Near The Hague in the neighboring town Voorburg, Huygens built a small villa, called Hofwijck (Vitaulium in Latin), meant as a get-away from the Royal Court in The Hague. As a man of his era, Huygens played a large number of instruments (lute, gamba, harpsichord) for which he wrote a large number of musical pieces. He saw his love for music as more important than his literary activities, which he wrote in his limited free time. He is buried in the Grote Kerk in the Hague, together with — among other relatives — his son Christiaan Huygens.
In 1947 a literary award was created, the Constantijn Huygens Award, to honor his legacy.
They started with singing lessons, and they learned their notes using gold colored buttons on their jackets. It is striking, that Christiaan senior imparted the 'modern' system of 7 note names to the boys, instead of the traditional, but much more complicated hexachord system. Two years later the first lessons on the viol started, followed by the lute and the harpsichord. Constantijn showed a particular acumen for the lute. At the age of eleven he was already asked to play for ensembles, and later — during his diplomatic travels — his lute playing was in demand, he was asked to play at the Danish Court and for James I of England, although they were not known for their musical abilities.
At eleven he wrote his first verse in Latin, but his parents were keen that he would not become a bookworm. For them it was more important that he would become a well-educated citizen, versatile in various sports. For this reason he was also taught how to ride, fence, sign art and mould. This background brought his education up to the standards of a humanistic upbringing.
Constantijn's mother Suzanna was from Antwerp. In his play Trijntje Cornelis (1653) Huygens wrote of Antwerp, which he knew from his mother and the visits to Antwerp, and its very beautiful and striking weather.
In the period of the Twelve Years' Truce Constantijn received education in maths, law and logic and he learned how to handle a pike and a musket. In 1614 he taught Pieter the Vooys how to play the Harpsichords/Spinet. Also in 1614 Constantijn wrote his first Dutch poem, inspired by the French poet Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, in which he praises rural life. In his early 20s, he fell in love with Dorothea, however their relationship did not last and Dorothea met someone else.
In 1616, Maurits and Constantijn started studies at Leiden University. Studying in Leiden was primarily seen as a way to build a social network. Shortly after, Maurits was called home to assist his father. Constantijn finished his studies in 1617 and returned home. This was followed by six weeks of training with Antonis de Hubert, a lawyer in Zierikzee. De Hubert was committed to the study of language and writing, having held consultations with Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, Laurens Reael and Joost van den Vondel concerning language and orthography in 1623.
In 1620, towards the end of the Twelve Years' Truce, Huygens travelled as a secretary of ambassador François van Aerssen to Venice, to gain support against the threat of renewed war. He was the only member of the legation to speak Italian. In 1621 he travelled to England as the secretary of six envoys of the United Provinces.
In 1619 Constantijn came into contact with Anna Roemers Visscher and with Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft. Huygens exchanged many poems with Anna. In 1621 a poetic exchange with Hooft also starts. Both would always try to exceed the other. In October of that year Huygens sent Jacob Cats a large poem in Dutch, 't Voorhout. In December he started writing 't Kostelick Mal, a satirical treatment of the nonsense of the current vogue. This is according to Huygens characterising the "inconstantia," with which sober, Christian people wanted nothing to do. In 1622, when Constantijn stayed as a diplomat for more than one year in the United Kingdom, he was knighted by King James I.
In 1623 Huygens wrote his Printen, a description of several characteristics of people. This satirical, moralising work was one of the most difficult of Huygens poems.
In the same year Maria Tesselschade and Allard Crombalch were married. For this occasion verses were written by Huygens, Hooft and Vondel. During the festival, Constantijn flirted with Machteld of Camps. As a result of this he wrote the poem Vier en Vlam.
In 1625 the work Otia, or Ledige Uren, was published. This work showcased his collected poems.
This marked the end of Constantijn's formative years, and the end of his youth. Huygens was employed as a secretary to Frederik Hendrik, who — after the death of Maurits of Orange — was appointed as stadtholder. In 1616 Constantijn fell in love with Suzanna van Baerle. Earlier courtship by the Huygens family to win her for Maurits, had failed. Constantijn wrote several sonnets for her, in which calls her Sterre (Star). They wed on 6 April 1627.
Huygens describes their marriage in Dagh-werck, a description of one day. He worked on this piece, which counts almost 2000 lines, during the entire time they were married. The couple had five children: in 1628 their first son, Constantijn, born in 1629 Christiaan, in 1631 Lodewijk and in 1632 Philips. In 1637 Suzanna born; shortly after the birth their mother died.
In 1634 Huygens received from Fredrik Hendrik a piece of property in The Hague on the North side of Binnenhof. The land was near the property of a good friend of Huygens, Count Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen, who built his house, the Mauritshuis, there around the same time. Constantijn's house has three statues on the pediment; three women who portray the standards of good construction: symmetry, strength and ease.
In this period Huygens was in contact with several kindred spirits. At the start of the 1630s he was in touch with René Descartes. He also was in touch with P.C. Hooft (he assessed his Historiën) and Rembrandt. He wrote poetry, and because of his interest in the poetry of John Donne, translated Donne's poems into Dutch. Huygens also continued to compose music.
After the death of his wife, Suzanna, his cousin Catharina Sweerius took over the management of the household. Constantijn was unable to write poetry for months because of his anguish over his wife's death. Eventually he composed, inspired by Petrarch, the sonnet Op de dood van Sterre (On the death of Sterre). He added the poem to his Dagh-werck, which he left unfinished: the day he has described has not ended yet, but his Sterre is already dead. After sending the unfinished work to different friends for approval, he eventually published it in 1658 as part of his Koren-bloemen.
