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Princess Juliana of the Netherlands (born 1909) reigned as queen from 1948 to 1980. Despite repeated troubles in her personal and public life, she held the respect and affection of the Dutch people during the country's difficult recovery from the devastation of World War II.

Born at The Hague on April 30, 1909, Juliana was the only child of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her husband, Prince Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was educated at home and at the University of Leiden, where instead of the usual degree she received an honorary doctorate upon completion of her studies; with characteristic candor, she felt it was a sham because she had not really earned it. She married a German nobleman, Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, in 1937; in accepting Dutch nationality he firmly turned his back on his native country and its regime. This change from German to Dutch—although Bernhard never wholly shed his German accent when he spoke Dutch—became of crucial importance with the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Juliana and Bernhard, along with their children, Beatrix (born January 31, 1938) and Irene (born August 5, 1939), accompanied Queen Wilhelmina in a danger-filled escape across the North Sea to England.

A month later Juliana took her daughters to greater safety in Canada, where she resided for the duration of the war, with frequent visits to the United States and to Dutch colonies in the Caribbean and Surinam. Bernhard, who remained in Britain, took a leading part in the formation of a Dutch army-in-exile, visiting Juliana in Canada for the first time a year later. Another daughter, Margriet, was born in Ottawa on January 19, 1943.

In April 1945 Juliana returned to a just-liberated Netherlands, taking an active part in the rehabilitation of the country after five years of occupation, destruction, and hunger. A fourth daughter, Marijke (who later took the name Christine), was born on February 18, 1947; she suffered from near-blindness because Juliana had caught German measles (rubella) during her pregnancy. Juliana sought a cure from a faith-healer named Geert Hofmans, but the improvement in the child's eyesight over the next decade came from skilled medical treatment; nonetheless, the princess, who was deeply religious, continued her intimacy with Hofmans, a mystic and pacifist. This association led to reported tension with her husband and with the Dutch government until she finally broke with Hofmans in 1956.

Another crisis in relations with the government arose in 1964 when Princess Irene became a secret convert to Roman Catholicism, outraging many Dutch Protestants. (Although there is no state religion in the Netherlands, the reigning House had traditionally been Protestant since the 16th century.) She then wed Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma, a Carlist pretender to the throne of Spain. Because she had not obtained prior approval of her marriage by the States General (parliament) as required by the Dutch constitution, Irene lost her place in the succession to the Dutch throne. Deeply disturbed and angered, Juliana had sought to prevent the marriage by personal intervention without consultation with the cabinet, but was finally persuaded to refrain from flying to Spain to confront her daughter. They were later reconciled, and the marriage ended in divorce years later.

Even greater difficulties developed over the years. When Beatrix married a German diplomat, Claus von Amsberg, in 1966 there were wide protests and rioting because the bridegroom had served in the German army during World War II. Perhaps the most severe blow, however, was the disclosure in 1976 that Prince Bernhard was implicated in a bribery scandal with Lockheed, the American aircraft company. Censure of the prince by an official commission of inquiry brought talk of a possible abdication by the queen, but it was averted when Bernhard resigned all his positions in the armed forces and in private business.

Despite all these troubles, Juliana if anything strengthened the personal respect and affection in which she was held by the large majority of the Dutch people. She always displayed her deep concern for their welfare, as during the disastrous floods that struck Zeeland and southern Holland provinces in 1953. In strictly political matters, she hewed tightly to her constitutional role without the occasional impatience which her mother had displayed. Even political parties in principle committed to republicanism, such as the Labor party, did not see her as an enemy but as "one of us" across party lines; her closest friend in political life was the Labor premier William Drees. The comedian Wim Kan, in a famous quip, said he favored a republic but only if Juliana became its first president. She broke with the tradition of a royal house separated by ceremony and etiquette from the nation at large. She enjoyed riding her bicycle in public with the same dignity and grace that mark Dutch women who continue to travel about by cycle until well advanced in age. As queen, she presided over the post-war transformation of the country into a prosperous, technically developed land with an elaborate social welfare system.

In 1980, after the return of political calm, Juliana stepped down from the throne amid general acclaim, although there were disturbances during the inauguration ceremonies for her successor, Queen Beatrix. She received the title of princess and continued to be active in work of social welfare.

