On Monday morning 31 January 1938, Queen Wilhelmina’s first grandchild, the future Queen Beatrix, was born at Soestdijk Palace. She was given the names Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard, for both her grandmothers. She weighed eight pounds and was 52 centimetres long. Her parents were Queen Wilhelmina’s only surviving child Princess Juliana and her husband, Prince Bernhard. She was baptised on 12 May 1938. Her five godparents were King Leopold III of Belgium, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, Elisabeth, Princess of Erbach-Schönberg, Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg, and Countess Allene de Kotzebue.
Shortly before the start of the Second World War, she was joined in the nursery by a younger sister named Princess Irene. It soon became clear that the Netherlands would not be able to stay neutral during this war as it had been during the First World War. The night before the invasion, Queen Wilhelmina joined Juliana and her two granddaughters in a bomb shelter near Huis ten Bosch. On 13 May, the family boarded the HMS Hereward and were evacuated to the United Kingdom. Queen Wilhelmina set up a government in exile while Juliana, Beatrix and Irene were sent to Lydney Park in Gloucestershire. Soon there were plans to move them to Canada where they would be safer.
Meanwhile, Princess Irene’s baptism took place in the Royal Chapel of Buckingham Palace. On 2 June 1940, Juliana and her two daughters left for Canada on the Sumatra – arriving there on 10 June. Beatrix’s father Prince Bernhard remained in England.
In 1942, Queen Wilhelmina visited her family in Ottawa, where she was also joined by President Roosevelt, his wife and Princess Märtha of Sweden, Crown Princess of Norway. Beatrix and Irene stole the show, and Roosevelt’s secretary later wrote, “Princess Beatrix gave me some cherries from her basket, and the other little toddler gave me a posy. Really adorable children and great favourites with all the men on duty here.”1 Queen Wilhelmina then travelled on to the United States where she would address a joint session of the United States Congress. In early 1943, a third daughter named Margriet was born to Princess Juliana in Canada. The three little Princesses all learned to speak English with a Canadian accent. During their time in Canada, Beatrix attended nursery and Rockcliffe Park Public School, where she was known as “Trixie Orange.”
After a visit in August 1945, Queen Mary wrote, “Such talkative children, too funny, the baby (Margriet) climbing all over the furniture… They told us all about the ship Queen Mary… all in broad Canadian English.”2
On 2 August 1945, the family was finally able to return to the liberated Netherlands. They went to live at Soestdijk Palace, where Beatrix had been born. Beatrix continued her education at De Werkplaats in Bilthoven. A fourth and final daughter – Maria Christina (later just Christina) was born to Princess Julia in 1947, but she suffered from limited eyesight after her mother had become infected with rubella during her pregnancy. More changes were to come when her grandmother Queen Wilhelmina abdicated on 4 September 1948 and Beatrix was now the heir to the throne.
Meanwhile, her education went ahead as planned. In 1950, she went to the Incrementum, part of the Baarns Lyceum, from which she graduated in 1956. She then attended Leiden University, where she studied Law, and she gained her degree in 1961.
Beatrix’s engagement to German diplomat Claus von Amsberg was announced on 28 June 1965 by her mother and father. They were married on 10 March 1966 and despite protests on their wedding day (due to him being German), he eventually became one of the more popular members of the royal family. They had met at the wedding of Princess Tatjana of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse. The newlyweds went to live at Drakensteyn Castle, and they went on to have three sons together: the current King Willem-Alexander (1967), Prince Friso (1968–2013) and Prince Constantijn (1969). They lived at Drakensteyn Castle until the abdication of Beatrix’s mother Juliana in 1980 when they moved to Huis ten Bosch.
On 30 April 1980, Beatrix became Queen of the Netherlands when her mother abdicated in her favour. She was inaugurated at a ceremony held in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam later that day. She would go on to reign as Queen for 33 years. Tragically, she lost her husband in 2002 after a long illness. Both her father and mother followed in 2004. She celebrated her silver jubilee in 2005 and received an honorary doctorate from the Leiden University that same year.
On Queen’s Day – the traditional birthday celebrations of the monarch – in 2009, there was an attack on the bus that the royal family were riding in. A man in a car crashed through a crowd of people – killing 8 (including the attacker) – but he missed the bus and crashed into a monument. The royal family was not hurt but witnessed much of the attack. A visibly emotional Queen Beatrix addressed the nation via live television a few hours later.
On 28 January 2013, Beatrix announced her intention to abdicate and she did so on 30 April 2013 – becoming the third successive monarch to abdicate. Prime Minister Rutte paid tribute to her saying, “Since her investiture in 1980, she has applied herself heart and soul to Dutch society.” The inauguration of her son – now King Willem-Alexander – took place in the afternoon on 30 April. Just a few months later, her middle son Prince Friso died of complications after being in a coma following an avalanche accident.
Queen Beatrix reverted to using the title of Princess, and despite abdicating, she is still an active member of the royal family. Through her three sons, she has eight grandchildren.3
- Wilhelmina – Krijgshaftig in een vormeloze jas by Cees Fasseur p.397
- Wilhelmina – Krijgshaftig in een vormeloze jas by Cees Fasseur p.415
- Koninklijk Huis