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Anna van Egmont

Anna van Egmont

First wife of William the Silent
Anna van Egmont
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro First wife of William the Silent
A.K.A. Anna van Egmont (1533-1558), Anna van Buren
Was Politician
From Netherlands
Type Politics
Gender female
Birth 1533, Grave, Netherlands
Death 24 March 1558, Breda, Netherlands (aged 25 years)
Mother: Françoise de Lannoy
Father: Maximiliaan van Egmond
Spouse: William the Silent
Children: Philip William, Prince of OrangeCountess Maria of Nassau (1556–1616) Marie d’Orange-Nassau
The details


Anna van Egmont (March 1533 – 24 March 1558) , better know as Anna van Buren, was a Dutch heiress who became the first wife of William the Silent, Prince of Orange.


Anna was born in Grave(?), Netherlands in March 1553. She was the only child of Maximiliaan van Egmond(1509-1548) and Françoise de Lannoy(1513-1562).
Therefore, she was suo jure Countess of Buren and Lady of Egmond. She was also Countess of Lingen and of Leerdam, and Lady of IJsselstein, of Borssele, of Grave, of Cranendonck, of Jaarsveld, of Kortgene, of Sint Maartensdijk, and of Odijk.

Her mother and father were of high nobility. Maximilian's main activities were that of Charles V's army commander, first in an argument with Gelre, later in a campaign in the German areas against the League of Schmalkalden. He also played a role as a director, both as captain general and stadholder of Friesland, Groningen and Overijssel, and in his extensive possessions around Buren and in Zeeland. He was often at the Brussels court of Charles V and especially of Mary of Hungary, his sister and governor of the Netherlands. Anna and her mother usually stayed at the family castle in Buren. Given his high position, father Maximilian was on good terms with Charles V (1500-1558), then emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, king of Spain and landlord of the Habsburg Netherlands and his sister, Mary of Hungary (1505-1558), governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. Anna grew up in a noble entourage, the center of which was the court of the governor in Brussels. The spoken language was French, the language that Anna learned in addition to Dutch and in which she would later correspond with William of Orange, better known later as William the silent. Whether and how she was prepared for the administration of the vast estates and wonderful rights belonging to the County of Buren is unknown. Her father died quite unexpectedly at the court in Brussels in 1548, reportedly dressed in full armor and surrounded by his confidants, but in the absence of his wife and daughter. On his deathbed, Maximilian arranged the marriage of William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, one of the most prominent young noblemen of the time and of the same age as his daughter. Anna succeeded Maximilian as Countess van Buren. She was only fifteen years old and one of the most desirable partners in the marriage market. Charles V and Mary of Hungary supported the commitment.

On July 8, 1551 she married William the Silent in Buren, and thereby he earned the titles Lord of Egmond and Count of Buren.
The couple settled in the family castle in Breda, but Anna was often alone there with the three children she had there.

Anna van Egmont had three children with William the Silent:

  • Countess Maria of Nassau (22 November 1553 – after 23 July 1555), named after Mary of Hungary (1505-1558), governor of the Habsburg Netherlands, died in infancy.
  • Philip William, Prince of Orange (19 December 1554 – 20 February 1618), named after the lord and Willems father, married Eleonora of Bourbon-Condé, but did not have children.

Willem was often at the court, but also at the front in Hainaut and Artois, as commander of the army in the wars with France.
Forty seven letters have been handed down from Willem to Anna. Her letters to him have been lost. The letters mainly breathe an atmosphere of domesticity and also affection. Several times Willem expresses his appreciation for the way in which Anna handles his affairs during his absence. Willem wrote most letters to Anna when he was in an army camp.
Anna rarely followed her husband on a journey. Only when he was summoned in 1555 to receive Philip II as new sovereign, did Willem ask Anna if she would also come to Brussels.

We only have indirect data about the life of Anna van Egmond. However, as countess van Buren and especially as princess of Orange, she must have played a leading role alongside her husband in the world of the high nobility of the Dutch regions. Of the four women William of Orange has had, she is the least known. There are various reasons for this. She lived when William was still in the service of the landlord and the conflict had not escalated yet, she was only 25 years old, and her children would later play a role of minor importance, not least because Philip Willem was taken to Spain as a hostage and was given up.

At the beginning of 1558 Anna was supposed to go to Dillenburg with Willem, but because of her illness the trip was canceled. She died of the disease in March of that year.
She was regretted by Willem, who also fell ill shortly after her death. He received condolences from many dignitaries, including Philip II, who sent a messenger to comfort him. At that time there was no question of removal between the Orange and the lord. Anna van Egmond was interred in a chapel of the Grote Kerk in Breda.
Her son Philip Willem inherited the county of Buren. He later left it to his half-brother Maurits, making it part of the heritage of the Oranje-Nassaus.

