Princess Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Maria of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, was born on 31-08-1880 in The Hague, Netherlands. She was the only child of King William III and his second wife, Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont,
her cousin was SS General Josias Waldeck von Pyrmont. Her childhood was characterized by a close relationship with her parents, especially with her father, who was 63 years of age when she was born. King William III had three sons with his first wife, Sophie of Württemberg.
However, when Wilhelmina was born, William had already outlived two of them and only the childless Prince Alexander and the King’s uncle Prince Frederick of the Netherlands were alive, so under the Semi-Salic system of inheritance that was in place in the Netherlands until 1887, she was third in line to the throne from birth. When Prince Frederick died a year later in 1881, she became second in line. When Wilhelmina was four, Alexander died and the young girl became heiress presumptive. Wilhelmina was enthroned on 06-09-1898. On 07-02-1901 in The Hague, she married Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Wilhelmina suffered miscarriages in 1901 and 1906, and gave birth to a stillborn son in 1902. The Netherlands remained neutral during World War I. However, the Allies included the Netherlands in their blockade of Germany, intercepting all Dutch ships and severely restricting Dutch imports to ensure goods could not be passed on to Germany. Wilhelmina was a “soldier’s queen”; being a woman, she could not be Supreme Commander, but she nevertheless used every opportunity she had to inspect her forces. On many occasions she appeared without prior notice, wishing to see the reality, not a prepared show. She loved her soldiers, and was very unhappy with most of her governments, which were always eager to cut the military budget. Wilhelmina wanted a small but well trained and equipped army. At the end of World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II
fled to the Netherlands, where he was granted political asylum, partly owing to his family links with Queen Wilhelmina. In response to Allied efforts to get their hands on the deposed Kaiser, Wilhelmina called the Allies’ ambassadors to her presence and lectured them on the rights of asylum. She also arranged the marriage of her daughter Juliana to Prince Bernard von Lippe Biesterfeld, a German aristocrat. Although it was claimed that he was initially a supporter of the Nazi regime, no hard evidence of this has ever been found or publicized. The prince however, was a member of the Nazi Party and of the so-called Reiter-SS, SS Cavalry Corps, as was proved by the Dutch national institute for war documentation, NIOD. In 1939, the government proposed a refugee camp for German Jews fleeing the Nazi regime. Wilhelmina intervened, as she felt the planned location was “too close” to her summer residence. The camp was finally erected about 10 km from the village of Westerbork. Westerbork was later a concentration camp for Dutch Jews, as Anne Frank
(see Simon Wiesenthal)
. On 10 May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands.(see About) Queen Wilhelmina had wanted to stay in the Netherlands: she had planned to go to the southern province of Zeeland with her troops in order to coordinate further resistance from the town of Breskens and remain there until help arrived, much as King Albert I of Belgium (see King Albert) had done during World War I. She fled The Hague, and she boarded HMS Hereward, a British destroyer which was to take her south, however, after she was aboard, Zeeland came under heavy attack from Hermann Goering´s Luftwaffe and it was considered too dangerous to return. Wilhelmina was then left with no option but to accept Georg VI‘s offer of refuge. She retreated to Britain, planning to return as soon as possible. The Dutch armed forces in the Netherlands, apart from those in Zeeland, surrendered on 15 May-1940. In Britain, Queen Wilhelmina took charge of the Dutch government in exile Pieter Sjoerd Gerbrandy, setting up a chain of command and immediately communicating a message to her people. During the war, the Queen was almost killed by a bomb that took the lives of several of her guards and severely damaged her country home near South Mimms in England. Her Dutch adjutant was the England fugitive, “England vaarder” Siebren Erik Hazelhoff-Roelfsema, In 1944 Queen Wilhelmina became only the second woman to be inducted into the Order of the Garter. Winston Churchill described her as the only real man among the governments-in-exile in London. Following the end of World War II, Queen Wilhelmina made the decision not to return to her palace but to move into a mansion in The Hague, where she lived for eight months. She travelled through the countryside to motivate people, sometimes using a bicycle instead of a car. However, in 1947, while the country was still recovering from World War II, the revolt in the oil-rich Dutch East Indies saw sharp criticism of the Queen by the Dutch economic elite. Around the same time, Wilhelmina’s health started failing her. Bad health caused her to cede the throne to her daughter Juliana temporarily towards the end of 1947, October 14 through December 1. She considered abdication but Juliana pressed her to stay on for the stability of the nation, urging her to complete 60 years on the throne. Wilhelmina tried to comply, but exhaustion forced her to cede the throne again on 12-05-1948. This time the timing was unfortunate, as it left Juliana to deal with the early elections due to the ceding of the Indonesian colonies.
Death and burial ground of Wilhelmina Queen of the Netherlands, Helena Pauline Maria..
Queen Wilhelmina died in Het Loo at the age of 82, on 28-11-1962 of heart failure, and was buried in the Dutch Royal Family crypt in the Nieuwe Kerk, see under, the New Church, in Delft, on 08-12-1962. The funeral was, at her request and contrary to protocol, completely in white to give expression to her belief that earthly death was the beginning of eternal life.