Friday, May 18, 2012
Consort Profile: Princess Royal Mary Henrietta of England
Britain was no safe place for a young princess either. There had been the Bishop’s War with Scotland, a rebellion in Ireland and by 1642 civil war was raging in England. That being the case, the little Princess Royal, accompanied by her mother Queen Henrietta Maria, traveled to The Netherlands to take up residence with her new family. By 1644 Princess Mary Henrietta was becoming a major social figure in the Dutch Republic as the daughter-in-law of the Stadtholder. Although Prince Fredrik Hendrik held things together well, the Dutch were going through some of the same problems as the British, with an Orange faction favoring a greater role for the Princes in a more stable system and an anti-Orange faction which opposed this, knowing that such changes would ultimately lead to a monarchy. On March 14, 1647 Prince Fredrik Hendrik died and his son succeeded him as Prince Willem II of Orange, Stadtholder of The Netherlands and things came to a head. Prince Willem II was sincerely convinced that electoral formalities were hindering his country which was practically a monarchy already but which lacked the stability of a formally established royal system. He was determined to see all that changed and probably looked to becoming the first King of The Netherlands.
Anti-English sentiment in The Netherlands was heightened by the First Anglo-Dutch War between the United Provinces and the “Commonwealth of England” under Oliver Cromwell. Despite their squabbling in The Netherlands, the English Parliamentarians viewed the Dutch as enemies they wished to take revenge on due to the support (moral and monetary) that Prince Fredrik Hendrik had given the late King Charles I. In fact, he had even considered direct military intervention with his powerful, highly-skilled army. Cromwell wasted no time in striking back, despite the overtures of friendship from the Dutch republicans who even hinted that they might wish to join his Commonwealth in return for his support against the Orange party. Despite some remarkable successes, the result was eventually a defeat for The Netherlands but not such a defeat that they were unable to reject most of the English terms. They refused to join the English Commonwealth and refused to ally with Cromwell for a war of conquest against Spanish America. They did agree, since they wished it as much as Cromwell, to prevent the young Willem III from ever becoming Stadtholder. This was the hostile environment the Dowager Princess of Orange found herself in with enemies to her father and brothers in control in England and enemies of her late husband and son in control in Holland.