Wilhelmina (1880-1962) was queen of the Netherlands from 1890 to 1948. During her reign the royal house maintained a strong commitment to parliamentary institutions and the principle of parliamentary government.
Born on Aug. 31, 1880, Whilhelmina was the daughter of the king of the Netherlands, William II, and his second wife, Princess Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont. On Nov. 23, 1890, William II died, and Wilhelmina succeeded to the throne. A regency reigned in her name until Aug. 31, 1898, when she was declared of age; she was crowned queen of the Netherlands on Sept. 6, 1898. On Feb. 7, 1901, Wilhelmina married Prince Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1876-1934). Although Wilhelmina's personal political inclinations were conservative, the Crown remained above politics and did not attempt to alter the rules of the political game in the Netherlands.
During the years before World War I, the Netherlands was confronted with a certain measure of labor unrest and demands for social reform plus a revision of the suffrage law which would extend the right to vote to all adult males. The Netherlands remained neutral throughout World War I; however, severe food shortages and concomitant social dislocation triggered demonstrations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other cities. The parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Workers party (SDAP), Pieter Troelstra, seemed to be calling for social revolution in November 1918. Troelstra was quickly disavowed by other SDAP leaders, and the prospect of revolution proved to be momentary. Within this context, however, the socially conservative governing parties responded by legislating universal manhood suffrage and a modest measure of social reform.
With the coming of the depression crisis and the resultant rise of National Socialism in Germany, the Dutch nation faced yet a new set of problems. Facing mass unemployment internally and a Dutch Nazi movement, the NSB, Wilhelmina maintained a stance of pro-British neutrality and at no time attempted to weaken the parliamentary institution. With the coming of World War II, the Netherlands continued the policy of neutrality until the German attack of May 10, 1940. Wilhelmina, her daughter Juliana (born April 30, 1909), and her son-in-law Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld (married Juliana on Jan. 7, 1937) were able to flee to London and there served as a symbol of Dutch freedom and a rallying point for the Dutch government-in-exile. The Crown returned to the liberated Netherlands with enhanced prestige, and Wilhelmina's conduct during the war all but eliminated antimonarchical forces in Dutch society. On Sept. 4, 1948, Wilhelmina abdicated and was succeeded by her daughter Juliana. Wilhelmina died on Nov. 28, 1962.
Wilhelmina's autobiography is Lonely but Not Alone (trans. 1960). A biographical account is Philip Paneth, Queen Wilhelmina, Mother of the Netherlands (1943), which also includes considerable Dutch history. For historical background see A. J. Barnouw, Holland under Queen Wilhelmina (1923). Alden Hatch, Bernhard: Prince of the Netherlands (1962), contains extensive material on Wilhelmina. □
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