Epistolary Power: the Correspondence of the Dutch and Frisian Stadtholders’ Wives, 1605–1725



This corpus of letters focuses on the correspondences of six leading women of the Republic of the United Netherlands from the Orange and Stuart courts in The Hague: Amalia von Solms-Braunfels (1602–1675), Mary Stuart, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange (1631–1661), and Mary II Stuart, future Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1662–1694); and from their regional counterpart, the Frisian court in Leeuwarden: Sophia Hedwig von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1592–1642), Albertine Agnes van Oranje-Nassau (1634–1696), and Henriette Amalia von Anhalt Dessau (1666–1726).

Hitherto the significant collections of letters of these six princesses have been neither published nor digitized and here in EMLO users will find they are able to consult the calendars either individually or together in their entirety. As a result of the first-ever access to images of the manuscripts of many of these letters via the portal of the Royal Collections The Netherlands, and with the assistance of tools to visualize networks that have been made available by partners at both the Huygens ING and Oxford University’s Cultures of Knowledge project, these digital calendars make it possible to conduct fresh academic research on the influence of these women in the political, cultural, and social spheres and processes both within and beyond the Republic of the United Netherlands.

Launch all correspondence of the Stadtholders’ Wives

Partners and Additional Contributors

The metadata for this collection of letters in EMLO was provided by the Huygens ING under the direction of researcher Dr Ineke Huysman. Huygens ING has digitized the documents in cooperation with the Royal Collections The Netherlands in The Hague, where most of the original letters are conserved. A smaller number of letters may be found in the care of the National Library of the Netherlands [Koninklijke Bibliotheek] and Landeshauptarchiv Dessau.

These correspondence catalogues have been prepared for publication as a part of a collaboration with EMLO and Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO].




At present these six catalogues in EMLO contain metadata for nearly 4,000 letters, most of which are conserved in the Royal Collections at The Hague, with smaller portions at the National Library in The Hague and Landeshauptarchiv Dessau. The letters were written in English, French, German, Latin, or Dutch and they date between 1605 and 1726. Almost all of the letter records in EMLO provide links to digitized copies of the scanned letters, marked as ‘manuscript image’, and links to the digitized editions of Archives ou correspondance inédite de la maison d’Orange-Nassau (ed. G. Groen van Prinsterer); Correspondentie van Willem III en van Hans Willem Bentinck (ed. N. Japikse); Briefwisseling van Anthonie Heinsius 1702–1720 (ed. A.J. Veenendaal jr.); and Lettres et Mémoires de Marie Reine d’Angleterre, Épouse de Guillaume III (ed. M. Bentinck) have been added as well. In the near future further letters from a number of other archives, such as Tresoar in Leeuwarden, will supplement these catalogues, and metadata for the correspondences of the wives of the 16th- and the 18th-century stadtholders will be prepared for publication.


Letter from Amalia von Solms-Braunfels to Constantijn Huygens, 21 October 1632. (Royal Collections, Archief Constantijn Huygens, G1-15; reproduced with kind permission from the Royal Collections The Netherlands)


Scope of Catalogue

In this combined catalogue, which draws together the separate correspondences of the six seventeenth-century stadtholders’ wives, 3,950 letters in total may be consulted at present and researched as an integral corpus, whilst individual catalogues may be consulted separately:

Henriette Amalia von Anhalt-Dessau, wife of Hendrik Casimir II van Nassau-Dietz [1,352 letters]
Sophia Hedwig von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, wife of Ernst Casimir van Nassau-Dietz [169 letters]
Albertine Agnes van Oranje-Nassau, wife of Willem Frederik van Nassau-Dietz [782 letters]
Amalia von Solms-Braunfels, wife of Frederik Hendrik van Oranje-Nassau [1,177 letters]
Mary Stuart (Princess Royal and Princess of Orange), wife of Willem II van Oranje-Nassau [352 letters]
Mary II Stuart (Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland), wife of Willem III van Oranje-Nassau [119 letters]


Further resources

Selected Bibliography

Nadine Akkerman, Courtly Rivals in The Hague. Elizabeth Stuart and Amalia von Solms (Venlo, 2014).

