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The Fifteen Princesses of Orange: Éléonore de Bourbon

Éléanore de Bourbon was born on 30 April 1587 to Henri I de Bourbon and his second wife Charlotte Catherine de la Tremoille. She was closely related to the French royal family as her father was a first cousin of King Henry IV of France. She had a half-sister from her father’s previous marriage and a full brother, who succeeded to their father’s titles. Her future husband was the son of William the Silent and his first wife, Anna of Egmont. His name was Philip William and when they married in 1606 he was already 51 years old. His childhood had been troubled. His mother had died in 1558, when he was only four. He was taken hostage in February 1568 by the Spanish and taken to Spain to be raised as a good catholic. He never saw his father again and he was never again trusted by the Dutch. Through this marriage the French king finally recognized Philip William as Prince of Orange.

Not much is know about Éléanore’s upbringing, but she was probably raised at the French Court. Despite marrying a much older man, it is thought it was a happy marriage and Éléanore followed her husband on his many trips. They settled to live in the Castle of Orange. They would have no children but Éléanore did raise her great-niece Louise de Bourbon. The marriage would end quite suddenly when Philip William died after a failed medical treatment, supposedly an enema. He willed all his goods to his half-brother and Éléanore received nothing.

She was still young and was perhaps expected to marry again. She died 11 months later on 20 January 1619, still only 31 years old. It is not known what she died of and she appears quite forgotten in the history books. Her battle with her husband’s half-brother for her inheritance continued after her death.

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