste, and she encouraged her daughter to spend more time in the open air – with activities like walking and riding. However, Louise claimed her health would not allow such strenuous activities. By May 1791, Louise was worried because she was still not pregnant but thought it would be for the best. In the end, she and Karl would never have any children.

The situation in the Netherlands quickly escalated in the 1790s, and Wilhelmina sent several family jewels to Brunswick for safekeeping. Although she hoped it would never get that far, Germany and England were considered as places of refuge. In early 1795, William, Wilhelmina and their family were indeed forced to flee to England. Wilhelmina wrote to her daughter shortly after arriving in England, “There is a thick veil covering our future. There is nothing to say. For now, we can only be grateful for the goodness and willingness that the people here have shown us.”5 Princess Louise wrote, “Truly, my dear mother, I am better suited for adversity than for prosperity. Because in happiness and joy, I let myself go, but in sadness, it is in me to recover my honour, to show me worthy of being your daughter, and that image gives me strength and self-control.”6 When her husband later ordered the orchestra to play Wilhelmus van Nassouwe (which would later become the national anthem of the Netherlands), Louise wept openly. While in England, her brother Frederick fell in love with King George III’s daughter Mary, but George believed his elder daughters should be married first, and Frederick’s death in 1799 at the age of 24 meant that the match never came to fruition.

Read part two here.

  1. Prinsessen van Oranje in Duitschland by J.W.A. Naber p. 196
  2. Prinsessen van Oranje in Duitschland by J.W.A. Naber p. 196
  3. Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick: An Historical Study, 1735-1806 by Edmond Fitzmaurice p.16
  4. Prinsessen van Oranje in Duitschland by J.W.A. Naber p. 204
  5. Prinsessen van Oranje in Duitschland by J.W.A. Naber p. 219-110
  6. Prinsessen van Oranje in Duitschland by J.W.A. Naber p. 222-223

About Moniek Bloks 2744 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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