For this International Women’s Day I’d like to shine a spotlight on five royal women who should be remembered for their bravery.
The daughter of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg tried to negotiate her brothers’ release from Dachau concentration camp with Heinrich Himmler, travelling all alone to the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. She was interrogated for hours on end with her husband eventually being forced to join to Wehrmacht in exchange for Sophie and their children’s freedom.
The last Queen of the Two Sicilies went down in history as the heroine of Gaeta. Following bombings of the city, she refused an offer to have her residence marked with a flag so that it could be avoided. She dared them to shoot at her if they wanted to. She also ordered her soldiers down to the seaside rampart and told them to moon the fleet attacking them.
Louise was married to the much older Charles Edward Stuart, known as the young pretender for his claim to the English crown. He violently abused her, and after one particularly vicious attack on her, Louise fled to a convent. She eventually found love and made a new life for herself.
Better known as the Princess of Lamballe, Marie-Thérèse was one of Queen Marie Antoinette’s best friends. As France descended into the chaos of the revolution, Marie-Thérèse interrogated members of the Queen’s household to make sure they were still loyal to her. Marie Antoinette ordered her to leave for her own safety, but Marie-Thérèse refused to go, wanting to die alongside Marie Antoinette if necessary. After several weeks of imprisonment and continual interrogation, Marie-Thérèse was convicted by a people’s tribunal, and she was killed by a mob.
Marianne was the daughter of King William I of the Netherlands and Wilhelmina of Prussia. She was married to her first cousin Prince Albert of Prussia in 1830. In 1845, she left her unfaithful husband, and they were formally divorced in 1849. By then, Marianne was pregnant by her former coachman Johannes van Rossum and their only son Johannes Willem van Reinhartshausen was born later that same year. She built a new life for herself, and when their son died at the age of 12, she had a touching monument built for him. Marianne and Johannes were eventually buried together, though his name is not mentioned on the tombstone.