Princess Margriet


1939—WWII began Sept. Invasion of Poland

1940—Nazi Germany invades and occupies the Netherlands—key objective: capture Royal family. Queen W. was very reluctant to leave her people but her government eventually persuaded her that it was in the best interest of the country for the Royal Family to be kept safe—and so they  escaped across the North Sea onboard a British destroyer to London—where Queen Wilhelmina took charge of her Dutch government in exile. She made frequent late night illegal radio broadcasts to her people. Churchill later referred to her as “the only real man among the governments in exile in London”.

Meanwhile Queen W. had sent her only child, Crown Princess Juliana and her 2 small children, the princesses Beatrix and Irene, on to Canada where they had been offered sanctuary in Ottawa. Her husband Prince Bernhard remained in London to support his MOL the Queen and was also an RAF Wing Commander flying both fighter and bomber planes into combat. He did manage to visit his family  from time to time  and  in 1943 Princess Margriet was born. The maternity wing of Ottawa Civic Hospital was temporarily declared “extraterritorial” which would give the child the citizenship of the mother. She was given the name Margriet (one of many) Dutch for daisy was chosen by Q-W as the symbol of  the Dutch resistance movement . She was christened in St. Andrews Presb. Church. Her father Prince Bernhard and her grandmother Queen Wilhelmina were both  present and among the godparents were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Queen Mary wife of King George of the UK.

Life for Juliana and her children was fairly ordinary during their Ottawa years—the older two girls attending public school and Juliana volunteering in a second-hand store and knitting socks and such for soldiers. Juliana also travelled within Canada as well as the US and the Netherlands Antilles as her mother’s representative.

When the Netherlands was liberated in1945, the Royals returned home. To express their gratitude to Canada for its hospitality to Princess Juliana and her children, as well as the significant role played by the Canadians in their liberation the Dutch government sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa and to this day continue to send 10,000 bulbs annually, matched by the Dutch Bulb Growers Assoc.

Unlike the British Monarchy- the Dutch do not reign until death—they can retire so to speak. Queen W. who had reigned since the age of 18 abdicated after 50 years in 1948 at the age of 68, 3 years after the war ended- having had to cede her duties to Princess Juliana twice during the last year due to health concerns although she lived for another 14 years. Juliana, who died in 2004 at the age of 94 was  Queen of the Netherlands for 32 years from 1948  until she abdicated on her 71st birthday in 1980. Her oldest daughter Princess Beatrix  (who was also in Ottawa during her childhood) then became Queen at the age of 42 and reigned for 33 years .Now 79, she abdicated in 2013 in favour of her oldest son Willem Alexander who is the current King and nephew of Prinses  Margriet.


On a personal note- having  been born in Apeldoorn and living there for the first 10 years of my life, I remember the palace very well. It was where the former Queen Wilhelmina, Margriet’s grandmother lived. I recall a school trip to the palace when I was perhaps in grade 1, also  gathering in front  the palace with my family and other Apeldoorn citizens  on special occasions when we knew the royal family was “In Residence” perhaps for a birthday—and waiting for the royals to come out and wave to us—much like the balcony scenes at Buckingham Palace.

(Ed Dorr’s mention of Dutch royals being more “down-to-earth)

My father worked for the Dutch Postal Service as a letter carrier delivering the mail on his bike. Sometimes he had the route that included the palace. One day he was riding down the long lane leading to the palace and noticed an elderly woman riding her bike ahead of him. Being in a hurry to finish his route on time he wanted to pass her but she was swerving quite a bit—Dad was about to shout to her to move aside when he realized it was Queen Wilhelmina. I think he slowed down and stayed behind her. But there she was—all by herself, no security, just enjoying a leisurely bike ride.  Although I can assure you security is tighter these days.

Princes Margriet and her husband Pieter van Vollenhoven have lived in our Twin City Apeldoorn since their marriage  in 1967—at first in a wing of Palace Het Loo, later in their present home  built on the palace grounds. The palace was constructed in the 1680s and after renovations became a museum in 1984.Prinses Margriet has always been very popular in the Netherlands and held in high regard by the people. She has been very active, visible and of great support to her sister Queen Beatrix during her reign. She remains active in many endeavors, particularly those related to health and culture. She was Vice-President of the Netherlands Red Cross from 1987 to 2011 and president of the European Cultural Foundation  from 1984-2007. Prinses Margriet has maintained close ties with the country of her birth and has visited on numerous occasions.


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