Anna Charlotte Amalie of Orange-Nassau (1710-1777), a sister of the Dutch stadtholder William IV,
showed signs of mental confusion during her second pregnancy. She had religious delusions, and was often aggressive.
Her moments of lucidity became sparse,
while her father-in-law, Charles William of Baden-Durlach, amused himself with tulips and “garden girls”.
Amalie was a daughter of Johan Willem Friso of Orange-Nassau (1687-1711), stadtholder of Frisia, and Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel (1688-1765, to the right), popularly known as “Marijke Meu” (“Auntie Mary”). Amalie was born in October 1710, one and a half year after her parents' marriage. Soon Marie Louise was pregnant again. In June 1711, her mother died of a stroke. The next month, her husband drowned near Strijen-Sas. Six weeks afterwards, Marie Louise gave birth to their only son, William IV (1711-1751). Marie Louise had always had an inclination to dreariness and, as a result of these deaths and her confinement, she became ill and melancholic. After a few months, however, she recovered her senses and assumed the regency.
Her mother's timidity and inclination to melancholy were more emphasised in Amalie's character. Her brother William had none of Amalie's introspection. At first, he was a healty, happy child. From the age of 6 onwards, however, he developed a curved spine, hunched shoulder and pigeon chest, affecting the circulation of blood to his lungs and heart, and thus deteriorating his health. Still, sheer determination and courage gave him as good a seat on a horse as any Prince could wish.
In Frisia the family usually stayed in the Prinsenhof in the centre of Leeuwarden, or at the manor of Oranjewoud. In the summer they spend time in the palace of Soestdijk in Utrecht. In its gardens, the children could enjoy some freedom.
At the age of 16, Amalie was married to Frederick of Baden-Durlach (1703-1732), the popular, talented and conscientious heir of Charles William (1679-1738, to the right), Count of Baden-Durlach, who was known as “Der Tolle Markgraf” (“The Foolish Count”). He was a pleasure-loving man, font of women, except his own wife, Madalene Wilhelmine of Württemberg (1677-1742); they lived separately. Charles William was also font of gardening with a preference for tulips. Regularly, he travelled to Holland to study the cultivation of tulips. He kept at least 60 “Gartenmägdlein” (“Garden Girls”) for his pleasure1. They were dressed in hussar uniforms, and lived in the Bleiturme tower of his castle in the new city of Karlsruhe. When they made a mistake during their exercises, the Count liked to “punish” them
In September, 1727, Amalie arrived with her husband in Karlsruhe. Their marriage was reasonably happy, but Amalie suffered terribly from homesickness. She often remained awake at night, and was obstinate with a bad temper and fits of rage. Within a few months after her wedding, her mother wrote her admonishingly: “Über alles und gegen alle geratet Ihr in Wut, über mich ebenso wie über jeden, der sich Euch nähert; ohne jede Ordnung wollt Ihr leben, macht die Nacht zum Tage, steigert Eure Launen ins Grenzenlose”.
Her eldest son, Charles Frederick (1728-1811), was born when Amalie was 18. Her labour pains started in the afternoon of November 21. She suffered for hours, obstinately refusing the help of a male physician. Finally, the next day, her monther-in-law ordered the psysician to assist the Princess in her labour. Afterwards, Amalie covered her baby with caresses, and became even more obstinate and full of caprices. It was during her second pregnancy, that Amalie showed the first signs of mental confusion. In another hours-long labour, she gave birth to her second son on Januar 14, 1732.
Soon afterwards, her husband, Frederick (to the right), became seriously ill and delirious, and 22-year-old Amalie collapsed. Often she was excited and aggressive, boxing her ladies-in-waiting on the ear. At other times she could be completely lethargic
When the Count and his estranged wife visited the Princess, Amalie shouted abuses at them. In March, Charles William wrote her family about her fits of temper, and that they had tried everything to “snatch her from her state of confusion”, but without any success
On March 26, 1732, Frederick died of an affection of the lungs. When her ladies-in-waiting tried to inform Amalie of the death of her husband, she didn't react. They took her where he laid in state, but Amalie said she didn’t know the man. She had clearly descended into a state of mental derangement.
Amalie probably inherited her mental condition from her Hessian ancestors. Amalie's grandfather, Charles of Hesse-Kassel (1654-1730), was very suspicious, stubborn and hot-tempered. Near the end of his life he became deranged, too.
Amalie and her mother were both widowed at a very young age. Marie Louise was still pregnant and Amalie had just given birth to her second child. Marie Louise recovered from her melancholia, but Amalie remained mentally deranged for the rest of her life. The news of Amalie's deteriorated mental condition again triggered Marie Louise's melancholia. She secluded herself for days on end, and refused to receive visitors. Again she recovered, but from then on she became overly anxious for her only son's welfare.
Amalie was moved to the old castle of Durlach. William IV paid his sister a visit around 1735, when Amalie lay drinking coffee in a darkened room. She did recognise her brother, but remained totally apathetic. Surrounded by books of sermons and hymns, she asked him what religion he and his mother were, and, when he replied “protestant”, she screamed “so much the worse for you” and became violent. To her doctors, William suggested that she should be bled. He also visited his nephews. Little Charles Frederick
In 1736, Amalie was dangerously ill, but she pulled through and lived for another 41 years. If nobody crossed her, she was usually tranquil, spending her time scribbling little letters “which say nothing”, fastening them carefully together with pins.
Meanwhile, Amalie's mother-in-law, Madalene Wilhelmine, took care of Amalie's two little sons. The eldest, Charles Frederick, inherited Baden-Durlach in 1738 and Baden-Baden in 1770. He became Elector of Baden in 1803 and his reign was the longest in modern history. After his mother's death on September 18, 1777, he donated 2 silver cups from her dowry to the church of Karlsruhe in the memory of “unseren Hochseligen Frau Mutter Gnaden”.
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