Nadine Akkerman and Birgit Houben, eds, The Politics of Female Households: Early Modern Ladies in Waiting Across Europe, Rulers & Elites, vol. 4 (Leiden, 2013).

Frans Blom, Els Kloek, and Ad Leerintveld, eds, ‘Vrouwen rondom Huygens’, De Zeventiende Eeuw, 25, 2 (Hilversum, 2009).

James Daybell, The Material Letter in Early Modern England: Manuscript Letters and the Culture and Practices of Letter Writing, 1512–1635 (London, 2012).

James Daybell and Andrew Gordon, Women and Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture 1450–1690 (Abingdon, 2016).

James Daybell and Andrew Gordon, eds, Cultures of Correspondence in Early Modern Britain (Philadelphia, 2016).

Margaret J. M. Ezell, ‘Domestic Papers: Manuscript Culture and Early Modern Women’s Life Writing’, in Michelle M. Dowd and Julie A. Eckerle, eds, Gender and Women’s Life Writing in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2007), pp. 33–48.

J. N. Fernhout, Eindelijk weer samen. Inventaris van de archieven van stadhouder Willem II en Amalia van Solms en enige verwanten (The Hague, 2012).

Cissie Fairchilds, Women in Early Modern Europe, 1500–1700 (Harlow, 2007).

Ann Hughes and Julie Sanders, ‘Gender, Exile and The Hague Courts of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and Mary, Princess of Orange in the 1650s’ in Philip Mansel and Torsten Riotte, eds, The Politics of Legitimacy from Marie de Médicis to Wilhelm II (Basingstoke, 2011), pp. 4465.

Huygens, Constantijn, Briefwisseling van Constantijn Huygens 1607-1687digital correspondence database (The Hague, Huygens ING).

Ineke Huysman and Ad Leerintveld, ‘New perspectives of the digitized correspondence of Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687)’, Dutch Crossing, 38, 3 (2014), pp. 244–58.

Marika Keblusek and Jori Zijlman, eds, Princely Display: The Court of Frederik Hendrik of Orange and Amalia van Solms in The Hague (Zwolle and Den Haag, 1997; translation of Vorstelijk Vertoon, 1997).

Els Kloek, ed., 1001 vrouwen uit de Nederlandse Geschiedenis (Nijmegen, 2013).

Els Kloek, ‘”Een nieuw studieveld”: Vrouwengeschiedenis, interdisciplinariteit en de Nederlandse zeventiende eeuw’, De Zeventiende Eeuw, 14 (1998), pp. 218–27.

S. Mendelson and P. Crawford, Women in Early Modern England, 1550–1720 (Oxford, 1998).

A. P. van Nienes and M. Bruggeman, Archieven van de Friese stadhouders (Hilversum, The Hague, and Leeuwarden, 2002).

Helen Ostavich and Elizabeth Sauer, eds, Reading Early Modern Women (New York and London, 2004).

Judith Pollmann and Robert Stein, eds, Networks, Regions and Nations: Shaping Identities in the Low Countries, 1300–1650 (Leiden, 2010).

Daniel Starza Smith, ‘The Material Features of Early Modern Letters: A Reader’s Guide’, Bess of Hardwick’s Letters (Glasgow, 2013, accessed 25 August 2016).


For biographical information regarding each individual stadtholder’s wife, please see the references on the separate catalogue pages listed above.

For a more extensive bibliography of female rulers and informal power, see Akkerman and Houben, eds, op. cit. above, pp. 371–98.


Additional resources

Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO] project page

WEMLO network and resources hub

The Wives of the Stadtholders: an exhibition (September 2016).

Epistolary Power: the Correspondence of the Dutch and Frisian Stadtholders’ Wives, 1605–1725 was last modified: September 15th, 2021 by Miranda Lewis