Juliana of the Netherlands

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JulianaQueen of the Netherlands
Queen of the Netherlands

Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (Juliana Emma Louise Wilhelmina van Oranje-Nassau) (April 30, 1909March 20, 2004), Princess of Orange-Nassau, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld, was Queen of the Netherlands from her mother's abdication in 1948 to her own abdication in 1980 and Queen Mother (with the title of Princess) from 1980 to 2004. The main airport in the Dutch Caribbean island of St-Maarten has been named after Princess Juliana. Its aiport code is SXM.


Early life

Dutch Royalty
House of Nassau (Orange branch)

William I
   Prince William
William II
   Prince William
William III
   Princess Wilhelmina
   Princess Juliana
   Princess Beatrix
   Princess Irene
   Princess Margriet
   Princess Christina
   Prince Willem-Alexander
   Prince Johan-Friso
   Prince Constantijn
Juliana with her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, circa 1914
Juliana with her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, circa 1914

Born in The Hague, the daughter of Prince Hendrik (or Heinrich), Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Juliana spent her childhood at Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn, and at Noordeinde Palace and Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague. A small school class was formed at Noordeinde Palace on the advice of the educator Jan Ligthart so that, from the age of six, the princess could receive her primary education with children of her own age.

As the Dutch constitution specified that she should be ready to succeed to the throne by the age of eighteen, Princess Juliana's education proceeded at a faster pace than that of most children. After five years of primary education, the Princess received her secondary education (to pre-university level) from private tutors.

On April 30, 1927, Princess Juliana celebrated her eighteenth birthday. Under the constitution, she had officially come of age and was entitled to assume the royal prerogative, if necessary. Two days later her mother installed her in the "Raad van State" ("Council of State"). A young, shy and introvert woman of plain features whose religious mother would not allow her to wear makeup, Juliana did not fit the image of a royal princess. She would, nonetheless, become much loved and respected by most of the Dutch people.

In the same year, the princess enrolled as a student at the University of Leiden. In her first years at university, she attended lectures in sociology, jurisprudence, economics, history of religion, parliamentary history and constitutional law. In the course of her studies she also attended lectures on the cultures of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, international affairs, international law, history, and European law. She was also tutored privately by Professor C. Snouck Hurgronje on the Islamic religion, practised by most of the people in the Dutch colonies.

In line with the views of the times, Queen Wilhelmina began a search for a suitable husband for her daughter. It was difficult to find a Protestant prince from a ruling family who suited the tedious and strictly religious Dutch Court. Princes from Great Britain and Sweden were "vetted" but either declined or were rejected by the Princess. After meeting His Serene Highness Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Bavaria, Princess Juliana's royal engagement was arranged by her mother. Prince Bernhard was a suave young businessman and, although not a playboy, certainly a "man about town" with a dashing lifestyle. Princess Juliana fell deeply in love with her fiancé, a love that was to last a lifetime and that withstood the separation during the war and the many publicly known extra-marital affairs and children by the Prince. In a legal document that spelled out exactly what the German prince could and could not do, and the amount of money he could expect from the sole heir to the large fortune of the Dutch royal family, the astute Queen Wilhelmina left nothing to chance. Duly signed, the couple's engagement was announced on September 8, 1936.

The wedding announcement divided a country that mistrusted Germany under Adolf Hitler. Prior to the wedding, on November 24, 1936, Prince Bernhard was granted Dutch citizenship and changed the spelling of his names from German to Dutch. They married in The Hague on January 7, 1937, the date on which Princess Juliana's grandparents, King William III and Queen Emma, had married fifty-eight years earlier. The civil ceremony was held in The Hague Town Hall and the marriage was blessed in the Great Church (St. Jacobskerk), likewise in The Hague. The young couple made their home at Soestdijk Palace, Baarn.


Four daughters were born to Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard:

  1. Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard nicknamed "Trix", born on January 31, 1938 at Soestdijk Palace;
  2. Irene Emma Elisabeth, born August 5, 1939 at Soestdijk Palace;
  3. Margriet Francisca born January 19, 1943 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
  4. Maria Christina, born February 18, 1947 at Soestdijk Palace.


