A Dutch Queen’s Epistolary Smackdowns

Jenni Wiltz
8 min readSep 9, 2020


This 19th century drama queen knew everyone…and probably hated them

One of my favorite parts of history is reading old letters and diaries. Sometimes they make you feel closer to the person who wrote them. Sometimes they contain predictions for the future. And sometimes, they deliver devastating insults where the only possible reaction is to shout “BURN” like Ashton Kutcher’s character on That 70s Show.

Meet Sophie

A princess of Württemberg unhappily married to King Willem III of the Netherlands, Sophie hated both her husband and his mother.

She hated the Dutch language and the smell of Amsterdam’s canals. She hated Prussia’s arrogance and Bismarck’s…well, everything. She hated the greedy, lazy kids of the next generation.

When I read her published letters, I ended up with 10 single-spaced pages of notes on the sick burns she meted out to everyone in the firmament of European monarchies, from Queen Victoria to Emperor Franz Josef.

Sophie posing beside a chair, wearing a dark day dress with long sleeves and tiered skirt.
Sophie by an unknown photographer, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Living Her Dullest Life

But why was Sophie so grumpy?

For starters, she was smarter than most people around her, but not allowed to do anything about it. Back home in Württemberg, her father, King Wilhelm I, had treated her as a confidante — they talked politics, and she translated his official state papers.

But in Holland, thanks to long years of forced inactivity and marital discord, her soul atrophied. “The dullness of my life is not to be believed,” she wrote.¹

In another letter, she quoted Byron to encapsulate her life: “Byron speaks somewhere of the ‘leafless desert of the mind, the waste of feelings unemployed.’ It struck me as so true, so applicable to me…” ²

Sophie would have fared much better in our time, when she could make her own choices. Instead, she found herself subject to stifling royal etiquette and a husband she loathed.

‘Til Death Do Us Part



Jenni Wiltz

I write about fascinating royal women, their jewels, and quirky aspects of royal history no one else talks about. Find me at https://girlinthetiara.com.