24 August 1561

Willem of Orange marries duchess Anna of Saxony.

Anna of Saxony 23 December 1544 – 18 December 1577 was the heiress of Maurice, Elector of Saxony, and Agnes, eldest daughter of Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse. Maurice’s only son, Albert, died in infancy. Anna was the second wife of William the Silent.

Anna was born and died in Dresden. Her wealth drew many suitors; before the proposal of Orange in 1560, there were negotiations with the Swedish royal house. She accepted the suit of William I of Orange, and they were married on 25 August 1561

On 2 June 1561 the marriage contract was signed in Torgau. Anna’s dowry would be the large sum of 100,000 thalers. The wedding took place on 24 August 1561 in Leipzig. On 1 September 1561 William of Orange, along with his young wife, relocated to the Netherlands.

Just a few months after the wedding, in 1562 difficulties arose between her and her husband. Anna received letters from her uncle meant for William stating he should work more towards pleasing her. Both tried to end the rumours that they had an unhappy marriage. By 1565, it was well known in all the courts of Germany and the Netherlands that the marriage was an unhappy one. Her uncle August tried to save face by making claims that disputes arose due to his brother Louis antagonizing William. In 1566 William finally complained about the “contentious” nature of his wife to her Saxon uncle August and her Hessian uncle Landgrave Wilhelm IV of Hesse-Kassel 1532–1592.

After the death of her first son Moritz in 1566, Anna fell to severe depression and suicidal thoughts for the first time. She also tried to drown her grief with excessive alcohol consumption.

In 1567 William had to flee due to his opposition to the Habsburg Netherlands, and went with his wife to Dillenburg, the German headquarters of the family. On 14 November 1567 she bore a son and named him Moritz again. At the baptism of 11–19 January 1568 a message arrived for William in Burgundy stating that on 20 December 1567 all his Dutch lands and possessions had been confiscated.

When Wilhelm on 15 August 1568 went back to Brabant to continue his war against the Spaniards, Anna decided on 20 October 1568 although pregnant again, to leave Dillenburg with her court (probably 43 people), to escape the antipathies of his mother and to create a new home in Cologne. Their two children, Anna and Moritz, had been taken by her mother-in-law to Braunfels due to the risk of disease. The next year, after a fierce battle with William’s mother, she was able to bring her children back to him. Her daughter Emilia was born on 10 April 1569 in Cologne.

On 4 March 1569 Anna met her husband in Mannheim. William’s campaign against the Duke of Alva had failed, and King Philip II of Spain had forced him out. After this, he left Germany and went to support the Huguenots in France in their faith struggles. Since William could no longer provide for the family, Anna looked to other means of support. She considered either persuading the Duke of Alba returning their confiscated goods, or demanding payment from Wilhelm as specified in the contract of 12,000 guilders or the castles of Diez or Hadamar. This would have meant a severe financial burden to be borne for Nassau. Anna became a substantial risk to the family.

To enforce their claims, they purchased the services of the successful lawyer Jan Rubens in the end of January 1569, the father of the painter Peter Paul Rubens, who had left Antwerp because of his Calvinist faith in 1568, and found refuge in Cologne. The case was begun in January 1570 at the Royal Brussels to take fiscal action for their confiscated goods in the Netherlands.