Historical background
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Historical background

When hearing about a Dutch Princess who loved Silesia, and especially the land of Kłodzko, many of us wonder how she got there and why she decided to spend most of her life among the simple citizens of Kamieniec Ząbkowicki, Stronie Śląskie or Międzygórze. Not many people realise that Marianne of the Netherlands would have never appeared in this land, had it not been for Napoleon I.

The early 19th century was a particularly stormy period in the history of Europe – mostly because of Napoleon Bonaparte. At that time he conquered the Netherlands, made it his kingdom and appointed his brother, Louis, to be the king. William I of the Netherlands, (Willem Frederik van Oranje-Nassau), the hereditary governor at that time, was forced to seek shelter and aid in the court of his brother-in-law, the king of Prussia. In 1810, in the court of the Hohenzollern family in Berlin, Wilhelmina Frederica Louisa Charlotte Marianne Prinses der Nederlanden was born, known as Marianne of the Netherlands.

The van Oranje-Nassau family could not go back to the Dutch court, they were thus forced to search for a new source of income. Using the secularization of the church estates in 1810,  William’s wife – Wilhelmina (since she was of Prussian origin) purchased the vast estates of the monasteries in Lubiąż, Henryków and Kamieniec Ząbkowicki, which were to secure the family. In 1815, William I went back the Netherlands, along with his family, and was crowned King of the Netherlands. However, Wilhelmina remained the owner of the purchased estates. Before she died the queen passed the post-monastic estates to Marianne of the Netherlands, her daughter, who since 1830 had been residing (along with her husband) in Berlin, and therefore could visit Lower Silesia more often. Marianne inherited the estates in 1838, after her mother’s death.

From the moment she became the owner of the land of Kamieniec, Marianne treated it as her homeland, looking after the economic development of the estates, and the living standards of their inhabitants. In 1838 she purchased: Klucz Stroński (the historical name of an estate situated in the eastern part of the Land of Kłodzko), a knights estate in Strachocin – an estate and a manor complex situated in nearby Stronie Śląskie and Klucz Śnieliński – an estate situated in the south-western part of the Land of Kłodzko, with a headquarters in Różanka.

On these lands, she commissioned or supported the establishment of many industrial facilities: a metallurgical furnace, a finery, a metal mill in Strachocin, a set of the so-called lime kilns - furnaces in which lime for the construction was produced, marble quarries (where the popular white, pink and green Marianne marble are extracted) and the Oranienhűtte glassworks - popular throughout Europe. It is thanks to her that the settlement in Międzygórze, previously unknown, underwent a rapid development and became known as the ‘Pearl of Sudety’. A dense network of roads and viaducts, which enabled the development of even more small settlements, were built thanks to her efforts. The poor, the abandoned or the ill also found support in Marianna - thanks to her shelters, hospitals, orphanages and schools.

The most famous relic of Marianne in the area of Silesia, is the palace in Kamieniec Ząbkowicki. The design of this extended, beautiful residence, was made by the famous architect Karl Schinkel. Its construction took several dozen years and cost the equivalent of three tons of gold. Today the building still remains impressive - although, after subsequent wars, fires and looting - it is merely an outline of the original palace. However, it seems that it is not the large and beautiful palace that is the most valuable trace of Marianne’s activity in this land. It is, most of all, the fact that her people referred to her as “the Good Lady” and that  is the way she has been remembered.