On Saturday 20 June, a new exhibition opens in the Princessehof in Leeuwarden: The Princessehof of Maria Louise. The city palace in the historic city centre owes its name to the ancestress of our current royal family: Maria Louise of Hesse-Kassel, princess of Orange-Nassau. An intimate exhibition that gives an inside view of her eventful life. Through portraits, prints, drawings and an Orange family tree, it becomes clear that Maria Louise has been crucial in preserving the Orange Dynasty. The exhibition will become a permanent part of the museum. This, in combination with the updated Escher exhibition, will highlight the fascinating history of the Princessehof.
On the ground floor of the city palace where the princess lived from 1731 until her death in 1765, museum visitors are introduced to Maria Louise of Hesse-Kassel, princess of Orange-Nassau. A new room displays portraits of Maria Louise and her family, as well as objects and prints that illustrate the influence of the Frisian Nassau family during this period. Maria Louise, who was born into an important noble German family, was 21 years old when she married Johan Willem Friso van Nassau-Dietz, stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen. Since 1702 he also held the title Prince of Orange. She led 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 took over his stadtholder duties as regent, until her son reached adulthood. The continuity of the Orange Dynasty was thus guaranteed.
Most powerful woman in the Netherlands.
In 1747, the power of her son William IV increased significantly when he became 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. At an advanced age Maria Louise served as regent again, this time for her underage grandson and for the entire Republic of the Seven United Provinces. 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.
In between her two regencies, Marie Louise bought several adjacent houses in the Grote Kerkstraat in Leeuwarden. She asked the famous French architect Anthony Coulon (1682-1749) to connect the houses. This is how the Princessehof was created. An eighteenth-century period room, Marie Louise’s dining room, can still be admired in the building 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 most famous residents of the city palace: Marie Louise and Maurits Cornelis Escher. M.C. Escher was born in 1898 in the Princessehof in Leeuwarden. All information in the museum is displayed in Dutch, English and German. In addition to the new exhibition about the Princess of Orange-Nassau and the updated exhibition on M.C. Escher, the tea room has been given a botanical makeover. The entrance to the museum, adjacent to the palace garden, now looks more like an orangery from the time of Maria Louise. With its renovations and new exhibitions, the Princessehof is a must-see attraction in the historic city centre of Leeuwarden.