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Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg

Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Holy Roman Empress
Queen of Bohemia
Tenure 5 May 1705 – 17 April 1711
Queen of the Germans
Queen of Hungary
Tenure 24 February 1699 – 17 April 1711
Spouse Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor
Issue Maria Josepha, Queen of Poland
Archduke Leopold Joseph
Maria Amalia, Holy Roman Empress
House House of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Father John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Mother Benedicta Henrietta of the Palatinate
Born 21 April 1673
Hanover, Germany
Died 10 April 1742
Vienna, Austria
Burial Salesian convent, Vienna
Religion Roman Catholicism

Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg (21 April 1673 – 10 April 1742) was Holy Roman Empress, Queen of the Germans, Queen of Hungary, Queen of Bohemia, Archduchess consort of Austria etc.[1] as the spouse of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor.


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage 2
  • Empress 3
    • Empress Dowager 3.1
  • Ancestry 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Wilhelmine Amalia was the youngest daughter of John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and Benedicta Henrietta of the Palatinate. Her two surviving sisters were Charlotte Felicitas, who married the Duke of Modena, and Henriette Marie, who never married. Wilhelmina was given a Catholic education by her great-aunt Louise Holladine at the convent of Maubuisson, and did not return to Hanover until she was 20 years old, in 1693.

Early on, the Holy Roman Empress Eleonor Magdalene of the Palatinate-Neuburg decided that Wilhelmina Amalia would be her daughter-in-law. Prince Salm was instrumental in speaking for her candidacy. The adviser of Eleonor, Marco d'Aviano, had convinced her that Wilhelmine Amalia, being pious and older than Joseph, could act as a tempering influence and discontinue his sex life outside of marriage, and to Leopold, he claimed that he had a vision that the pair would be happy. She was subjected to medical examination to establish if she was fertile, and though she was senior to Joseph, which was initially to her disadvantage, it was decided that her mental maturity would benefit fertilization.


As a result, on 24 February 1699, she married Eleonor's son, Archduke Joseph, the heir of Emperor Leopold I. At their wedding, the opera Hercule and Hebe by Reinhard Keiser (1674–1739) was performed. Upon Joseph's election as Emperor in 1705, she became Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.

She had three children:

Wilhelmina Amalia


Wilhelmina Amalia was described as beautiful but also as religious and serious. Her relationship with her husband was initially described as happy, but it soon deteriorated. Joseph had a long line of mistresses, both servants and nobles, such as Dorothea Daun. His hunting companion count Johann Philip von Lamberg provided him with lovers, and he eventually had a long term relationship with Marianne Pálffy, who became his official mistress. This was a scandal, as official mistresses had not been a custom at the Austrian court, and both Wilhelmine Amalia and the pope protested.[2] Her mother-in-law supported her, scolding Joseph and placed his procurers in prison, but after he became emperor, nothing could be done. He had several illegitimate children, but no surviving male heir with his spouse. In 1704, Joseph contracted syphilis, reportedly from the daughter of a gardener, and passed the disease to his wife.[3] Because of the prudishness of the Austrian court, she initially did not know what had happened to her and blamed herself for the infection.[4] It has been suggested that this condition was the reason for the failure of the Empress to produce more children after the birth of her second daughter. Without male heirs, a crisis developed in regards to the imperial succession.

As empress, Wilhelmine Amalia as well as her successor were described as accomplished in music, discretion, modesty and diligence, and was regarded to fulfill her representational role as empress well both within the Spanish court protocol of hunting and balls and amateur theater as well as the religious devotion days of pietas austriaca. Joseph did not allow her any political influence what so ever and kept her outside of state affairs as he did his mother and mistress Marianne Pàlffy, but she was described as intelligent and self-sufficient and she established political connections among the ministers, especially her relative Prince Salm, whom she generally supported even when he promoted the interests of the Holy German Empire against Austria.[5] She is described as an active participator in dynastic intrigue, and assisted in the marriage between her cousin and brother-in-law.[6] She worked closely with the Hanoverian envoy to benefit interests of her family the Guelphs.

