When Queen Wilhelmina fell ill with typhoid fever in the middle of April 1902, she was about five months pregnant. It was her second pregnancy, but the first had ended in a miscarriage.
For several days, fever ravished the Queen’s body, and it wasn’t until 29 April that the newspapers reported that her condition was improving. To everyone’s great joy, she had survived, but her pregnancy had not remained unaffected. A gynaecologist had been called in, despite the original doctor having realised that the situation was hopeless. Queen Wilhelmina was in quite a bit of pain, and her husband Prince Henry left the room because he could not bear it anymore. He later wrote, “Poor Wimmy suffers a lot; the entire house suffers with her.”1 At 10.30 P.M. on 4 May 1902, Wilhelmina gave birth to a stillborn son. The doctors assured her that it was the typhoid fever that had caused the stillbirth and that she would still be able to have a healthy child. Wilhelmina bravely told the doctor, “It is terribly sad, but I shall bear it.”2 He later wrote, “At that moment I admired our Queen as a woman with an indescribable power of mind, as a heroine to be pitied. I had a new regard for her that will remain until the day I die.”
This time, her recovery was a lot slower. She was deeply saddened to have lost another pregnancy. Prince Henry wrote how it was a double tragedy since the child was a boy. Wilhelmina went on an extended trip to her uncle in Schaumburg, but it failed to cheer her. She later wrote, “I cannot tell you how much I have gone through; I had never known a great sadness, and this was very great.”3 From Schaumburg, she wrote to her former governess Miss Winter, “I knew all the time I was ill that my mother and others kept sending you news and I knew that your thoughts were with me. My sorrow and grief is greater than words can say, I trust to God that He may help me to be brave; you see I have a very dear husband to live for and the idea of being spared for him and thus still able to go through this world with him and be useful to him, will be the greatest help to face life with courage.”4