Wilhelmine Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg – The duties of my class (Part two)

(public domain)

Read part one here.

With Charles still in Spain, Eleonore Magdalene was appointed as regent in his absence. She quickly vented her dislike at Joseph’s mistress and demanded that she return all the jewellery he had given her. She was also forbidden from appearing in her or Wilhelmine Amalie’s presence and she was eventually compelled to marry as an alternative to being expelled from court. Eleonore Magdalene’s daughters Maria Elisabeth and Maria Magdelene supported her during the regency. Charles arrived in Vienna in late 1711 and Eleonore Magdalene was able to present him with a detailed journal of her regency.

The three Empresses were quite supportive of each other in the decade to come. Wilhelmine Amalie risked her life to care for Elisabeth Christine when she too became ill with smallpox, while Elisabeth Christine would nurse Eleonore Magdalene throughout her last illness in 1720. The Empresses had not officially been informed of the pact that had been signed but suspected that it existed. When they finally managed to get the document from Charles, he had announced his wish to change it in favour of his own (future) daughters. Though he eventually did have a son with his wife, the boy lived for just 7 months. The marriage also produced two surviving daughters – the future heiress Maria Theresa and Maria Anna. Eleonore Magdelene supported Wilhelmine Amalie for her daughters’ claim to the throne but when presented with the new pact, Wilhelmina Amalie could do nothing but quietly object. She never publically contested the will of the head of the dynasty.

During her husband’s life, Wilhelmine Amalie had little political influence and the little influence she had, she used mainly for family matters – for example, she supported the appointment of her brother-in-law as governor of Milan. In her widowhood, she tried to secure good marriages for her two surviving daughters. Her eldest daughter Maria Josepha married the Elector of Saxony, later King Augustus III of Poland, in 1719. Her youngest daughter Maria Amalia married Charles Albert of Bavaria, later prince-elector of Bavaria, in 1722.

After her second daughter’s marriage, Wilhelmine Amalie retired to a convent that she had founded five years earlier. While there, she read the works of François de Sales and helped promote the canonisation of his protégée Jeanne Françoise Frémiot de Chantal, who also founded the Order of the Visitation. She also wrote several religious works of her own, called “Meditations” and “Reflexions.” She began “Reflexions” with this statement, “The love of God leads to the contemplation of the duties of my class and my worth which compels me to give an account to the Lord of those who are dependent on me and the manner in which I exercise my authority over all which the Lord has given me.”1

She did not retire from the earthly world altogether though, and also spent several days of the week helping in the convent, dealing with family matters and caring for the sick. She helped create a boarding school for young aristocratic girls next to the convent and also founded one of the first institutions for poor and orphaned girls in Vienna.

When her brother-in-law Charles died in 1740, Wilhelmine Amalie initially supported the claims of her son-in-law, Charles Albert, Elector of Bavaria, to the Imperial Crown, but she soon retired back to the convent. She lived just long enough to see him successfully invade Bohemia and her daughter Maria Amalia was crowned as Queen of Bohemia in December 1741. On 12 February 1742, Maria Amalia became Holy Roman Empress following her husband coronation as Holy Roman Emperor. Just a few days later, Austria occupied Bavaria. Wilhelmina Amalie died on 10 April 1742 of dropsy. According to her wishes, her heart was buried at her husband’s feet in the Imperial Crypt, while her body remained in the convent she had founded and was buried under the high altar.

Her son-in-law’s reign lasted just three years and ended with his death in 1745. Her daughter Maria Amalia urged her son to make peace with Maria Theresa and her husband Francis Stephen was elected Holy Roman Emperor on 13 September 1745. Wilhelmina Amalie’s granddaughter Maria Josepha was also briefly Holy Roman Empress as the wife of Maria Theresa’s son Joseph II.

  1. Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.121

About Moniek Bloks 2397 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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