Born Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin on 19 April 1876 as the youngest son of Frederick Francis II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and his third wife, Princess Marie of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, he became Prince Consort of the Netherlands as the husband of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
Although their marriage was happy at first, over time, the couple drifted apart. Their only surviving child, the future Queen Juliana, was the apple of her father’s eye.
Henry’s death came rather sudden though his health had been declining for some years. He had suffered his first heart attack in 1929. On 28 June 1934, he arrived at the office of the Red Cross in Amsterdam in the early morning. Just before ten, he suffered another heart attack. He was brought to Noordeinde Palace in The Hague by ambulance as Queen Wilhelmina was informed of his condition. Their daughter Juliana was away in England at the time. He seemed to recover but suffered another heart attack on 3 July. Wilhelmina had been away to a lunch and arrived back when he had already passed away. Wilhelmina herself informed her daughter in England and later told a courtier that her daughter had been calm. “We are brave people, who don’t wail.”1 Later that day, Queen Wilhelmina made the official announcement: “It has pleased God to call my beloved husband to him. This afternoon, he passed away calmly but suddenly. I announce this with the greatest sadness. I am convinced you will share in mine and my daughter’s sorrow.”2
Juliana had the firm belief that death was simply the start of something else, and she wrote, “Mother carefully told me today that Father had died – I long to go to her. Although, after Grandmother’s death, death means nothing more to me than lovely things and I know Mother feels that as well. Father was very cheery this morning, and it happened in a second, not in her presence. Isn’t it lovely, so sudden. I am so glad to know that ever since Grandmother died, every life ends happily by ‘death.’ I am becoming a philosopher – don’t mind me.”3
Juliana took the night boat to Hook of Holland, and Wilhelmina was there to pick her up when she arrived in the morning. Juliana made sure the rings he had worn were put back on his fingers and had his favourite Huguenot cross put around his neck. She also put a bouquet of red roses in his coffin. She also requested her father’s favourite clock with little horseheads from the Loo Palace and had it put into her own room.
In her memoirs, Wilhelmina wrote, “Long before he died my husband and I had discussed the meaning of death and the eternal Life that follows it. We both had the certainty of faith that death is the beginning of Life, and therefore had promised each other that we would have white funerals. This agreement was now observed. Hendrik’s white funeral, as his last gesture to the nation, made a profound impression and set many people thinking.[…]The story of my life would become much too long if I tried to express what these two lives4 which were cut off so shortly after one another have meant to Juliana and me. After the funeral, we went to Norway to rest and to recover, and stayed there for six weeks.”5
- Juliana by Jolande Withuis p.166
- Vorstelijk begraven en gedenken. Funeraire geschiedenis van het huis Oranje-Nassau by Cees van Raak p. 78
- Juliana by Jolande Withuis p.166
- Her mother had died only months before Henry
- Lonely but not alone p.141