With Wilhelmina’s marriage to Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin on 7 February 1901, she and her mother both fervently prayed for healthy children to continue their line. Tragically, Wilhelmina would go on to suffer five miscarriages and only one healthy child was born to Wilhelmina and Henry.
At the end of August 1901, the first signs of pregnancy were showing, and Queen Wilhelmina wrote to her mother, “Don’t be frightened when you read in the papers tomorrow that I had to keep to my bed due to stomach issues. You cannot tell anyone, anyone, the true reason, please. I am still very uncertain.”1 It turned out to be a false alarm.
But she was a lot more certain a few months later. She reported to her mother in early November, “Now the newspapers are reporting that I am unwell, very interesting.”2 Just a week later, Wilhelmina suffered her first miscarriage. No clear cause could be identified, and both Henry and Emma rushed to be by Wilhelmina’s side. Doctors informed Wilhelmina that she should rest for at least four weeks but that there was no reason to fear that she would not become pregnant again.
Nevertheless, Wilhelmina was racked with guilt. She wrote to her mother, “You don’t know how sorry I was to have hurt you, you don’t know, and I think I am very, very ugly. It was all my own evil fault. I won’t write about it any more, loopholes and ‘buts’ won’t make it any better. I just wanted to say that it really messed with my head. Really, little mother, I am saddened by it.”3
Although Queen Wilhelmina made a full recovery, Christmas at court was quite austere that year.
The following year, Wilhelmina fell ill with typhoid fever and shortly after that, on 4 May 1902, gave birth to a premature stillborn son. On 23 July 1906, a third miscarriage followed. A fourth pregnancy ended in the birth of the future Queen Juliana on 30 April 1909. A fourth miscarriage followed on 23 January 1912. A fifth and final miscarriage took place on 20 October 1912. The cause of the miscarriages has not been identified, and we’ll probably never know for sure.