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Friday, August 5, 2016
William of Orange and Art: Kindness Is Its own Reward
William the Silent of Orange married four times during his brief stay on this planet, His first wife died young. His second wife, Anna of Saxony, bore him several children, among them Maurice, who would take up the mantle of revolution at the tender age of seventeen on behalf of his father after William became, dubiously, the first head of state to be assassinated with a hand gun. From all accounts, Anna was an indifferent mother to her children, and not happy in the marriage. Concerned with protecting her wealth against William's financial needs in fighting the Spanish, in or about 1570, Anna employed a talented lawyer to help her manage her affairs, then had an affair with the man. He was married; so was she. Worse, she was married to the Prince of Orange and Statholder (governor) of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Such affairs were considered treasonous in those days and both participants, if caught, could justifiably be executed for treason. And they were caught.
But William was a different sort of leader for his times. A proponent of religious tolerance in the middle of the bitter feud between Protestant and Catholic, William decided on a less drastic course toward his wife. Rather than have the lovers killed, he imprisoned Anna with her child by the lawyer. The child was taken from her three years later. Largely because of written pleas from the lawyer's wife, Maria Pipelinckx, William released the lawyer back to his home in Siegen upon condition that the man never leave that town as long as Anna remained alive. William declared his marriage dissolved on the basis that Anna was insane, and remarried in 1575. Anna died in prison in 1577. The lawyer's wife accepted him back into her life, and together they had a son, also in 1577.
It is hard to be certain what was going on in the mind of William the Silent. Anna was a difficult wife who showed signs of mental instability and who seemed uninterested in both her children and her role as Princess of Orange. It is possible that he took the opportunity of her pregnancy while spending so much time with her legal and financial adviser to build a case against her for divorce or annulment on the basis of adultery while he himself was father of that child. It is more likely that Anna and the lawyer did have an affair, and she became pregnant, and that William held himself partially to blame for Anna's wandering. Great heroes are always flawed.
William did not recognize Anna's daughter from the affair as his own, nor offered financial support for the child. Christina von Dietz married well and went on to have a full and illustrious life of her own, reaching the age of 65.
The lawyer's name was Johannes, or Jan, Rubens. He and Maria named their new son Peter Paul. Peter Paul Rubens.
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..