Walferdange Castle and the Mother of Luxembourg

Photo by Moniek Bloks

“On the 14th at a quarter to 12 at night, the Prince-Governor reached the border of the municipality of Luxembourg, where a solemn reception was prepared. At about 1 in the morning, the noble couple entered the Castle of Walferdange. We give the deputy of the King and his illustrious spouse, who are entering our country for the first time, a warm welcome to their new home. May your entry into our country be blessed, blessed for the subjects.”1

Photo by Moniek Bloks

And so, on 15 August 1853, Prince Henry of the Netherlands and his new wife Amalia of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach arrived at Walferdange Castle, where Prince Henry was to assume the governorship in the name of his brother King William III of the Netherlands. They were welcomed with a ball and a banquet. Amalia was described as “charming, not only beautiful but also elegant and fun, that one forgets one is dealing with a Royal Highness.” The ladies of the court were also excited at the prospect of any possible children. “The joy is great at having the governor and his wife with us. But when princely children are born on Luxembourg soil, the country will truly feel joy.” The Luxembourgers were already beginning the accept the new couple.

Amalia fell in love with Walferdange Castle and the surrounding nature, and she said, “I think it is wonderful here. The castle and the whole area reminds me so much of Weimar.”2 The castle was commissioned in 1823 by King William I as a stud farm. It was converted into a residence for the Dutch King in 1842. The two side buildings were also converted into living quarters.

Amalia and Henry fell into a comfortable routine at Walferdange. The mornings were spent working, while the afternoons were for the family. Princess Amalia always prepared their tea for the afternoons. Then they read together or walked if the weather was fine. In the evening, Henry wrote his letters. Henry and Amalia would usually travel to Luxembourg in September or October to coincide with the opening of parliament, and they would remain in the country until February. They usually stayed in Walferdange Castle, though Berg Castle was also available for them. In February, they travelled to Liebenstein Castle, where they met up with Amalia’s family. From Liebenstein, they went to the Netherlands, where they lived at the Lange Voorhout Palace. They also often visited Soestdijk Palace. In the autumn, they again headed to Luxembourg.

King William III did not visit Luxembourg until six years into his reign when he was received by his brother Prince Henry. It appears that both the King and the prince were without their respective wives. Despite not being present for this visit, both Henry and Amalia enjoyed being in Luxembourg and among its people. She was interested in improving the lives of children and their education. She was also interested in improving the infrastructure between Luxembourg and the Netherlands. She often accompanied her husband during official functions. Prince Henry became known as the defender of the Luxembourgers “as if it were his homeland,” and Amalia was his constant support.

Photo by Moniek Bloks

Despite having a harmonious marriage, after ten years of marriage, Amalia and Henry did not dare to hope for a child. According to Henry’s sister Sophie, this was a source of great sadness for Amalia.

Amalia was still young and full of life when she suddenly fell ill at Walferdange Castle. At the end of April, there were rumours that she had caught a cold during a trip to Grünewald. Unfortunately, this appears to have developed into full-blown pneumonia. A first medical bulletin read, “Her Royal Highness Princess Henry has a heavy case of double pneumonia and a severe fever, but there is no immediate danger.” But medicine could not save Amalia.

Amalia died on 1 May 1872, still only 42 years old. The Luxembourgers were devastated at the death of their “mother.” Dutch newspapers reported the death of Amalia with the words. “It has pleased the Almighty, this morning, after brief but heavy suffering, to take to himself Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of the Netherlands, born Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The Royal House, but above all His Royal Highness Prince Henry, is very much affected by this unrepairable loss.”

The Luxemburger Wort reported, “Our mother of the country, Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of the Netherlands,  has departed from this world after a futile struggle with the obstinate disease, the course of which the whole country has followed with fear and apprehension. […] In the rich man’s house, as in the hut of the poor, tears flow at this irreplaceable loss. She was the mother of the land in the deepest meaning of the world, for she had embraced all who dwell on the sacred soil of our dear, happy fatherland. When the storms rose in our skies, raging and fierce, threatening to destroy us, she stood unbowed in our midst with the faithful guardian of our freedom, the noble prince to whom we owe everything.”3 It later added, “She has returned to the Father of all, but she will live on in the heart of her children whom she loved so dearly.”4

The funeral procession included the girls of the town, dressed in white. Prince Henry was supported by his sister Sophie, the Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The coffin rested on a magnificent hearse drawn by four horses. The houses were decorated with mourning flags and wreaths as the town came out to say goodbye to their mother. The procession went through the streets to Luxembourg city to the train station, where a special train waited to take her to the Netherlands. The two large waiting rooms had been converted into a chapel, where the religious ceremony was held as children laid flowers by the coffin. The following afternoon, the train departed to take the coffin and Prince Henry and his sister Sophie to Delft, where Amalia was interred in the royal crypt.

Prince Henry returned to Walferdange, and six years later, he married Princess Marie of Prussia, and Marie made her ceremonial entry into the city of Luxembourg on 29 October 1878. She was enthusiastically received, something which she had not expected. They settled at Walferdange Castle and were still there in January 1879 as they were preparing to leave for the wedding of King William III and Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont a few days later. Henry had delayed their departure to take care of a tradition he had begun with Amalia – the traditional Christmas gift-giving at the school in Walferdange. After the New Year’s greeting at the castle, they were finally able to prepare for their departure when Prince Henry suddenly came down with a rash. There was initially no cause for alarm, but it turned out to be measles, which can be quite dangerous in adulthood. He deteriorated quickly and died on 12 January 1879 at 5 in the morning. The newspapers lamented the loss of “the best of princes.”5

After Henry’s death, Walferdange Castle remained empty until Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg adopted it as his summer residence. It was later also used as a hospital and as army barracks. In 2003, the University of Luxembourg opened its Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education, and it’s now used by the Ministry of National Education, Childhood and Youth. It’s currently undergoing extensive renovations.

  1. Hendrick und Amalia by Paul Weitz p.185
  2. Hendrick und Amalia by Paul Weitz p.187
  3. Hendrick und Amalia by Paul Weitz p.411
  4. Hendrick und Amalia by Paul Weitz p.412
  5. Hendrick und Amalia by Paul Weitz p.432

About Moniek Bloks 2741 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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