Mary, Princess Royal, Princess of Orange

by Susan Flantzer

by Gerard van Honthorst, circa 1647; Credit – Wikipedia

Born on November 4, 1631 at St. James Palace in London, Mary, Princess Royal was the eldest daughter and the third of the nine children of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France. The newborn princess was not expected to live, so she was immediately christened with the names Mary Henrietta. Her godparents were:

In 1642, Mary was created the first Princess Royal. Her mother Queen Henrietta Maria, daughter of King Henri IV of France wanted to imitate the way the eldest daughter of the King of France was styled Madame Royale.  Holders retain the style for life, so a princess cannot receive the style during the lifetime of another Princess Royal. Since then, there have been seven Princesses Royal.

Princess Mary by Anthony van Dyck, circa 1637; Credit – Wikipedia

Mary had eight siblings:

Charles and Henrietta Maria’s five eldest children in 1637: Left to right: Mary, James, Charles, Elizabeth and Anne; Credit – Wikipedia

King Charles I wanted Mary to marry one of the sons of King Felipe IV of Spain or her first cousin Karl I Ludwig, Elector Palatine, but both marriage prospects failed. Instead, Mary was betrothed to Willem, Hereditary Prince of Orange, son of Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels.  On May 2, 1641 at the Chapel Royal of the Palace of Whitehall, nine-year-old Mary married William, who would have his 15th birthday in a couple of weeks. Because of Mary’s young age, the marriage was not consummated for several years.

William III, Prince of Orange and Mary, Princess Royal by Anthony Van Dyck; Credit – Wikipedia

In February of 1642, Mary, accompanied by her mother, sailed from England to The Hague in the Dutch Republic. Once in The Hague, Mary was warmly greeted by her in-laws and her paternal aunt Elizabeth Stuart, Electress Palatine and some of her children. A second marriage ceremony was held in The Hague on November 4, 1643.

Mary and William had one child:

William III, Prince of Orange in 1654 by Adriaen Hanneman; Credit – Wikipedia

Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange died in 1647 and his son became William II, Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Mary’s two brothers, the future King Charles II and King James II, exiled because of the English Civil War, were welcomed to William and Mary’s court in 1648. In 1650, Mary was pregnant with her first child when her husband William fell ill with smallpox. He died on November 6, 1650 at the age of 24. Eight days later, on November 14, 1650, Mary gave birth to her only child William.

The Prince and Princess of Orange by Gerrit van Honthorst, circa 1650; Credit – Wikipedia

Mary’s fatherless son William was the sovereign Prince of Orange from birth. His 19-year-old widowed mother wanted to name her son Charles after her brother (King Charles II of England), but her mother-in-law insisted that her grandson be named William Henry (in Dutch Willem Hendrik), and she got her way. During William’s minority as Prince of Orange, his mother had to share his guardianship with his paternal grandmother Amalia of Solms-Braunfels and Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg, whose wife Louise Henriette of Nassau, was the elder sister of William’s father. In 1658, Mary became the sole regent of the Principality of Orange, but was opposed by the mayor. Her first cousin King Louis XIV of France came to her aid militarily so she could consolidate her position.

Mary as a widow; Credit – Wikipedia

In May of 1660, Mary watched as her brothers Charles and James sailed away from The Hague, returning to England upon the restoration to the throne of Charles (King Charles II). Mary returned to her birth country in September of 1660. Although the court was in mourning for her brother Henry, Duke of Gloucester who had died of smallpox, her brothers Charles and James traveled down the River Thames to meet her.

Sadly, Mary did not have much time to celebrate her brother’s restoration. On December 20, 1660, Mary fell ill with smallpox and by the next day she was dangerously ill. Mary died on December 24, 1660 at the Palace of Whitehall in London at the age of 29. She was buried in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Her son William was just ten years old and had lost both parents to smallpox. William’s wife and co-ruler Queen Mary II would also die of smallpox at the age of 32.

Wikipedia: Mary, Princess Royal, Princess of Orange

Works Cited
Abrufstatistik. “Maria Henrietta Stuart.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.
“Maria Henriëtte Stuart.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.
“Mary, princess royal and princess of Orange.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 21 July 2016. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.
Williamson, David. Brewer’s British Royalty. London: Cassell, 1996. Print.