by Susan Flantzer
Prince Hendrik was the husband of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and thus far, is the longest serving Dutch consort. Heinrich Wladimir Albrecht Ernst was born on April 19, 1876 in Schwerin in the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, now in Germany. He was the youngest of the four children of Friedrich Franz II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg and his third wife Marie of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. Heinrich had seven half-siblings, five of which survived to adulthood. Among his half siblings were Frederick Francis III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, father of Alexandrine, Queen of Denmark and Cecile, last Crown Princess of Prussia and Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (Maria Pavlovna of Russia) who married Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia. Their son Cyril became a pretender to the Russian throne after the assassination of his cousin Nicholas II of Russia.
When Heinrich was seven years old, his father died. After finishing his secondary education in Dresden, he traveled to Greece and the British colonies of India and Ceylon. He then joined the Prussian Army and served as a first lieutenant in the Garde-Jäger-Bataillon in Potsdam, Prussia.
In 1900, Heinrich and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands were introduced by their mothers. After spending part of the summer together, the two became engaged on October 16, 1900. The wedding preparations were overshadowed by the deaths of Wilhelmina’s uncle Charles Alexander, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach on January 5, 1901 and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom on January 22, 1901.
The couple was married on February 7, 1901 at the Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk in The Hague in the Netherlands. Following the wedding, Heinrich became a Prince of the Netherlands and also became known by the Dutch version of his name – Hendrik. Wilhelmina decreed that the Dutch royal house would remain the House of Orange-Nassau and not change to the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Although the marriage was a peaceful one, Hendrik and Wilhelmina grew apart due to her religious mysticism and his unfaithfulness and frustrations over his lack of an official role in the Netherlands.
Wilhelmina had no surviving siblings at the time of her marriage and the fear that the Dutch throne would pass to a German prince made it imperative that she provide herself with an heir. The couple’s only child, the future Queen Juliana, was born on April 30, 1909 to her parents’ great relief. Wilhelmina had several miscarriages before and after Juliana’s birth, as well as a stillborn child.
Throughout his marriage, Hendrik was plagued by financial problems. He received no subsidy from the Dutch treasury, and instead received an annual sum of 100,000 guilders from his wife. His activities and pastimes cost money and he was expected to financially support charities and also provide funds to his impoverished family in Germany. In addition, there was money Hendrik had to give to his mistresses who bore him illegitimate children. Dutch historian Gerald Aalders has said Prince Hendrik had eight known illegitimate children. After Hendrik’s death, Queen Wilhelmina continued to compensate the mothers of his illegitimate children.
Hendrik held various honorary appointments in the armed forces and also served on the Council of State, but his wife kept him out of all political matters. He deeply regretted his rather insignificant position and said about his situation, “It’s not nice when you always want some more bacon and all that’s ever left is beans.”
Prince Hendrik had a great interest in the social and economic life in the Netherlands. He oversaw the merger of the two scouting organizations to create De Nederlandse Padvinders (The Netherlands Pathfinders), an organization that still receives royal patronage. He was chairman of the Dutch Red Cross and in 1928 he opened the Olympic Games in Amsterdam.
During the last years of his life, Hendrik’s health quickly deteriorated. His arthritis intensified, he gained much weight and had his first heart attack in 1929. The second heart attack followed on June 28, 1934. During the afternoon of July 3, 1934 while in his office, Prince Hendrik died at the age of 58 of cardiac arrest. As per his wishes, he had a white funeral and was buried in the royal vault at the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft.
You Tube: Funeral of Prince Hendrik