Juliana’s century was as exciting as her own life


Wilhelmina and Juliana wave to the audience on the Malieveld in The Hague, on Monday 18 November 1918.Image National Archives/Collection Spaarnestad

Juliana. Not the first monarch you think of dedicating an exhibition to. Too mundane, too little royalty and too much of a Brussels sprout queen, as Wim T. Schippers portrayed her on TV in 1972 (‘I’m just an ordinary person like you and me’).

Not true, the exhibition shows The century of Juliana in the New Church in Amsterdam. There you can see 400 documents, jewellery, clothing and trinkets from a century that indeed almost coincides with Juliana herself, born in 1909 and died in 2004. Not a boring hundred years, with two world wars, the ceding of colonial areas, strikes, flood disaster, rise of feminism, liberation movements, provo and new media.

As exciting as her own life: a domineering mother, the flight to Canada during the war, an adulterous prince consort who also took bribes, the crisis surrounding a faith healer, marital troubles, threats of resignation, the mental insanity at the end.

Juliana is often characterized as ‘princess next to the red carpet’, headstrong and averse to protocol. In all those decades, the queen showed various shapes and varying character traits, which are often captured on photo and film or with oil paint on canvas. From her ‘revolutionary’ performance at Malieveld in The Hague to the legendary double interview in 1987 (Juliana to Bernhard: ‘But dear Daddy, tell me why you had the crazy idea of ​​marrying me’).

Ergo: an exhibition for every Orange fan and a mer à boire for everyone who wants to look at the 20th century through a royal lens.

The Hague, November 18, 1918

Many photos of the little Juul have been made and have been preserved. Often in white summer dresses, often on father Hendrik or mother Wilhelmina’s lap. Sometimes with Grandma Emma. A cute doll with a round snout and soft eyes. But on none of them does the young crown princess appear as vulnerable as in the twenty-two-second film made in 1918 on Malieveld in The Hague.

The reason for the presence of the 9-year-old royal child was the threatening politics of socialist Troelstra. Following the example of Germany, he wanted to unleash a revolution in the Netherlands after the First World War. With the accompanying abolition of the monarchy. The Orange dynasty had been hanging by a thread for some time now. Wilhelmina was an only child, just like Juliana. So nothing more could go wrong. Time for a royalist counter-reaction.

That came on November 18, during a ‘demonstration of affection’ in The Hague. Surrounded by Orange supporters, the royal carriage drove through the exuberantly waving crowd. The film images show how Wilhelmina uses her astonished daughter as a mascot to save the interest of the dynasty on the spot. It worked. In a matter of minutes, Troelstra’s revolution was nipped in the bud. And Orange saved. It was not for nothing.

Side effect: in one day, as a plaything in the midst of great political turmoil, Juliana changed from a frightened to a headstrong, steadfast child. So steadfast that in later life she cut her hair (much against her mother’s will), flouted many protocols and conventions, was for years under the influence of a floating faith healer, twice threatened with divorce and once with resignation. Wilhelmina probably hadn’t had that in mind on that November day in 1918.

During her exile, Princess Juliana is received by the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.  Image National Archives/Collection Spaarnestad

During her exile, Princess Juliana is received by the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.Image National Archives/Collection Spaarnestad

New York, 1943

Juliana, then a princess, in the company of two American celebrities, President Franklin D. and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. It looks like an occasion shot, taken in front of the stage, during a casual lunch at the Roosevelt’s country house, Hyde Park, NY. Nothing is less true. In reality, the trio met no fewer than eight times during WWII. And not just to eat sandwiches.

At the beginning of the war, Juliana had been sent to Canada with her (then still two) daughters, Beatrix and Irene, while Wilhelmina and Bernhard fought the Germans in London. Bernhard contributed wholeheartedly to that image. Just by capturing Juliana on camera when he was on a short visit to Canada as a mother looking after the children: at the swing, on the lawn, behind a pram, at the pool.

Imaging based on nothing, according to Jolande Withuis. The Juliana biographer found out that Juliana spent less than half of the wartime in Canada. She was more out and about. Held combative radio speeches for Dutch and American listeners (“We must not let ourselves be suffocated under a layer of mud”). Tried to establish diplomatic contacts to persuade America, which had long remained isolationist, to join the war.

Bernhard might be the hero – ‘He hijacked the war’ – for Withuis, Juliana did just as much martial work from Canada as the rest of the family in London; as mother and diplomat and future queen. In photos from that period, the crown princess looks remarkably relaxed. Independent. It must have been her best time. Sailing on her own compass, without the interference of her mother and (adulterous) husband.

On 13 February 1953, Queen Juliana visits the island of Texel, which was also hit by the flood disaster.  Image National Archives/Collection Spaarnestad

On 13 February 1953, Queen Juliana visits the island of Texel, which was also hit by the flood disaster.Image National Archives/Collection Spaarnestad

Texel, 13 February 1953

If not a queen, Juliana would have become a social worker. Mention an occasion of national misery, and she donned her fur coat and sturdy steppers to comfort her subjects. Due to the devastating flood of 1953 – large parts of Zeeland, Brabant and South Holland, but also the Wadden Islands were under water – the walkers were replaced by rubber boots. She marches bravely, the men follow.

