Louise de Coligny (1555-1622)

The French Louise had only just given birth to her son and had hardly been married a year when her husband William the Silent was shot to death in Prinsenhof. With her talent for politics, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the House of Orange and the Republic of the Netherlands. Louise and her stepdaughters call each other Stateswomen in their letters for good reason.

Following the violent attack on William’s life, she remained alone, with her young son Frederick Henry. She took upon her caring for four of her six young stepdaughters (the children of Charlotte and William). Young Louise did not remarry, but dedicated the rest of her life to the interests of the children, her husband’s legacy and the republic.
Louise had a talent for politics. She was a vital link for the States General in its diplomatic relations with France. In 1598, Louise travelled to France with her son Frederick Henry, to attend the marriage of her stepdaughter Charlotte Brabantina, which she had arranged, and to meet with the French king.
Louise was clearly aware of her most important position. This is apparent in a letter to Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, written during this journey. She negotiated with the French king on behalf of the States General, understood how to remain loyal to all parties, but gave priority to the interests of her son – his future as Prince of Orange. She also subtly conveyed to Oldenbarnevelt the high costs she was incurring during the trip, all in the service of the Republic.

From Louise de Coligny’s letter to Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Orléans, 3 March 1598:
´For this reason His Majesty (the French King) has asked me explicitly to bring him as soon as possible after his sister’s wedding, and that he wishes, because the Lords of States have sent him, for him to stay in (his) vicinity for the duration of his stay in France. It does affect me to have to take him to Brittany. It is, however, with the assurance that he will look after him as if he was his own son, that he will never put him in danger and that he will not fail to teach him to ride. ´

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© Image: Michiel van Mierevelt, Portret van Louise de Coligny [portrait of Louise de Coligny], ca 1610-1640, oil on copper, Mauritshuis, The Hague