After a couple of years as a widower, Huygens bought a piece of land in Voorburg and commissioned the building of Hofwijck Hofwijck was inaugurated in 1642 in the company of friends and relatives. Here Huygens hoped to escape the activities of The Hague, indicated by the name of the house: Hof (=Court) Wijck (=avoid). In that same year, his brother Maurits died. Due to his grief Huygens wrote little Dutch poetry, but he continued to write epigrams in Latin. Shortly afterwards, he began writing Dutch pun poems, which are very playful by nature.
In 1644-'45 Huygens began more serious work. As a new year's present for Leonore Hellemans, he composed the Heilige Daghen, a series of sonnets on the Christian holidays. In 1647 he published another work, in which play and seriousness are united, Ooghentroost, addressed to Lucretia of Trello, who was losing her sight and who was already half-blind. The poem was offered as consolation.
In 1645 Constantijn Jr. and Christiaan began their studies in Leiden. In these years Frederick Henry, Huygens' confidante and protector, became increasingly ill, and died in 1647. The new stadtholder, William II, greatly appreciated Huygens and gave him the estate of Zeelhem. In 1650, two years after the end of the Eighty Years' War, William II died. His successor William III was born a week later. William II's death is the beginning of the "First Stadtholderless Period."
In 1650-1652 Huygens wrote the poem Hofwijck in which he described the joys of living outside the city. It is thought that Huygens wrote his poetry was written as a testament to himself, a memento mori, because Huygens lost so many dear friends and family during this time: Hooft (1647), Barlaeus (1648), Maria Tesschelschade (1649) and Descartes (1650).
With the start of the stadtholderless period, there was less work for Huygens as a secretary. The widow of Frederik Hendrik, Amalia van Solms, was decreasingly impressed by him. The emphasis of Huygens' activities moved more and more to his presidency of the Council of the house of Orange. He traveled frequently during that time, in connection with his work.
He still tried to find time to publish more of his work. In 1647 a number of Huygens' musical creations, Pathodia sacra et profana, was published in Paris. It contained some compositions in Latin on the words of psalms in French, and Italian amorous worldly texts. The work was dedicated to the pretty niece, Utricia Ogle, of an English diplomat.
In 1648 Huygens wrote Twee ongepaerde handen for a harpsichord. This work was connected with Marietje Casembroot, a twenty-five-year-old harpsichord player, with whom he could share his love for music.
During this time Huygens tried to find governmental jobs for his sons. Christiaan, however, did not aspire to administrative work, having put his mind to science and having gained a global reputation in that field.
Around Christmas the collected work of his Dutch poems, the Koren-bloemen appears. Some of its contents contain: Heilighe Daghen (1645), Ooghen-troost (1647), Hofwijck (1653) and Trijntje Cornelis (1653). This last work, Trijntje Cornelis, is an explosion of Huygens' creativity. It testifies to the rare language - and expressive capacity - of the author. Considering that the piece was written in a rather short time, it can be considered work of an enormous performance.
In 1660 his daughter Suzanna married her cousin, Philips Doublet, son of Huygens' sister Geertruijd. In 1661, a grandfather by now, Huygens was sent to France by the circle of tutors of William III, to recover possession of the county of Orange. The county was returned to the family of Orange-Nassau in 1665 and Huygens returned to the Netherlands.
On his return, Huygens designed the new sand road in The Hague, running through the dunes to Scheveningen. He had already planned this road in 1653, and wrote about it in his work the Zee-straet. The road was made according to Huygens' design.
In 1667 the States of Holland abolished the stadtholdership with an Eternal Edict, a solution which Huygens did not favor. In the next year, William III was created the First Noble in the Provincial States of Zeeland.
The year 1672 was an Annus horribilis for the Netherlands. From the south, the states were attacked by the French king, who managed to penetrate to Utrecht where he was stopped by The Dutch Water Line. From sea, England and France attacked, but were stopped by the fleet of Holland. And from the east, the Bishop of Münster attacked the Northeast and besieged the city of Groningen in the summer.
Under the guidance of the Prince of Orange, the enemies were dissipated in two years. The jobless sons of Huygens now had the chance of obtaining positions. Constantijn Jr. was appointed as a secretary of William III and Lodewijk was appointed as Landdrost of Gorcum, but he was accused in 1676 of exactions. During the this year the second edition of the Koren-bloemen appeared, a collected work containing 27 books. New in this edition were the Zee-straet, the Mengelingh (a section of serious poems written after 1657) and seven books with snel-dichten (quick poems). As he was older now, Huygens found refuge in music. He wrote around 769 compositions during in his life.
In 1676 Michiel de Ruyter dies. In March 1677 his embalmed body was added to a grave in the Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam). Huygens was present as a president of the princely field Council and as representative of the House of Orange. In that same year William III married Mary II of England, daughter of the Duke of York.
In 1680 Constantijn Jr. moved with his family out of the house of his father. To stop the gossiping which started shortly afterwards, Huygens write the poem Cluijs-werck, in which he shows a glimpse of the latter stages of his life.
Constantijn Huygens died on Good Friday, March 28, 1687 at the age of 90. A week later he was buried in the Grote Kerk in the Hague.