They must have been moments when, averse to formalities and respect, she was herself. Just like when she (also a famous photo) in her soft yellow deux pieces on a granny bike cycled briskly in the dunes of Terschelling. Tough woman. Man among the people. Brussels sprouts, as Wim T. Schippers depicted her on TV. That too was partly imagery. While cycling through the dunes, the queen wore a Fabergé bracelet with small golden Easter eggs.

Juliana usually knew how to separate the difference between ‘regular’ and ‘regal’. Partly inspired by her operetta consort (full name: Bernhard Leopold Frederik Everhard Julius Coert Karel Godfried Pieter, Prince of the Netherlands, Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld), who liked to honor the royal fairy tale and the associated dressing up.

On a state visit, the queen was able to show off ostrich feathers, sable fur, a colorful variety of headdresses and jewelry. The pinnacle of the Orange collection is the ‘Dutch diamond’, also known as the ‘Stuart diamond’, named after Queen-Stadtholder Mary who bought the teardrop-shaped gemstone (40 carats) in 1690 for 90,000 guilders and has since been in Dutch family possession. stayed.

State portrait painted by Henricus Nol, 1951. Statue Rijksmuseum

State portrait painted by Henricus Nol, 1951.Statue Rijksmuseum

Jakarta, 1960

In 1960 protests against the Netherlands take place in Jakarta. The reason is the issue of New Guinea, a part of the old Dutch East Indies that the Netherlands wishes to keep against Indonesia’s will. The victim of this protest was – among other things – this state portrait of Juliana, which hung in a Dutch government building.

It is of course a pity that a reproduction of the painting hangs in De Nieuwe Kerk. The original is in the Rijksmuseum, too fragile to be removed from the depot. It is beautiful: because of the historical importance of the painting and the renovation, it was deliberately never restored. The larger-than-life portrait was painted in 1951 by Henricus Rol, known for the Verkade pictures. He based himself on earlier portraits of the newlywed queen, during the inauguration in De Nieuwe Kerk on 6 September 1948.

For the occasion Juliana had not dressed in a white dress, as usual at an inauguration, but in a sapphire blue one; made from cheap jersey out of respect for the poor. The war had only just ended, and textiles were still on the receipt.

The blue dress was strategically well chosen from a nationalist point of view. Together with the red velvet and white ermine of the coronation cloak, it formed the Dutch tricolor. The stabbing in 1960 not only scratched the former ruler of De Gordel van Smaragd, but even more so the Dutch flag.

Painting of the Royal Family by Jan Kruis.  Image

Painting of the Royal Family by Jan Kruis.

Soestdijk Palace, 1978

Not exactly the place where you would expect a family portrait of the Oranjes: the council chamber of the town hall in Ballum on Ameland. What not everyone knows: that Juliana and Beatrix Erf- en Vrijvrouwe van Ameland were and nowadays Willem-Alexander bears the male version of that title.

What you wouldn’t expect: that this wall-filling group portrait was not made by anyone other than Jan Kruis. He was the creator, and from 1970 to 1999, creator of Jan, Jans and the childrenthe drawn family chronicle in women’s magazine Dragonfly. In honor of the 40th wedding anniversary of Juliana and Bernhard in 1977, the weekly newspaper Kruis commissioned this group portrait and donated it to the royal family, which in turn sent it to Ameland.

Kruis painted the scene (only to be seen as a reproduction in Amsterdam) against a decor freely borrowed from Soestdijk Palace. We are writing the seventies. Annual highlight on TV: the parade along the steps of the Baarn hunting lodge. Jan Kruis may have painted Juliana as the radiant center of her family – wife, mother and grandmother – but the parade itself had a much greater impact. Juliana stood on the steps for hours, waving to the passing people, as mother of the nation.

Kruis’s accessible comic strip style suited this annual celebration, then on April 30. The national display with flag-waving, gymnastics girls, brass bands, peasant women in wooden shoes and Surinamese with red-white-blue flags was a popular festival of democratic and royalist feelings. Special and ordinary, just as Juliana liked to see herself.

Nice detail: on the right of the stairs Johan Friso and Constantijn read carefully in a Jan, Jans and the children-comic. The last time Willem-Alexander visited Ameland, on March 27, 2019, he visited a solar park, the Jutterskuur and a holiday park, not the council chamber with the Cross painting.

The Nieuwe Kerk is the setting for coronations and exhibitions about the royal family, as well as exhibitions about former colonies. Two years ago there was The Great Suriname Exhibition to see, An exhibition about Indonesia will follow at the end of next year, made with the Tropenmuseum. It will be a ‘grand overview’ of ‘the history, art and culture of Indonesia and its inhabitants’. Including loans from the Museum Nasional Indonesia, the largest and oldest museum in the country.

The century of Juliana, a queen and her ideals. The New Church, Amsterdam. Until April 10.

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