Further Reading

There was little available in English on Queen Juliana personally. Alden Hatch, Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands (1962), emphasized the role of her husband, which was put in a favorable light; published when the reign was only half over, many important episodes are missing. Ivo Schöffer, A Short History of the Netherlands (2nd edition, 1973) was a thoughtful and informative sketch of general Dutch history by a distinguished historian. Richard de Burnchurch, An Outline of Dutch History (1981) may also be consulted. S. J. Eldenburgh et al., Elite Images of Dutch Politics: Accommodation and Conflict (1981); Arend Lijphart, The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in the Netherlands (1968); and Richard T. Griffiths, editor, The Economy and Politics of the Netherlands Since 1945 (1980) all gave a deeper understanding of Dutch politics and society in the postwar period. W. Hoffman, Queen Juliana: The Story of the Richest Woman in the World (1979) provided a journalistic account with emphasis on the sensational. □


views updated May 14 2018


Born Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina, April 30, 1909, in The Hague, Netherlands; died of pneumonia, March 20, 2004, in Baarn, Netherlands. Monarch. Princess Juliana of the Netherlands was an institution in her country, a former queen as well as queen mother, royal princess, wife and mother, and her death in March of 2004 was mourned by thousands in the progressive Western European nation. Juliana and her family were among Europe's prototypical "bicycle-riding" royals, whose relatively modest lifestyles contrasted sharply with Britain's more ceremonious House of Windsor.

Juliana inherited the throne through her bloodline. She was a descendant of William I, founder of the House of Orange, who was assassinated in 1584. Her mother was Queen Wilhelmina, who came to the throne at the age of ten; the country was governed by the Queen Dowager until Wilhelmina's eighteenth birthday in 1898. Juliana was born in 1909, Wilhelmina's only child with her husband, the former Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and grew up in the royal palaces in The Hague and Apeldoorn. Her mother was a pious and earnest woman, and Juliana was compelled to address her only as "Madame." She was said to have been a lonely child, with few playmates, and grew into a shy, plainly dressed young woman. Her mother did not allow her to wear makeup, even at the age of 18, when she was installed in the Council of State as part of her role as heir to the throne.

Juliana began to blossom when she entered Leiden University, from which she graduated with a degree in international law in 1930. She twinned her official royal duties with unofficial charity work, but she was also an avid skier, and promptly entered a whirlwind romance with a dashing German prince, Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, after the two met at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Bavaria. They were married in January of 1937, and their first child, the Princess Beatrix, was born the following year. A second daughter followed, but the couple was forced to flee with the two children when the Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940. Juliana settled in Canada, near a favorite cousin who was a member of the British royal family, and produced a third daughter, Margriet, during the war years. Later, Juliana sent an annual supply of famous Dutch tulips to Ottawa as thanks for its wartime hospitality.

After the war, Juliana and her family returned home, and the hardships of the postwar years were compounded by personal tragedy, when she contracted German measles during her fourth pregnancy. Daughter Marijke (later known as Princess Christina) was born nearly blind. A new era was ushered in a year later, however, when her mother chose to abdicate and Juliana became queen of the Netherlands on September 4, 1948.

Recalling her own lonely childhood, Juliana strove to provide her four daughters with as normal a life as possible. Their family home, Soestdijk Palace, was in the countryside near Baarn, and the girls attended local schools. Juliana was known to buy her clothes off the rack, and could even be spotted in the local supermarket at times. She also loved to ride her bicycle, and the family was often seen in Baarn or on streets of The Hague, like countless other Dutch citizens, doing just that. Along with the modern, modest-living royal houses of Sweden and Norway, Juliana and her family gave rise to the term "bicycle-riding" royals, those whose lifestyles were a drastic departure from that of the world's most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, and her brood.

Juliana's aversion to pomp translated into one of her first decrees as queen, which abolished the curtsey rule at court. In 1949, she ended a 346-year legacy of colonial rule by severing Dutch authority over its remaining colonies in the East Indies, including Java and Sumatra. Her 32-year reign was not scandal-free, however: early on, she reportedly grew close to a psychic, who had promised to restore Princess Christina's sight and then seemingly delivered on it, and the woman had to be banished from the royal household in 1956. A more shameful episode occurred 20 years later, when Prince Bernhard was implicated in a bribery scandal involving kickbacks from the Lockheed Corporation, the American aerospace firm. Bernhard allegedly used his influence with Dutch military officials to help Lockheed land lucrative contracts, and he narrowly avoided criminal prosecution for his transgressions. Aghast when the scandal broke, Juliana offered to abdicate, but her daughter Beatrix was unwilling to accede to the throne during a time of crisis. Instead, Bernhard was instead stripped of his public offices.

Four years later, Juliana followed her mother's lead and abdicated on her 71st birthday, in April of 1980. She and Prince Bernhard remained active skiers well into the early 1990s, but her health declined and she reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease in her final years. She died of pneumonia on March 20, 2004, at the Soestdijk Palace; she was 94. She is survived by her four daughters and numerous grandchildren; Prince Bernhard did, as well, but he died later that year. Thousands of Dutch paid their respect to the plain, warm-hearted woman who once said she would have been a social worker had she not become queen. Her coffin lay in state at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague for a week, and then an honor guard of 9,000 lined the route from the palace to Juliana's final resting place, at a Delft cemetery next to William of Orange.


BBC.com, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3580397.stm (February 23, 2005).

Guardian (London), March 22, 2004, p. 21.

Independent (London), March 22, 2004, p. 34.

New York Times, March 21, 2004, p. A33.

Times (London), March 22, 2004, p. 24.

—Carol Brennan

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