Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands would never know any of elder half-brothers. The first of them to die was Prince Maurice, whose life was cut short by disease.
Prince Maurice was born on 15 September 1843 in The Hague as the second son of the future King William III of the Netherlands and his first wife, Sophie of Württemberg. William delivered the news to his father King William II in person and called himself, “the happiest man in the world.”1 He looked to be stronger and bigger than his elder brother – another William – but he soon turned out to be rather sickly. Maurice was a calm and friendly child, and his mother lived in constant worry over his delicate health. This was in no way helped by the death of young Prince Frederick, the ten-year-old son of her husband’s uncle – also named Frederick- and Louise of Prussia. Sophie wrote, “I am so sad, so sad; if something like that happened to me, by God, I hope I will also die. Of course, I am receiving no one. Our mourning will last for weeks. The funeral is next Wednesday or Thursday. I keep walking to my children, to see, to hear, to feel that they are alive.”2
The governor of Maurice’s elder brother wrote of the two brothers in 1849, “While W. is always sullen, rude and unkind, M., on the other hand, is politeness and kindness itself. His health is very delicate, as a consequence of bad living. The conclusion must be that both their educations have been miserable, though W.’s character has been damaged the most.”3
In May 1850, Maurice became ill yet again. Sophie had lost all faith in the court doctor Everard and called for another doctor, named Ter Winkel. He diagnosed an “unclean stomach” and administered several medications, including musk. Maurice’s father had no faith in the medicines or the doctor. Doctor Everard was eventually called, and he diagnosed a “nervous illness with the beginnings of meningitis.” Ter Winkel laughed the diagnosis away and told Sophie that there was no danger whatsoever. Sophie’s husband angrily told Ter Winkel to leave at once. As Maurice’s condition deteriorated, William called for two more doctors, Van Bylandt and Vinkhuyzen.
It was too late for young Maurice. Sophie often dragged young William to his brother’s bed, against the will of the doctors and her husband. On 4 June, around 5 in the afternoon, she had taken him to see his brother once more, but he was taken away by his governor. Despite his illness, Maurice recognised the governor and said, “Hello, sir” in a hoarse voice. Just 15 minutes later, they learned that Maurice had passed away. Sophie would never forgive herself for bringing in Ter Winkel, and her friend Lady Malet admitted that Sophie was never happy again. She wrote, “Always running from herself. A never-ending torture.”4
Maurice was just six years old when he died. On 10 June 1850, he was interred in the royal crypt in Delft.