On 7 February 1901, the young Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands married Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He was one of three candidates who had been considered for the young Queen.
Any British candidates had been vetoed because of the Boer War, and even Emperor Wilhelm II butted in and declared that only a German Prince would do. In May 1900, Wilhelmina and her mother Emma travelled to Schloss Schwarzburg in Thuringia to meet the three possibilities. They were: Frederick Henry (Friedrich Heinrich) of Prussia, who was a grandson of Princess Marianne of the Netherlands, and the two youngest sons of Frederick Francis II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Adolf and Henry (Heinrich), but Adolf did not show up. Wilhelmina had met Henry previously in 1892 when she was just 12 years old, and they were second cousins as they were both descended from Paul I of Russia and Maria Feodorovna.
They met several times over the next few months after Wilhelmina had quickly vetoed Frederick Henry. In her memoirs, she wrote of their engagement in October, “On the 12th of October he came to luncheon. After the meal was over, the others withdrew and left us alone. Ten minutes later, we returned and announced our engagement. The die was cast. What a relief that always is on these occasions!”1 On 29 October, Wilhelmina excitedly wrote to her former governess Miss Winter, “I must begin by begging your pardon for not having written to you before now. But Darling, when one is engaged – letter writing becomes difficult; now the Duke has left and now I must thank you a thousand times for your loving telegram… letters and for all the wishes they contain. Oh, Darling, you cannot even faintly imagine how frantically happy I am and how much joy and sunshine has come upon my path.”2
The months leading up to the wedding were wrought with financial arrangements and discussions about the name of the House.
Nevertheless, Wilhelmina was thrilled, and she wrote to Miss Winter, “Oh, you don’t know how I am longing for my wedding to come to no more be separated from him and be able to live for him, what a happiness!”3
The Great Church in The Hague was chosen as the wedding venue, but celebrations had to be shortened following the deaths of Wilhelmina’s uncle the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach on 5 January and Queen Victoria on 22 January. On 31 January, Henry arrived in the Netherlands for the wedding. Several events took place over the following days, like a theatre performance and a soiree with tableaux vivants.
The day of the wedding was a sunny but cold day. Crowds had gathered in the streets to catch a glimpse of the bride and groom. The civil wedding was performed at Noordeinde Palace before they were taken to the Great Church in the Golden Carriage. Wilhelmina did not agree to obey her husband. Following the ceremony, there was a breakfast at the Palace. Emma toasted the couple with the words, “In full confidence, I gave my child to the man of her choice.”4 Emma would move into a palace of her own after the wedding – Lange Voorhout Palace. Wilhelmina later wrote, “It was a magnificent wedding. Many members of both families were present, and the whole country rejoiced in our happiness. We received splendid presents, including the golden coach, offered to me by Amsterdam in 1898, which was finished just in time.”5
They spent their honeymoon at the snow-covered Loo Palace.