Amalia of Solms-Braunfels probably never expected she would make such a grand marriage, but she did when she went from lady in waiting to Princess consort of Orange. It seems like a fairytale.
She was born the daughter of John Albert I, Count of Solms-Braunfels and Countess Agnes of Sayn-Wittgenstein on 31 August 1602. She grew up at the Palatine Court at Heidelberg and when Frederick V and Elizabeth Stuart were chosen to be King and Queen of Bohemia Amalia travelled with them to Prague as the Queen’s lady in waiting. The Bohemian adventure ended after a year and Amalia joined them on their flight through Europe. They finally settled in the Hague.
It was in the Hague where Amalia met Frederick Henry of Orange, who was a younger son of William of Orange from his fourth marriage to Louise de Coligny. The current Prince of Orange was Maurice, the son from William’s first marriage to Anna of Egmont. He was unmarried however and pressured his younger brother to get married to secure the dynasty. Frederick Henry and Amalia had been involved somewhat since 1622 but she refused to become his mistress and they married just before Maurice died in 1625.
The courts of Elizabeth Stuart and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels soon became very competitive. The women were often painted in similar fashion as they would employ the same painter.
Amalia commissioned the building of Huis Ten Bosch and its main hall would eventually be completely dedicated to Frederick Henry. The so-called Orange Hall is usually not open to the public but was opened for a limited time during construction to the rest of the palace. I’ve been there and it’s a true masterpiece.
Amalia and Frederick Henry had an apparently happy marriage. Though Frederick Henry had fathered an illegitimate son before his marriage, none were born during his marriage. He had nine legitimate children with Amalia, though only five would live to adulthood. Amalia was quite ambitious in trying to arrange good marriages for her children and she was successful, too. Her only son William married Charles I of England eldest daughter, Mary. She forced her daughter Louise Henriette to marry Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, despite the fact that she was in love with Henri-Charles de la Tremoille, Prince of Talmant.
Amalia became more and more politically active as her husband began to suffer from gout and something that was most likely Alzheimer’s disease. He died in 1647 and was succeeded by his son William, now William II. He would die just three years later of smallpox. His only son, another William, was born a week after his death. His mother Mary initially retained custody, but Amalia was not pleased. When Mary herself died in 1660 Amalia began to care for William.
Amalia was known as an intelligent woman, though she wrote her letters in phonetic German and French. She was not considered beautiful at the time, but she was ambitious and proud. Amalia died at the grand age of 73 on 8 September 1675. She did not live to see her grandson become King of England. She is buried in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft.
Photocredit: Courtly Rivals Exhibition by Moniek Bloks