The European political climate was already extremely tense from the growing threat of Nazi Germany and this was added to in the Netherlands when Hitler hinted that the Royal marriage was a sign of an alliance between the Netherlands and Germany. An angry Queen Wilhelmina quickly made a public denunciation of Hitler's remark but the incident caused further resentment over Juliana's choice for a husband. Further revelations of Prince Bernhard's past conduct added to the growing resentment amongst many of the Dutch people but after the German invasion on May 10, 1940, his actions would do a great deal to change public opinion to his favour.

During the war and German occupation of the Netherlands the Prince and Princess decided to leave the Netherlands with their two daughters for the United Kingdom. The Princess remained there for a month before taking the children to Ottawa, the capital of Canada, where she lived in the suburb of Rockcliffe Park.

Some people regard this as an act of cowardice of the government and the entire royal family, fleeing the country and leaving the Dutch people under Nazi occupation.

Juliana quickly endeared herself to the Canadian people, displaying simple warmth, asking that she and her children be treated as just another family during difficult times. In the city of Ottawa, where few people recognized her, Princess Juliana sent her two daughters to public school, did her own grocery buying and shopped at Woolworth's Department Store. She enjoyed going to the movies and often would stand innocuously in the line-up to purchase her ticket. When her next door neighbour was about to give birth, the Princess of the Netherlands offered to baby-sit the woman's other children.

When her third child Margriet was born, the Parliament of Canada passed a special law declaring Princess Juliana's rooms at the Ottawa Civic Hospital as extraterritorial so that the infant would have exclusively Dutch, not dual nationality. Had these arrangements not occurred, Princess Margriet would not be in the line of succession. The Canadian government flew the Dutch tricolour flag on parliament's Peace Tower while its carillon rang out with Dutch music at the news of Princess Margriet's birth. Prince Bernhard, who had remained in London with Queen Wilhelmina and members of the exiled Dutch government, was able to visit his family in Canada and to be there for Margriet's birth.

Princess Juliana's genuine warmth and the gestures of her Canadian hosts created a lasting bond which was reinforced when Canadian soldiers fought and died by the thousands in 1944 and 1945 to liberate the Netherlands from the Nazis. On May 2, 1945 she returned by a military transport plane with Queen Wilhelmina to the liberated part of the Netherlands, rushing to Breda to set up a temporary Dutch government. At home though, she expressed her gratitude to Canada by sending the city of Ottawa 100,000 tulip bulbs. The following year (1946), Juliana donated another 20,500 bulbs, with the request that a portion of these be planted at the grounds of the Ottawa Civic Hospital where she had given birth to Margriet. At the same time, she promised Ottawa an annual gift of tulips during her lifetime to show her lasting appreciation for Canada's war-time hospitality. Each year Ottawa hosts a Tulip Festival, in recognition of this gift.

Return to The Netherlands

On August 2, 1945 Princess Juliana was reunited with her family on Dutch soil. Soon though, their austere father was convinced his children's manners had been thoroughly corrupted from their time in Canada. At their first family dinner at Soestdijk Palace, two-year-old Margriet beat a spoon on her plate, Irene sat with a comfortable leg curled under herself, and the seven-year-old future Queen Beatrix, who had already expressed the desire to return to Canada, talked incessantly with food in her mouth, complaining that she did not like her Dutch meal and wanted Canadian steak and ice cream like her mother had given them in Ottawa. The manner in which the children would be raised was a matter of disagreement between Princess Juliana and her husband. She believed that the days of an aloof, near-isolated monarchy were over, and that the royal children should interact as much as possible with average citizens.

Juliana immediately took part in a post-war relief operation for the people in the northern part of the country, where the Nazi-caused famine (the hungry winter of 1944–1945) and their continued torturing and murdering of the previous winter had claimed many victims. She was very active as the president of the Dutch Red Cross and worked closely with the National Reconstruction organization. Her down to earth manner endeared her to her people so much that a majority of the Dutch people would soon want Queen Wilhelmina to abdicate in favour of her daughter. In the spring of 1946 Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard visited the countries that had helped the Netherlands during the occupation.

