Princessehof van Maria Louise

Princessehof van Maria Louise

Marie Louise, Princess of Orange-Nassau

Ancestor of the Dutch Royal Family

The city palace in the historic city centre owes its name to the ancestor of our current royal family: Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel, Princess of Orange-Nassau. An intimate exhibition draws back the curtain on her eventful life. Portraits, prints, drawings and an Orange family tree show that Marie Louise was crucial to preserving the Orange Dynasty. The exhibition will become a permanent feature at the museum. This, in combination with the renewed Escher exhibition, will highlight the Princessehof’s fascinating history.

The visitor is introduced to Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel, Princess of Orange-Nassau, on the ground floor of the city palace, where she lived from 1731 until her death in 1765. A room in the museum has been decorated with portraits of Marie Louise and her family, along with objects and prints that also illustrate the influential period of the Frisian Nassaus. Marie Louise, from an important noble German family, was 21 years old when she married John William Friso of Nassau-Dietz, stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen. From 1702 he also held the title of Prince of Orange. Marie Louise had an eventful life. Her husband died unexpectedly when she was only 23, heavily pregnant and already the mother of a toddler daughter. For twenty years she assumed his duties as regent, until her son reached majority. In this manner, the continuity of the Orange Dynasty was secured.

Johann Valentin Tischbein, Portret van Willem Carel Hendrik Friso, 1751, olieverf op doek, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden; Collectie H
Johann Valentin Tischbein, Portret  van Anna van Hannover, 1751,  olieverf op doek, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden; Collectie Het Koni

Most powerful woman in the Netherlands
In 1747, her son William IV’s authority increased significantly when he was named stadtholder of the entire Republic. When he died after a brief illness, followed by his wife a few years later, their son and heir to the throne was still a minor. The now elderly Marie Louise once again acted as regent, this time for her underage grandson and for the entire Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Under her guidance the influence of the Frisian Nassaus grew. The family tree in the exhibition shows that King Willem-Alexander, Prince of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange-Nassau, is directly descended from her.

stamboom ontwerp Michael Snitker

City palace
In between her two regencies, Marie Louise bought several adjacent buildings in the Grote Kerkstraat in Leeuwarden. She asked the famous French architect Anthony Coulon (1682-1749) to merge them together. In this way the Princessehof was created, complete with an eighteenth-century period room, furnished as Marie Louise's dining room, which can still be seen today.

The Princessehof now houses the National Museum of Ceramics. In addition to the temporary exhibitions, two new permanent exhibitions will be on display from 20 June. These are a tribute to the city palace’s most famous residents: Marie Louise and Maurits Cornelis Escher. M.C. Escher was born in 1898 in the Princessehof in Leeuwarden. The texts are available in Dutch, English and German.
Besides the new exhibition about the Princess of Orange-Nassau and the renewed presentation about M.C. Escher, the tea salon has also undergone a botanical makeover. The entrance to the museum, adjacent to the palace garden, now looks more like an orangery from the time of Marie Louise. With its innovations and new exhibitions, the Princessehof is a must-see attraction in the historic centre of Leeuwarden.

The exhibition is made possible in part thanks to support from the Municipality of Leeuwarden, Wassenbergh-Clarijs-Fontein Foundation, Old Burger Weeshuis, Meindersma Sybenga Foundation, Herbert Duintjer Foundation, Het Nieuwe Stads Weeshuis Foundation, Boersma-Adema Foundation, Ritske Boelema Gasthuis Foundation, Boelstra Olivier Foundation, Siebolt Foundation, Club Céramique, Society of Friends of the Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics.

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