Henriëtte Amalia of Anhalt-Dessau was born in Cleves on 16 August 1666 as the daughter of John George II, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau and Henriette Catherine of Nassau. She spent her youth at the palace of her parents in Dessau. Her education consisted of history and languages, amongst other things.
In 1683, Henriëtte Amalia was visited by her first cousin, Henry Casimir II, Prince of Nassau-Dietz, who was looking for a wife. Henriëtte Amalia was considered to be suitable and that same year, the two were married in Dessau. In the next 11 years, the couple had nine children, two sons, of which one would die young, and seven daughters. Her husband’s relationship with the Stadtholder-King William III wasn’t very good and Henriëtte Amalia tried to reconcile the two. She finally managed to do that in 1694 and the following year her husband was named his universal heir. Henriëtte Amalia was widowed in 1696, while she was pregnant with her ninth child. William III gave her advice concerning the education of her only son.
Henriëtte Amalia acted as regent for her son until 1707. She also found her son a bride in the form of Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel. The wedding took place in 1709 and later that same year, Henriëtte Amalia moved with her six unmarried daughters – one daughter had married 1708 – to Diez, where she had Schloss Oranienstein renovated. When her son died in 1711, leaving behind a pregnant Marie Louise, Henriëtte Amalia travelled to Leeuwarden hoping to be appointed regent. Her grandson was born 48 days after the death of her son. However, the government was instead handed to her daughter-in-law.
While at Schloss Oranienstein, Henriëtte Amalia lived well beyond her means and she built up a huge debt. However, she was loved in the city, because she stimulated the economy. She died on 18 April 1726 at the Schloss and was interred in a marble sarcophagus in the Stiftskirche in Diez. Several of her unmarried daughters are also interred in the church, in the Fürstengruft.
The fürstengruft where her six daughters are interred:
- Sophia Hedwig of Nassau-Dietz
- Henriëtte Albertine of Nassau-Dietz
- Henriëtte Casimira of Nassau-Dietz
- Johanna Agnes of Nassau-Dietz
- Louise Leopoldina of Nassau-Dietz
- Maria Amalia of Nassau-Dietz
The Stiftskirche is open daily, except Monday, from 10 until 5.