The day before her official abdication, Juliana looked back on her reign with the words, “Life is beautiful but hard.”1 The following day, Juliana signed her abdication and her daughter became Queen Beatrix. Like her mother before her, Juliana returned to using the style and title of Her Royal Highness Princess Juliana. They went onto the balcony where Juliana spoke the words, “Just now, I have resigned the government. I present to you Beatrix your new Queen.” But it had not been such a happy occasion as before, with riots and smoke bombs making it nearly impossible for the speeches to be heard. Republicanism was on the rise. The new Queen’s first official visit was with the victims of the riots in the hospital the following day.
Juliana remained in the public eye for at least ten years after her abdication, and she kept up with the news. Her focus remained on social work, and she continued to visit institutes for the disabled and the like. She was present for the anniversary of the El Al disaster in Amsterdam in 1992 and in 1995, she attended the celebration for the 50th anniversary of the liberation.
Between 1987 and 1997, Juliana’s memory began to fail, much to Bernhard’s annoyance. He was often rude and impatient, leading to Juliana bursting out in tears. A friend of Juliana later said, “He was insulting and disparaging and fed her feelings of inferiority.[…] If she made a mistake or forgot something, he gave you a look like: see how forgetful she is. Like he was collecting evidence against her.”2 Yet, he remained the love of her life, and she still wished to be reconciled with him.
In 1998, Juliana broke her hip during a trip to the Keukenhof, and although she physically recovered well, her mental state took a hit as well. In 1999, she announced that she would no longer be appearing in public. She was continually nursed throughout her last years. Her memory failed her even more, and she was soon unable to recognise anyone, and she was often angry and confused. Bernhard refused to see his wife.
In March 2004, Juliana fell ill with pneumonia and her daughters rushed to be with her. At Irene’s insistence, Bernhard also came to see his wife. Christina, who was living in New York at the time, arrived too late. On 20 March 2004, Juliana passed away “peacefully.”
Juliana’s funeral took place on 30 March 2004. Her body was brought from Noordeinde Palace to the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft. Her daughters dressed in white while female guests were requested to wear a white accent. Her musical daughter Christina sang, “It’s a gift to be simple.”
Nine months after Juliana’s death, her husband Bernhard also passed away.
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