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 on Juliana
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.