On This Day: Death of Juliana of the Netherlands

  March 20, 2014 at 6:00 am by

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Today marks the tenth anniversary of Queen Juliana of the Netherland’s death at the age of 94. She had reigned the Netherlands for almost thirty-two years between 1948 and 1980.

Born in April 1909, Juliana was the only child of then Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her husband, Duke Hendrik of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. As her mother had no surviving siblings, Juliana became the only member of the line of succession before the Dutch throne would pass to a German cousin in the house of Reuss.

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Juliana spent her childhood in Apeldoorn and The Hague, educated privately at home where a small class of noble children was assembled to learn with her. Queen Wilhelmina was determined to ensure her daughter was treated with the proper respect she was accorded as a royal Princess – as a young girl, Juliana was only permitted to sit in a chair while other children played at her feet. This attitude by her mother led to the reverse attitude towards protocol Juliana displayed in her adulthood (she refused red carpets and abolished the curtsey, sent her daughters to public school, and would often be seen bicycling around town).

Two days after her eighteenth birthday in 1927, she was given a seat on the Dutch Council of State by her mother. The Princess continued her upper education at the University of Leiden, where she graduated in 1930 with a degree in international law. She then became involved in charity work.

In 1936, Juliana met Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld during the Winter Olympics in Bavaria. The pair became romantically involved, without the consultation of Queen Wilhelmina or the Dutch government. There was no major opposition to the match though, and after the Queen drew up an extensive prenuptial agreement outlining Prince Bernhard’s role within the Netherlands, the couple’s engagement was announced in September that year. They were married in The Hague in January 1937. Juliana and Bernhard were the parents of four daughters: Beatrix (b. 1938), Irene (b. 1939), Margriet (b. 1943) and Maria Christina (b. 1947).

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When the Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany in May 1940, the Royal Family fled to England. Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Bernhard stayed in England until 1945 when their homeland was liberated, but Princess Juliana and her two daughters saw out the war in Canada, where Princess Margriet was born in 1943. Upon return in 1945, the family as reunited on a permanent basis, and Juliana worked hard with organisations tasked with rebuilding the war-torn country.

On September 4, 1948, Queen Wilhelmina announced her abdication in favour of her daughter – Juliana was inaugurated as Queen of the Netherlands two days later at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Her almost thirty-two year reign was full of ups and downs (although it can be argued the downs were more prevalent): her personal popularity was enormous, which helped to stem any possible republican movement. The Dutch Empire broke up in 1949 and 1954, when Indonesia was granted independence, and the Dutch possessions in the Caribbean were given country status.

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The largest scandals however came from within Queen Juliana’s own family. Her youngest daughter, Marijke, was born almost fully blind, and Juliana relied heavily on Greet Hofmans, a faith healer, to help fix her daughter’s eyesight. This reliance by the Queen resulted in the Greet Hofmans Affair, in which the royal court was separated into two factions – Juliana on one side, Bernhard on the other. Bernhard eventually won the battle, and had Hofmans thrown out of the palace, and replaced most of his wife’s staff. Her two eldest daughters made marital matches which were controversial in the early 1960s – Beatrix married a German diplomat (which many Dutch found unpleasant following so soon after the war), while Irene went against her family to marry the Roman Catholic Duke of Parma.

But it was the Queen’s beloved husband who caused the biggest scandal, which many consider as an influence on her abdication a short time later. The Lockheed Scandal came to a head in 1972, when information was made public that Prince Bernhard had accepted a bribe from the Lockheed Corporation to influence Dutch governmental purchases of fighter jets. In 1976, a report which detailed this and other issues were published, resulting in Prince Bernhard stepping down from all his military positions and resigning from all the boards he sat member on.

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Queen Juliana announced her abdication four years later, on April 30, 1980. Her eldest daughter, Beatrix, was to succeed her to the throne. In accordance with Dutch law, following the abdication, Juliana returned to her birth title of Princess of the Netherlands. She continued with her charitable works until the mid-1990s, when she began suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s and retreated from public life.

She passed away in her sleep during the morning of March 20 at her home, Soestdijk Palace.

Queen Juliana was interred into the royal vault at the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft on March 30, immediately after a funeral service at the church. As per her request, those attending the funeral incorporated elements of white or cream into their outfits, which was in line with her personal religious beliefs.

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One Response to On This Day: Death of Juliana of the Netherlands

  1. NATALYA says:

    Thank you for the very interesting article about Queen Juliana.

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