A newly discovered portrait of Anna van Egmont?

A portrait of a young woman, exhibited for the first time in 2017 in Brugge, and then at the museum of Gouda in 2018, might be the portrait of Anna van Egmont.

Shortly after the opening of the exhibition in the Gouda Museum, Marc Couwenberg published a detailed article which draws attention on many similarities between this portrait and the portrait of Anna van Egmont belonging to the Royal collection in The Hague:

"Anna versus the Mona Lisa from Pourbus
Anna and the unknown woman are dressed in the latest Spanish fashion including the millstone collar. Their jewels are also similar. But where the unknown woman mainly shines silver, Anna van Egmont wears gold. Her necklace is also much larger. Anna was very wealthy. After her early death, when she was only 25 years old, William of Orange inherited a large part of it. We don't know if Anna has ever been to Bruges. Before her marriage, she lived with her mother, Françoise de Lannoy, at the castle of Buren. After her marriage, she usually stayed in the castle of Breda. But a trip to Bruges where Pieter Pourbus painted was certainly one of the possibilities.

The same haircut and the same color of hair
The two women look alike due to their clothing and hairstyle with a similar headdress, an escoffion. At most, the face of the unknown woman is fuller. Anna seems a bit leaner. The two women both have dark eyes and the same brown hair. The difference is in their appearance. The unknown young woman received that somewhat mysterious appearance from Pourbus. Anna, on the other hand, looks a little less alive. Her face is painted flatter. She shows herself to be a beautiful, rich woman. But her face does have something sweet. In his letters to her, William of Orange often called her Tanneke. The unknown woman painted by Pourbus radiates more distinction in that respect. As if she were higher.

Comparison between the two portraits

One and the same painter's hand?
In terms of painting, there are also similarities and differences. Pourbus' portrait looks more refined. Especially in the face, Pourbus' hand seems more precise and subtle. Watch the eyes. They are painted very lively. And realistic! Including the red corner against the nose where the lacrimal gland comes out. That detail is missing in Anna's eyes. Her eyes are much more schematic. This also applies to the eyelids. Although beautifully painted, it is not exactly that sparkle that Pourbus managed to give to the eyes of the unknown woman.

Masters or students?
On the other hand, if we look at the white collars, Anna's appears to have been painted with much more panache than that of the unknown woman. Anna's jewelry is also convincingly depicted with smooth keys. Compared to this, the golden cross on the necklace of the unknown woman looks somewhat matted. Did her jewel also have less allure? Or did Pieter Pourbus leave this to his students? Was the master painter limited to the face?

From this first comparison it can be concluded with some caution that it was not Pieter Pourbus who painted Anna. No doubt he had given her more cachet. But the woman he painted was certainly familiar with the court life of the high nobility. The women may have known each other. Maybe they were friends. Now that I would posthumously put them together, these women are a perfect match!"


  1. ‘Brieven van prins Willem van Oranje aan zijne eerste vrouw, Anna van Egmond’, J.A. Grothe ed., Kronijk van het Historisch Genootschap 15 (1859) 16-45.
  2. M.L. Camus-Buffet, ‘Anna van Egmond’, in: Idem, De gemalinnen van prins Willem I (Arnhem 1894) 7-16.
  3. E.W. Moes, ‘Anna van Buren, de eerste gemalin van Willem den Zwijger’, Eigen Haard (1894) 570.
  4. Correspondentie van Willem den Eerste, prins van Oranje, deel 1 (1551-1561), N. Japikse ed. (Den Haag 1934).
  5. R. van Luttervelt, ‘Een schilderij van Anna van Buren en andere portretten uit haar omgeving’, Oud-Holland 74 (1959) 183-202.
  6. P.J. Schipperus, Buren en Oranje. Geschiedkundig overzicht van het graafschap Buren, de stad en het kasteel en van het in 1612 door prinses Maria van Oranje-Nassau, gravin douairière van Hohenlo gestichte weeshuis (Buren 1962).
  7. Thera Coppens, Buren, Egmond en Oranje. Over heren, graven en prinsen (Buren 1989).
  8. S. Groenveld, ‘Spiegel van de tijd: het huwelijk van Willem van Oranje en Anna van Egmont-Buren (1551), geplaatst in het kader van de Habsburgse adelspolitiek’, Jaarboek Oranje-Nassau Museum (2001) 7-23.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 20 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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