Queen Juliana and Marijke
Queen Juliana and Marijke

Princess Juliana contracted German measles during her pregnancy with her last child, Marijke Christina. The girl was born in 1947 with cataracts on both eyes and was soon diagnosed as near totally blind in one eye and severely limited in the other. Despite her blindness, Christina as she was called, was a happy and gifted child with a talent for languages and, something long missing in the Dutch royal family, an ear for music. Over time, and with advances in medical technologies, her eyesight did improve a great deal to where, with thick glasses, she could attend school and even ride her bicycle. However, before that happened, her mother, the Princess, clinging to any thread that offered some hope for a cure, came under the spell of Greet Hofmans. A faith healer who had strange beliefs and was considered by many to be a sham, the influence of Ms. Hofmans on Juliana's political views would almost bring down the House of Orange in a constitutional crisis that caused the court and the royal family to split in a Bernhard faction set on removing a Queen that was considered religiously fanatic and a threat to NATO, and the Queens pious and pacifist courtiers. The Prime Minister resolved the crisis. However, Juliana lost out to her powerful husband and his friends. Hofmans was banished from the court and Juliana's supporters were sacked or pensioned.

Prince Bernhard planned to divorce his wife but decided against it when he, as he told an American journalist,"found out that the woman still loved him".

For several weeks in the autumn of 1947 and again in 1948 the Princess acted as Regent when, for health reasons, Queen Wilhelmina was unable to perform her duties. The revolt in the East Indies, which saw more than 150,000 Dutch troops stationed there to quell the uprising, was regarded as an economic disaster for the Netherlands. With the certain loss of the prized colony, the Queen announced her intention to abdicate. On September 6, 1948, with the eyes of the world upon her, Princess Juliana, the twelfth member of the House of Orange to rule the Netherlands, was inaugurated Queen in the New Church in Amsterdam.


Monarchical Styles of
Queen Juliana
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Her daughter's blindness and the increasing influence of Hofmans, who had moved into a royal palace, severely affected the Queen's marital relationship. On December 27, 1949 at Dam Palace in Amsterdam, Queen Juliana signed the papers that relinquished the Netherlands centuries old control over the East Indies. Over the next few years, the controversy surrounding the faith healer, at first kept out of the Dutch media, erupted into a national debate over the competency of the Queen. The people of the Netherlands watched as their Queen often appeared in public dressed like any ordinary Dutch woman. As her mother had out of necessity, Queen Juliana began riding a bicycle for exercise and fresh air.

Although the bicycle and the down-to-earth manners suggest a simple life style, the Dutch Royal court of the 1950s and 1960s was at the same time a splendid affair with chamberlains in magnificent uniforms, gilded state coaches, visits to towns in open carriages and lavish entertaining in the huge palaces. At the same time the Queen began visiting the citizens of the nearby towns and, unannounced, would drop in on social institutions and schools. Her refreshingly straightforward manner and talk made her a powerful public speaker. On the international stage, Queen Juliana was particularly interested in the problems of developing countries, the refugee problem, and had a very special interest in child welfare, particularly in the developing countries. The New York Times called her "an unpretentious woman of good sense and great goodwill."

Soestdijk Palace, where Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard lived for over six decades.
Soestdijk Palace, where Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard lived for over six decades.

On the night of January 31, 1953, the Netherlands was hit by the most destructive storm in more than five hundred years. Thirty breaches of dunes and dikes occurred and many towns were swept away by twelve-foot tidal waves. More than two thousand people drowned and tens of thousands were trapped by the floodwaters. Dressed in boots and an old coat, Queen Juliana waded through water and slopped through deep mud all over the devastated areas to bring desperate people food and clothing. Showing compassion and concern, reassuring the people, her tireless efforts would permanently endear her to the citizens of the Netherlands.

