Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel is the ninth Princess of Orange. She was born on 7 February 1688 as the daughter of Charles I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and Maria Amalia of Courland.
Marie Louise was their 11th child. She was raised as a protestant and she was noticed as a possible bride for Johan Willem Friso. He visited Kassel in 1707 to meet with the then 21-year-old Marie Louise. The advice he received from his mother was quite interesting.
With the choice now down to two Princesses she apparently told him he should think of the choice as between two chairs and that he should choose the most comfortable of the two.
He chose Marie Louise without meeting the other candidate. They were married in Kassel on 26 April 1709. He left her with her parents after a month to join in the Spanish Succession War. She travelled to Leeuwarden in January 1710, where she was solemnly received. She became pregnant soon after and their first child Anna Charlotte Amalia Louise was born on 2 October 1710.
Tragedy soon struck as Marie Louise was widowed on 14 July 1711. Her husband had been on his way to The Hague when he drowned in the Hollandsch Diep after a sudden storm during his crossing. His body wasn’t recovered until 8 days later and it took 7 months for him to be interred in the Grote Kerk in Leeuwarden.
Marie Louise was 7 months pregnant with their second child. She gave birth to their son William (Willem) Karel Hendrik Friso on 1 September 1711 and he became the Prince of Orange from the moment of his birth.
It was a tough year for Marie Louise. Not only her husband, but her mother also died that year and her mother-in-law Henrietta Amalia of Anhalt-Dessau had travelled to Leeuwarden with the expectation of being made regent for the young Prince.
However, Marie Louise was preferred, despite having little experience. She was now a 23-year-old widow and regent. She faced many difficulties as she had a limited income and they were greatly in debt. Marie Louise enlisted the help of her father to organise her finances. In the end Henrietta Amalia returned to Germany.
Her daughter Anna Charlotte Amalia was married in 1727 to Friedrich of Baden-Durlach and together they had two children. She started suffering from delusions shortly after the birth of her second child. She deteriorated quickly and could not be helped by Marie Louise’s own doctor. She became aggressive, mumbled to herself and failed to recognize people. She never improved and she died in 1777.
William came of age in 1731 and Marie Louise withdrew to the Princessehof in Leeuwarden. She was completely done however as she arranged a brilliant marriage for her son in 1734 with the English Princess Anne, Princess Royal. Marie Louise remained in retirement until she was called upon yet again to act as regent.
Her son had died in 1751 and Anne, Princess Royal had become regent for her son, now William V and Marie Louise’s grandson until her own death in 1759. She was again regent from 1759 until 1765.
Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel died of a stroke on 9 April 1765. She is buried in the Grote Kerk in Leeuwarden. Her grandson was still a minor and his regent became his older sister for the last year of his minority.
Marie Louise was muched loved by the people of Leeuwarden. She was given the nickname Marijke Meu (roughly translated as Auntie Mary). The 250th anniversary of her death was remembered in Leeuwarden with several exhibitions, lectures and even a mural portraying her as the mother of Europe. She is the ancestor of all European monarchs who occupy a throne today, including Queen Elizabeth II (and also her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh).
Photocredit: Johan Willem Friso in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons & Princessehof and Tomb by Moniek Bloks