by Susan Flantzer
Marie Luise of Hesse-Kassel and her husband Johan Willem Friso, Prince of Orange hold the distinction of being the most recent common ancestors to all currently reigning European monarchs. In addition, they are the ancestors of many former monarchies. See Wikipedia: Royal descendants of John William Friso.
The second of the four daughters and ninth of the fourteen children of Karl I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and his wife and cousin Maria Amalia of Courland, Marie Luise was born on February 7, 1688, in Kassel, Landgraviate of Hesse (now in Germany).
Marie Luise had thirteen siblings:
- Wilhelm (1674–1676), died in early childhood
- Charles (1675–1677), died in early childhood
- Friedrich I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, King Frederik I of Sweden (1676–1751), married (1) Luise Dorothea of Prussia, no children; (2) Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, no children
- Christian (born and died 1677)
- Sophie Charlotte (1678–1749), married Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, no children
- Charles (1680–1702), unmarried
- Wilhelm VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1682–1760), married Dorothea Wilhelmina of Saxe-Zeitz, had three children
- Leopold (1684–1704), unmarried
- Louis (1686–1706), unmarried
- Maximilian (1689–1753), married Frederica Charlotte of Hesse-Darmstadt, had seven children
- Georg Karl (1691–1755), unmarried
- Eleanor (born and died 1694)
- Wilhelmine Charlotte (1695–1722), unmarried
When she was 21-years-old, Marie Luise’s marriage was arranged by her future mother-in-law Henriëtte Amalia of Anhalt-Dessau who was concerned that her son Johan Willem Friso, Prince of Orange had been almost killed twice in battle and had no heir. She started searching for a bride and soon gave him a choice of two German princesses. Johan Willem Friso became engaged within a week to Marie Luise. They were married on April 26, 1709, in Kassel.
Marie Luise and Johan Willem Friso had two children:
- Princess Amalia of Nassau-Dietz (1710 – 1777), married Friedrich, Hereditary Prince of Baden-Durlach, had two sons including Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden
- Willem IV, Prince of Orange (1711 – 1751), married Anne, Princess Royal, daughter of King George II of Great Britain, had three children including Willem V, Prince of Orange
The couple made their home at the Stadhouderlijk Hof in Leeuwarden in Friesland one of the two of the seven provinces of the Dutch Republic where Johan Willem Friso was Stadtholder. However, Johan Willem Friso was often away at war. Sadly, their marriage lasted only two years. In July 1711, Johan Willem Friso traveled from the battlefields of the War of the Spanish Succession to The Hague to meet with King Friedrich I of Prussia. To cross the Hollands Diep, a wide river in the Netherlands, Johan Willem Friso and his carriage traveled on a ferry. The captain had trouble with the sails and suddenly a great gust of wind filled the sails, the ferry capsized and Johan Willem Friso drowned at the age of 23. His body was found floating in the river eight days later. At the time of her husband’s death, Marie Luise was pregnant with her second child. Six weeks later, she gave birth to a son who immediately became Willem IV, Prince of Orange.
Willem V succeeded his father as Stadtholder of Friesland and as Stadtholder of Groningen under the regency of his mother until he reached his majority in 1731. In 1722, he was elected Stadtholder of Guelders and Marie Luise also served as regent of Guelders. She put much effort into ensuring her children received a proper education. Marie Luise was loved and admired by the Dutch people who called her Marijke Meu (Aunt Mary). In 1731, Marie Luise’s role as regent was over. She purchased the Princessehof in Leeuwarden, moved in and started a collection of ceramics. Today her former home is the Princessehof Ceramics Museum and her collection forms part of the museum’s collection.
On March 25, 1734, Marie Luise’s son Willem IV, Prince of Orange married Anne, Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of King George II of Great Britain at the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace in London. It was the third time in less than 100 years that a British princess had married a Prince of Orange. Willem IV and Anne had two children including the future Willem V, Prince of Orange born in 1748. However, William IV died at age 40 from a stroke on October 22, 1751 and was succeeded by his three-year-old son as Willem V, Prince of Orange with his mother Anne serving as regent. Anne acted as regent until her death from dropsy in 1759 at age 49. As Willem V was still underage, his paternal grandmother 70-year-old Marie Luise became regent.
Marie Luise’s health had been deteriorating and she often had to travel from her home in Leeuwarden to The Hague for government business which exhausted her. She suffered a slight stroke that caused her to lose some functioning on the right side of her body. On Palm Sunday in 1765, Marie Luise was present at the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk in Leeuwarden greeting as many churchgoers as possible. The day before Easter, Marie Luise became ill and she was upset that her absence in church on Easter would disappoint the people. Two days after Easter, on April 9, 1765, Marie Luise died at the age of 77. She had survived her husband Johan Willem Friso by 54 years. Marie Luise was buried with her husband at the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk in Leeuwarden, Friesland now in the Netherlands, where sixteen members of Nassau-Diez family – six Stadtholders of Friesland, their spouses and children – are buried.