In 1963 Queen Juliana faced another crisis among the Protestant part of her people when her daughter Irene secretly converted to Catholicism and, without government approval, on April 29, 1964 married Prince Carlos Hugo de Bourbon-Parma, Duke of Parma, a claimant to the Spanish throne and also a leader in Spain's Carlist party. With memories of the Dutch struggle for independence from Catholic Spain and fascist German oppression still fresh in the minds of the Dutch people, the events leading to the marriage were played out in all the newspapers and a storm of hostility erupted against the monarchy for allowing it to happen — a matter so serious, the Queen's abdication became a real possibility. She survived, however, thanks to the underlying devotion she had earned over the years.

But crisis, as a result of marriage, would come again with the announcement in July, 1965 of the engagement of Princess Beatrix, heir to the throne, to a German diplomat, Claus von Amsberg. The future husband of the future Queen had been a member of the Nazi Wehrmacht and the Hitler Youth movement. Many angry Dutch citizens demonstrated in the streets, and held rallies and marches against the "traitorous" affair. While this time upset citizens did not call for the Queen's abdication because the true object of their wrath, Princess Beatrix, would then be Queen, they did start to question the value of having a monarchy at all. After attempting to have the marriage cancelled, Queen Juliana acquiesced and the marriage took place under a continued storm of protest and an almost certain attitude pervaded the country that Princess Beatrix might be the last member of the House of Orange to ever reign in the Netherlands. Despite all these difficult matters, Queen Juliana's personal popularity suffered only temporarily.

An event in April, 1967 brought an overnight revitalization of the Royal family when the first male heir to the Dutch throne in 116 years, Willem-Alexander, was born to Princess Beatrix. This time the demonstrations in the street were ones of love and enthusiasm. This joyful occasion was helped along by an ever-improving Dutch economy but scandal rocked the Royal family again in 1976 when it was revealed that Prince Bernhard had accepted a $1.1 million bribe from U.S. aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed Corporation to influence the Dutch government's purchase of fighter aircraft.

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands ordered an inquiry into the affair while Prince Bernhard was refusing to answer reporters' questions, stating: "I am above such things." This time, the Dutch people rather than calling on the Queen to abdicate, were fearful their beloved Juliana might abdicate out of shame or because of a criminal prosecution conducted in her name against her consort. On August 26, 1976 a censored and toned down, but devastating report on Prince Bernhard's activities was released to a shocked Dutch public. The Prince resigned his various high profile positions as a Lieutenant Admiral, a General and an Inspector General of the Armed Forces. The Prince resigned from his positions in the board of many businesses, charities, the World Wild Life Fund and other institutions. The Prince also accepted that he would have to give up wearing his beloved uniforms. In return, the States-General accepted that there was to be no criminal prosecution. The Government had manipulated the report on the Prince's conduct and had removed recent cases of corruption. The cases that were published had superannuated and were no longer punishable. Over time, the Royal family would work hard to rehabilitate the Prince's name.

On her Silver Jubilee in 1973, Queen Juliana donated all of the money that had been raised by the National Silver Jubilee Committee to organisations for children in need throughout the world. She donated the gift from the nation which she received on her seventieth birthday to the "International Year of the Child."

In 1979, William Hoffman published a highly critical biography entitled Queen Juliana: The Story of the Richest Woman in the World .


On April 30, 1980, the day of her 71st birthday, Queen Juliana signed the Act of Abdication and her daughter succeeded her as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

After her abdication she was known as Her Royal Highness, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands. Juliana remained active in numerous charitable causes until well into her eighties.

Illness and death

From the mid-1990s, Juliana suffered from the progressive onset of senility (attributed to Alzheimer's disease by many although this was denied by the Royal Family) and so did not appear in public after that time. At the order of the Royal Family's doctors, Juliana was placed under 24-hour watch by two nurses. Prince Bernhard publicly admitted in a TV interview in 2001 that she could no longer recognize her family.

Juliana died in her sleep on March 20, 2004, aged 94, at Soestdijk Palace in Baarn from complications of pneumonia, exactly 70 years after her grandmother Emma.

She was embalmed (unlike her mother, who chose not to be) and on March 30, 2004 interred beside her mother Wilhelmina at the New Church in Delft.

Her husband Prince Bernhard died from cancer barely eight months after her, on December 1, 2004, aged 93.

Preceded by:
Queen of the Netherlands
Succeeded by:

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