Epistolary Power: the Correspondence of the wives of William of Orange, 1552–1617, and of the wives of the Dutch and Frisian Stadtholders, 1605–1725


This corpus of letters focussed initially 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). In September 2021, the collection was extended to include the correspondences of the sixteenth-century ruler William of Orange (1533–1584): Anna van Egmond (1533–1558), Anna von Sachsen (1544–1577), Charlotte de Bourbon (1546/7–1582), and Louise de Coligny (1555–1620).

The significant collections of letters of these princesses have been neither published nor digitized before, 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 correspondence of the wives of William of OrangeLaunch correspondence of the seventeenth-century Stadtholders’ Wives
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 ten catalogues in EMLO contain metadata for 4,259 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 1552 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 digitized editions of—for example—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 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 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 four wives of William the Silent and of the six seventeenth-century stadtholders’ wives, 4,259 letters in total may be consulted at present and researched as an integral corpus, whilst individual catalogues may be consulted separately:

Anna van Egmond, first wife of William of Orange [46 letters]
Anna von Sachsen, second wife of William of Orange [185 letters]
Charlotte de Bourbon, third wife of William of Orange [26 letters]
Louise de Coligny, fourth wife of William of Orange [43 letters]

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 [1,184 letters]
Mary Stuart (Princess Royal and Princess of Orange), wife of Willem II van Oranje-Nassau [353 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 and detailed bibliographic 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 wives of William of Orange, 1552–1617, and of the wives of the Dutch and Frisian Stadtholders, 1605–1725 was last modified: September 30th, 2021 by Miranda Lewis