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The Fifteen Princesses of Orange: Anna of Egmont

Anna of Egmont was born around March 1533 as the daughter of Maximilian van Egmont and Françoise de Lannoy. She would turn out to be their only child and thus heiress to her father’s estates. Her father was an ally of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and he was often away on campaign.

Anna grew up in the world that was centered around the Brussels Court of the Regent Mary of Hungary. She spoke the language of the court which was French, but she also spoke Dutch. Her father’s death came quite suddenly in 1548, and she was probably unprepared for the managing of the vast estates. She was just 15 years old and now held some titles;  Suo Jure Countess of Buren and Lady of Egmond, Countess of Lingen and Leerdam, and Lady of IJsselstein, of Borssele, of Grave, of Cranendonck, of Jaarsveld, of Kortgene, of Sint Maartensdijk, and of Odijk.

On his deathbed, he was supposedly in full armour, toasting to the health of the emperor and he had the state of mind to arrange his daughter’s marriage to William of Nassau.

Castle Breda, Anne inhabited rooms in the so-called Blockhouse on the right

Castle Breda, Anne inhabited rooms in the so-called Blockhouse on the right

This marriage would take place on 8 July 1551 in Buren, and the couple settled in the castle of Breda, where their three children were born.

Their first child Mary, named for Mary of Hungary who attended the baptism, was born in 1553 but died the following year. A son named Philip William was born in 1554 followed by another Mary in 1556.

Vault in the Church of Our Lady in Breda

Vault in the Church of Our Lady in Breda

Anna was alone quite a bit. William was often at court in Brussels or on a campaign. Anna was requested to come to Brussels just once when Philip II of Spain was to be received there. She appeared to be good at managing the couple’s estates as William commended her in several of his letters. None of Anna’s responses survive, unfortunately.

She was supposed to accompany William to Dillenburg in early 1558, but that trip never happened as Anna fell ill. We don’t know exactly what illness Anna had, but she died in Breda on 24 March 1558, still only 25 years old.

She is buried in the Church of Our Lady in Breda, together with her firstborn daughter Mary.  She is perhaps the least known wife of William the Silent which can be attributed to her early death.