Empress Dowager

Wilhelmine Amalia HRE

In 1711, Wilhelmina Amalia was widowed, and her mother-in-law became the interim regent until her brother-in-law, the Archduke Charles, could return from Spain where he was the Austrian nominee for the Spanish throne during the War of the Spanish Succession. At the death of her spouse, the stress caused the syphilis of Wilhelmine Amalia to return in full force after several years remission.[7]

When Charles returned, he was proclaimed as the new Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI. His inability to produce male heirs irked Charles VI and eventually led to the promulgation of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, a document which abolished male-only succession and declared his lands indivisible. The new Emperor favoured his own daughters over those of Joseph I and Wilhelmina Amalia, in the succession, ignoring a decree he had signed during the reign of his father, Leopold I. She as well as her mother-in-law was active in fighting for their daughter's right to the throne. By the secret pactum mutuae successionis of 1703, Leopold had made an agreement with his sons that the daughters of Joseph would be first in the line of succession, followed by those of Charles and Leopold, and though none of the empresses knew of the existence of the document, there had been talk of it, and Joseph had hinted about it to Wilhelmine Amalia. Baron Seilern apparently showed Wilhelmine Amalia the document before it was presented to the head of her family, the elector of Hanover.[8] In 1712, the elector sent her Liebnitz to assist her in defending her daughters rights against Charles, and on 21 April 1713, Charles IV presented the Pragmatic Sanction in which he adjusted himself to the memorandum of Wilhelmine Amalia from the document of pactum mutuae successionis, after which she celebrated with a dinner for the empresses and archduchesses at the table of empress dowager Eleanore, were she was congratulated on her success and answered that she hoped the emperor would have a son.[9] In 1715, however, her supporter Seilern died, and in 1717, Charles VI changed the terms of the Pragmatic Sanction to favor his daughters over hers. She did not approve, but did not openly protest.[10]

In 1722, after her daughters were married, Wilhelmina Amalia retired a convent that she had founded earlier in 1717, the Salesianerinnenkloster auf dem Rennwege in Vienna. The convent did not mean a retreat from social life, as she was in fact very active as a dowager, regularly leaving the convent for family visits as well as representational visits. It was as an Empress dowager that she had her greatest impact upon cultural life in Vienna. Her medical prescriptions in her care for the sick was recommended, and she founded a boarding school as well as one of Vienna's first orphanages for girls. She admired Francois de Sales and Jeanne Francoise Fremont de Chantal, and helped promote her canonization. She was also a patron of the Catholic reformer Lodovico Antonio Muratori.[11]

Wilhelmine Amalia went along very well with her mother-in-law Eleonore and her sister-in-law Elisabeth Christine as well as with the archduchesses, and the three empresses were described as supportive toward each other: Wilhelmine Amalia nursed Elisabeth Christine when she had the small pocks, and Elisabeth Christine nursed Eleanor during her last illness.

In 1740, Charles VI died. During the War of the Austrian Succession, Wilhelmina Amalia initially supported her son-in-law, Charles Albert, Elector of Bavaria, in his pursuit of the imperial crown, but soon retired again to private life. In June 1741, empress Maria Theresa visited her and asked her to act as a mediator between herself and her son-in-law the Bavarian elector, but she refused.[12]

Wilhelmina Amalia outlived her spouse by more than 30 years, dying on 10 April 1742. She is buried in the Salesian convent in Vienna. Her heart is buried in the Imperial Crypt.



  1. ^
  2. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  3. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  4. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  5. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  6. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  7. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  8. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  9. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  10. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  11. ^ Clarissa Campbell Orr: Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press (2004)
  12. ^ Crankshaw, Edward: Maria Theresa. Longmans. London (1969)
This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Deutsch WorldHeritage.

External links

Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Born: 21 April 1673 Died: 10 April 1742
German royalty
Preceded by
Eleonore-Magdalena of Neuburg
Holy Roman Empress
Succeeded by
Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick
German Queen
Queen consort of Bohemia
Queen consort of Hungary
Archduchess consort of Austria
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