Juliana had been dreading wearing the crown, and she thought it a huge sacrifice. Her first act as Queen was to present her mother with the Military William Order, the oldest and highest honour of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for her actions during the Second World War. On 27 December 1949, Juliana signed the papers that recognised Indonesian sovereignty over the former Dutch colony.
The illness of her youngest daughter Christina and the arrival of the faith healer Greet Hofmans affected her already strained relationship with her husband. Greet first came to Soestdijk Palace in 1948, around the time Juliana became Queen after her mother’s abdication. Greet immediately promised not only to heal the poorly functioning right eye of Princess Christina but also the “dead” left eye. Her confidence won over Queen Juliana who would have done anything for her daughter. As Greet Hofmans’ influence at court grew, she became close friends with Queen Juliana, and soon their circle was expanding. Prince Bernhard soon realised that he had made a grave mistake in bringing Greet to Soestdijk. He told her that she could not stay the night any more, and it earned him the ire of his wife.
Soon there were calls to have her removed entirely from the court, but Juliana was deaf to the concerns. Juliana began to hold conferences in the Old Loo Palace, where pacifism and renunciation of the established religions were the main themes. Eleanor Roosevelt – who had been dragged along as a guest to the second conference – referred to them as a bunch of “fanatics.” The situation was becoming worrying, and it was feared that Greet influenced Juliana in the political sense.
It wasn’t until 1956 that the whole situation exploded in the press. Prince Bernhard had seen his marriage go to the edge of the cliff and was even told to go live with his mother by Juliana. They were headed for a divorce – which was unthinkable. It was Prince Bernhard who fought back via Der Spiegel magazine with inside information. He was only leaving Soestdijk Palace “feet first.” A commission was founded to investigate the matter, and they concluded that Greet needed to leave the court.
Juliana was reluctant to let her friend go, and it appeared she was unwilling to follow the conclusions made by the commission. Nevertheless, Greet visited the court for the last time at the end of August. In her Christmas Speech of 1956, Juliana briefly touched on the situation that had affected her so much, saying, “Why do some people attack others through devious means and with untrue claims?”
Juliana never saw Greet again, and her circle of like-minded friends slowly disappeared from the court. Christina would have a relatively normal life after receiving conventional medical care and thick glasses. Prince Bernhard would go on to father at least two illegitimate daughters; Alicia Hala de Bielefeld (born 21 June 1952) and Alexia Grinda-Lejeune (born 10 July 1967). This was only officially confirmed after Bernhard’s death.
Juliana’s shining moment came after the North Sea flood of 1953 where she could be the kind of Queen she wanted to be – no protocol and directly involved with the public. During the following months, Juliana spent a lot of time in the area and the shelters. On 31 January 1956, Juliana’s heir Beatrix celebrated her 18th birthday. While Juliana preferred to be addressed as “Ma’am” instead of Your Majesty, Beatrix was known to be more formal.
The year 1957 was a new beginning for Queen Juliana. She continued to visit the areas affected by the North Sea Flood, and she became more involved with visiting hospitals and youth homes. She also became the royal patron of two institutes for the blind. She wanted to be known as a socially involved Queen. She remained intensely religious, and although she no longer held the conferences, she still had some obscure ideas.
In 1962, Juliana and Bernhard celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They spent the day itself in Lech in Austria, but Juliana was recalled home the following after a railway disaster that would cost 93 lives and remains the worst railway accident in the history of the Netherlands That same year, Juliana was hit by a great personal loss. Her mother Wilhelmina died on 28 November, and like her father Henry, Wilhelmina had requested a funeral in white. She was interred in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft. She and Juliana had remained in close contact after the abdication, but Wilhelmina had withdrawn to a small flat intended for staff at the Loo Palace, where she died. There was a single floral arrangement on her casket with the words, “From the resistance.” There was also a flag, her Military William Order and a bible. Her funeral was the first to be broadcast on the TV.
Juliana was now also the mother of four women of marriageable age. Her second daughter Irene was the first to find a husband, but he was the Catholic Carlist pretender to the throne of Spain, Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma, which would cause quite the crisis. After long deliberation, Irene gave up her rights to the throne to marry him and would settle abroad with him. In 1966, the heir to the throne married German diplomat Claus von Amsberg. Although he would eventually become immensely popular in the Netherlands, his reception was cold. He had been a member of the Hitlerjugend and the Wehrmacht as a 17-year-old. Their loving engagement interview won over the hearts of many, but their wedding day still saw violent protests. In 1967, Princess Margriet married Pieter van Vollenhoven while Princess Christina married Jorge Pérez y Guillermo in 1975. Together, they would produce a total of 14 grandchildren for Juliana and Bernhard. The future King Willem-Alexander was born in 1967.
Juliana – who may have dreaded becoming Queen – had grown into her role and was perhaps even enjoying it. She loved to visit the people and also began to do more state visits. A servant later recalled, “If you recognise shortcomings in yourself, you’ll accept them in others as well. Juliana had an eye for human weakness. She was a warm and natural woman for whom the rules didn’t count, only the soul. She lovingly accepted people who did not fit the norm of perfection and what is right and normal.”1
On 31 January 1980, Juliana announced that she intended to abdicate on 30 April in favour of Beatrix.