Amalia of Solms-Braunfels

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Amalia of Solms-Braunfels
Van Dyck - Amalie zu Solms-Braunfels - 1631-32.jpg
Amalia of Solms-Braunfels, portrait by Anthony Van Dyck
Princess consort of Orange
Tenure 1625-1647
Born (1602-08-31)31 August 1602
Braunfels Castle in Braunfels
Died 8 September 1675(1675-09-08) (aged 73)
the Hague
Spouse Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange
Issue William II, Prince of Orange
Louise Henriette, Duchess of Prussia
Henriette Amalia of Nassau
Elisabeth of Nassau
Isabella Charlotte of Nassau
Albertine Agnes, Countess of Nassau-Dietz
Henriette Catherine, Princess of Anhalt-Dessau
Henry Louis of Nassau
Maria, Countess Palatine of Simmern-Kaiserslautern
Father John Albert I, Count of Solms-Braunfels
Mother Countess Agnes of Sayn-Wittgenstein

Amalia of Solms-Braunfels (31 August 1602, Braunfels – 8 September 1675, The Hague), was Princess consort of Orange by marriage to Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange. She served as chair of the regency council during the minority of her grandson William III, Prince of Orange from 1650 until 1672. She was the daughter of count John Albert I of Solms-Braunfels and countess Agnes of Sayn-Wittgenstein.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Amalia of Solms-Braunfels, born into the House of Solms, a ruling family with Imperial immediacy, spent her childhood at the parental castle at Braunfels.

She became part of the court of Elizabeth, wife of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, the "Winter King" of Bohemia. After imperial forces defeated Frederick V, she fled from Prague with the pregnant queen to the west. Shelter was denied to them along the way because the emperor forbade it as Frederick had been placed under an Imperial ban. Elizabeth went into labour during their flight and Amalia helped her with her delivery of Prince Maurice at Küstrin castle.

The end of their journey was The Hague, where stadtholder Maurice of Nassau, uncle of the elector gave them asylum in 1621. They often appeared at his court, where Maurice's younger half-brother Frederick Henry became infatuated with Amalia in 1622. She refused to become his lover and held out for marriage.

When Maurice of Nassau died, he made his half-brother Frederick Henry promise to wed. Frederick married Amalia on 4 April 1625.

Wife to the Stadtholder[edit]

Family portrait by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1647
Portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632

When Frederick Henry became stadtholder after the death of his half-brother Prince Maurice, his influence grew substantially, as did Amalia's. Together Frederick Henry and Amalia succeeded in expanding court life in The Hague. They had several palaces built, including Huis ten Bosch. Amalia was a great collector of art and amassed many jewels, which were inherited by her four surviving daughters. She was described as intelligent, arrogant and ambitious, not beautiful but with a fresh and appealing appearance.

Amalia was the prime mover of several royal marriages, including that of her son William II to Mary, Princess Royal of England and Scotland (daughter of King Charles I of England) and of their daughters with several German princes.

The relationship between Amalia and Frederik Hendrik was described as happy, and Amalia is acknowledged to have acted as his political adviser.[1] From 1640 until his death in 1647, Frederik Hendrik's health (he suffered from gout and probably also from a form of Alzheimer’s) made it increasingly difficult for him to participate in politics, and during these seven years, Amalia therefore effectively functioned as regent and stadtholder, maintaining diplomatic contacts and making political decisions on his behalf.[2] Her de facto political position was acknowledged and diplomats, aware of this, tried to influence her decisions by costly presents.[3] It was reportedly Amalia who was behind Frederik Hendrik's participation in the negotiations which was eventually to result in the Peace of Münster of 1648.[4] As a recognition, King Philip IV of Spain granted her the seigniory and castle of Turnhout in 1649.

In 1647, her spouse died and was succeeded as stadtholder and prince of orange by their son William II, Prince of Orange.

Regency[edit]

After the death of her son William II in 1650, her grandson William III (Prince William III of Orange and later also King William III of England) became prince of Orange. A regency council was appointed during her minority, and Amalia and her former daughter-in-law Mary Stuart fought over guardianship and thereby chairmanship of the regency council; the High Court of Holland and Zeeland finally granted both Mary and Amalia shared guardianship, and thereby shared part in the regency council of Orange.[5]

Amalia was supported against Mary by her son-in-law, the Elector of Brandenburg, and she was on good terms with the Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, a relationship which did not change with the Act of Exclusion of 1654, barring the prince from all ancestral offices. When Mary died in 1660, Amalia in practice took sole control of the regency of her grandson.[6] She maintained good relations to De Witt even by the passing of the 1667 Eternal Edict, which abolished the office of stadholder entirely.[7] During this time she lived in the Oude Hof on the Noordeinde, maintaining her court and diplomatic contacts with royalty.[8]

In 1672, her grandson was declared adult and his regency council thereby dismissed. Amalia retired and witnessed him becoming stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel and captain-general of the Union.

Tributes[edit]

A wine from wine estate Solms-Delta in Franschhoek (South Africa) is named after Amalia of Solms-Braunfels. The wine honours the role played by her in Dutch political life. Her grandson, William III, King of England, provided refuge and support to thousands of French Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Some 180 of these refugees, fleeing religious persecution, were relocated to the Cape and granted farms in Franschhoek. Here they laid the foundations of the modern South African wine industry.

Issue[edit]

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]
  2. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]
  3. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]
  4. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]
  5. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]
  6. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]
  7. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]
  8. ^ Bronvermelding: Marieke E. Spliethoff, Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/AmaliaVanSolms [16/09/2014]