Royal Marriages in the ‘Grote Kerk’

The Hague’s Grote (or St. Jacobs) Kerk (Great or St. James’ Church) is at times host to quite lively events, such as the Beer Tasting Festival and the International Whiskey Festival. But the church is also the venue for more solemn events: the blessing of princely and royal marriages.

Princess Carolina

On 5 March 1760, Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau married Karel Christiaan van Nassau Weilburg in the Grote Kerk. Carolina was the daughter of Stadholder William IV and sister of the later Willem V. In her time, the position of stadholder was hereditary in the female, as well as male, line. Because her brother was very young and the infant/child mortality rate high in those years, there was a real chance that she would succeed her father. She was Reformed, but her future husband was Lutheran, and the States General thought this was a reason not to approve the marriage. Yet Carolina and Karel got married and the marriage proved to be very fruitful. She had 15 pregnancies, although only 6 of her children reached adulthood. Various royal families in Europe are descended from these children

Huwelijk Carolina en Karel in de Grote Kerk
Marriag Carolina and Karel - Design Tethart Philipp Christian (1737-1812) - Royal Coll.

Princess Louise

A generation later, on October 14, 1790, we see the marriage of Princess Louise of Oranje-Nassau to Karel van Brunswijk-Wolffenbüttel. This son of a duke was in poor health and mentally retarded.

Frederica Louise Wilhelmina (1770-1819) - Bolomey ca. 1790 - Coll. HGA

But his father had helped keep Louise’s father, Stadholder William V, in power. And that act deserved a reward, even if the real sacrifice had to be made by the daughter. The marriage remained childless.

Karel - echtgenoot van Louise
Karel - echtgenoot van Louise - Bolomey ca. 1790 - Coll. HGA

After this we enter a long period without marriages of members of the Orange-Nassau family in the Grote Kerk . Kings Willem I, II and III “went to get” their brides: they married in the countries of their wives.

Queen Wilhelmina

The first royal wedding in the Grote Kerk took place in 1901. On the 7th of February Queen Wilhelmina married Duke Hendrik von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. On this day it was freezing, but the sun was shining, so it didn’t feel cold.

Huwelijk Wilhelmina en Hendrik in de Grote Kerk
Marriage Wilhelmina en Hendrik 1901 - Eerelman, Otto (1839-1926) - Royal Coll

7 February also marked the first appearance of the Golden Carriage in a royal wedding. Wilhelmina had received this carriage as a gift for her inauguration (1890) from the city of Amsterdam, but she only began to use it in 1901, on Prinsjesdag (that year on 15 September).

Princess Juliana

The blessing of the marriage of Princess Juliana to Prince Bernhard van Lippe-Biesterfeld took place in the Grote Kerk on January 7, 1937. Footage of this event. 

Huwelijk Juliana en Bernhard in de Grote Kerk
Marriage Juliana en Bernhard - Het geheugen van Nederland - Wiel van der Randen

The couple naturally received many congratulations in the mail.  Among them was a photo taken by Miss Brouwer from class 1 of the Bethel School in Rotterdam. The photo shows two of her pupils dressed as the royal wedding couple. You might notice the framed original wedding photo hanging on the wall. It is not known whether Miss Brouwer took the photo herself.

Royal Collections

Princess Margriet – Prince Constantijn

More recent was the marriage of Princess Margriet (the sister of Queen Beatrix). She married Pieter van Vollenhoven on January 10, 1967. She was the first member of Dutch Royal Family to marry a citizen.

The marriage of Prince Constantijn (the current King’s brother) to Laurentien Brinkhorst was consecrated on 19 May 2001 in the Grote or St. Jacobskerk.

The next generation of the Oranje-Nassau family is not yet of marrying age, so it will be some while before the family might once again choose the Grote Kerk in The Hague to be the venue for a royal wedding.

Do you want to know more about royal events? Invite family or friends to take part in the Orange Walk.

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