“Only a German Prince will do.” – Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany in 1899
Emperor Wilhelm wasn’t the only who believed that only a German Prince would do for the young Queen Wilhelmina; her mother wanted it too. But while Emperor Wilhelm preferred Frederick William of Prussia, who also happened to be a quarter Dutch as the grandson of Princess Marianne of the Netherlands (daughter of King William I), Emma preferred the two youngest sons of Frederick Francis II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin – Adolf Frederick and Henry. Their sister-in-law Princess Elisabeth Sybille of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach – married to their elder brother Duke Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg-Schwerin – was in contact with Queen Emma. In 1896, she and her husband were invited to The Loo Palace and Soestdijk Palace. The names of her husband’s half-brothers must have been mentioned during this time.
Wilhelmina had met both brothers for the first time in 1892 when she was just 12 years old. The meeting had happened at her aunt Sophie‘s golden wedding anniversary celebrations in Weimar but was unlikely to have made a lasting impression on the young Queen. A second meeting with Henry planned for 1898 had to be cancelled because Wilhelmina had been ill. It wasn’t until May 1900, another meeting was arranged.
From 8 May until 5 June, the two Queens were going to visit Schwarzburg, staying in the Weisser Hirsch hotel. Wilhelmina could take long walks without being seen, and she could also meet potential suitors. As Schwarzburg was also the home of Henry’s maternal family, and he happened to be visiting his grandmother, she met Henry first. In return, the two Queens also visited Schloss Schwarzburg and received an invitation for a walk and picnic from Henry’s unmarried aunt Thekla. Apparently, the picnic and walk were so much fun that Wilhelmina wondered, “if a walk hand in hand through life was to be recommended.”1
It should be noted that Henry’s brother Adolf never did show his face in Schwarzburg, but the Emperor’s candidate Frederick William did show his face. Wilhelmina thought he had a baby-face (they were actually only a few weeks apart in age) and quickly vetoed him. This left only Henry. Wilhelmina later wrote in her memoirs, “When he had left, a few days later, we had dinner with Grandmother Schwarzburg. I missed him very much, although it was a pleasant evening.”2
Henry was silent for a long time after the trip to Schwarzburg and he did not contact Wilhelmina again until October. They became officially engaged on 12 October 1900. After lunch, Wilhelmina and Henry were finally left alone for a few moments. Just ten minutes later, the two emerged as an engaged couple. She later wrote in her memoirs, “The die was cast. What a relief that always is on these occasions!”3
Wilhelmina wrote to her former governess, “Oh Darling, you cannot even faintly imagine how franticly happy I am and how much joy, and sunshine has come upon my path.”4