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WILHELMINA OF PRUSSIA

 - Jasmijn Groot -



Wilhelmina of Prussia (1751-1820) was a Prussian princess, the wife of Stadholder Prince William V of Orange-Nassau and the mother of King William I. She played an important role during the Batavian Revolution.


The Batavian Revolution is an underrated piece of Dutch history, the role women played an even less appreciated one. The name of Wilhelmina of Prussia, perhaps the most important woman in the conflict, is therefore rarely mentioned. Therefore, here is a portrait and biography.


Born in Berlin and raised by her grandmother, Wilhelmina married Stadholder William V of Orange-Nassau in 1767. She was politically ambitious, wanted to rule with her husband and proved to be even more incisive than him in this. Her growing influence ensured that she had a big finger in the Republican political pie - and, also very important: she used that influence very openly.


A revolutionary conflict began to brew in the 1780s between stadholder supporters and rebels, in which Wilhelmina became actively involved from 1781. She became the main force and even leader of the stadholder party - its members even wanted her to take on this role. To influence politics in the Republic, she wrote to foreign powers and supporters of the stadholder, but also travelled to different provinces to gather support.


In 1787, Wilhelmina and her family had to move out to Apeldoorn. She cited contact with her brother, who had just ascended the Prussian throne. She also wanted to return to The Hague to let the regent give her husband a chance to restore order in the province. She was stopped at the Goejanverwellesluis, which she interpreted as a gross insult. Thereupon, Wilhelmina had her brother invade the Republic.


The King of Prussia's military action lasted two weeks and restored the stadholder authority of Wilhelmina's husband. As his wife, Wilhelmina continued her representative work, receiving many important international guests, such as Tsar Alexander I of Russia. According to tradition, she also received Cornelis Johan de Lange, the commander of the Patriots who had detained Wilhelmina at Goejanverwellesluis. At their greeting, she is said to have jokingly said, "Today Monsieur is my prisoner. I expect you at my table."


The victory of Wilhelmina and her husband was not forever: in 1795, the Patriots returned with support from the French and the Orange-Nassau family had to defect to England, where they were hosted by William's cousin George III. Until 1814, Wilhelmina lived alternately in England and present-day Germany, until her son returned to the Netherlands and was crowned king William I. Her husband William did not live to see that; he died in 1806. She settled in Villa Welgelegen in Haarlem in 1814. There she continued to receive important people.


Wilhelmina of Prussia died in 1820 at the age of 68.

 

Image: Johann Georg Ziesenis, Wilhelmina of Prussia (1779). Mauritshuis, The Hague, The Netherlands.




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