Juliana was born in The Hague on 30 April 1909 as the only surviving child of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Prince Henry, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Her mother had suffered several miscarriages, and one stillbirth and the relief at the birth of a healthy baby was great. She spent most of her childhood at the Loo Palace, Noordeinde Palace and Huis Ten Bosch. She was educated with three noble girls of her own age in a small class so that she could socialise with children her own age.
On 30 April 1927, she turned 18 years old and was now officially of age. She was installed in the Council of State two days later. She studied at the University of Leiden and attended lectures in various subjects. She graduated in 1930, after which a search began for a suitable husband for the future Queen of the Netherlands. At the 1936 Winter Olympics in Bavaria Juliana met Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld and he was considered suitable. Juliana was deeply in love, despite his many extramarital affairs and illegitimate children. Queen Wilhelmina perhaps already sensed trouble from him and he was made to sign a very strict prenuptial agreement. They married on 7 January 1937, on the same day King William III and Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont had married 58 years earlier. They lived at Soestdijk Palace.
Their first child, Princess Beatrix, was born on 31 January 1938, quickly followed by Princess Irene on 5 August 1939. The House of Orange-Nassau was back from the brink of extinction. The Second World War caused Juliana and her family to be evacuated to the United Kingdom, with Queen Wilhelmina, who set up a government in exile there. Juliana and her children moved to Canada a month later. It was there that she gave birth to the couple’s third daughter, Princess Margriet. Her rooms at the hospital were temporarily declared extraterritorial.
The family was finally reunited on 2 August 1945 as Prince Bernhard had remained in London during the war. Her last child, Princess Christina was born in 1947 with cataracts in both eyes due to Princess Juliana contracting German measles during pregnancy. Her guilt over this caused Princess Juliana to come under the influence of Greet Hofmans, a faith healer.
Meanwhile, her mother’s health was deteriorating. Juliana acted as regent several times, and Queen Wilhelmina abdicated on 6 September 1948. The controversy surrounding Greet Hofmans soon erupted into a debate over her competency to be Queen. Her down to earth style and her preference to be addressed as “Mrs” endeared her to the people. The devastating flood of 1953, which caused more than 2000 people to drown, saw Queen Juliana wading through the water to bring people food and clothing. Greet Hofmans nearly brought down the monarchy in 1956 due to her influence on Queen Juliana’s political views. Eventually, Greet Hofmans was banished from court, and Prince Bernhard considered divorcing Juliana.
Another crisis came in 1963 when her daughter Princess Irene secretly converted to Roman Catholicism and married Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon, Duke of Parma without government approval on 29 April 1964. Closely following the crisis, Princess Beatrix announced her engagement to Claus von Amsberg, a German diplomat. With the Second World War so close in the people’s memory, many demonstrated in the streets. Despite this, Prince Claus would become one of the most popular members of the Dutch royal family.
On 30 April 1980, her 71st birthday, Queen Juliana abdicated in favour of her eldest daughter, Princess Beatrix. Her health declined from the 1990s, and she began to suffer from dementia. In 2001, she was no longer able to recognise members of her family. She died in her sleep on 20 March 2004 at the age of 94 at Soestdijk Palace. Her husband followed her eight months later on 1 December 2004.