By 1947, Queen Wilhelmina was physically worn out and suffering from a heart condition which made it necessary for Princess Juliana to act as regent twice. Though her daughter tried to convince her to hold off her abdication until her golden jubilee, Wilhelmina dreaded celebrating another jubilee. In her memoirs, Wilhelmina wrote, “It was only after the period of transition following the liberation that I felt justified in seriously considering the question of abdication. An incentive was provided by my daily duties, which were more numerous than before the war and left my spirit little or no time for relaxation, which did not help my fitness at moments when special demands were made of me.”1 Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in favour of her only child Juliana on 4 September 1948 and reverted to the title of Princess Wilhelmina.
After her abdication, Princess Wilhelmina spent a lot of time on religion, and she felt relieved to no longer have the burden of government on her shoulders. She remained in daily contact with her daughter but rarely appeared in public. She retreated to the Loo Palace, where she would eventually inhabit just a few small rooms in the staff quarters. She took up painting again and often went out riding on the Veluwe. She also liked to ride her bicycle, and her bicycle always stood ready and waiting for at the back entrance of the Palace. She also set about writing her memoirs, which were also translated in English. Tragically, she also burned a lot of correspondence, like letters from her mother. She wrote, “It was very necessary to burn a lot.”2 Wilhelmina also took up travelling – visiting Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Norway in 1951, France in 1953, and Norway again in 1953, 1954 and 1955.
She spent her 80th birthday in 1960 in private at the Loo Palace, though over 400 telegrams were delivered to congratulate her on her birthday. In the autumn of 1962, she began having issues with her heart again and wrote to her first cousin Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone “Since a few weeks I am struggling hard against my old complaint.”3 But Wilhelmina was not afraid.
Wilhelmina remained conscious throughout her final days. She died just before 1 A.M. on 28 November 1962. A press release stated, “In the last few weeks signs appeared of a heart disease that had to be considered as being very serious in view of her age. Notwithstanding a slight improvement, her illness took a turn for the worse yesterday. The gradual deterioration of her general state of health, which was already bad, was speeded [sic] up.”4
Queen Juliana announced her mother’s death with the words, “It has pleased God to call my dear mother to him. She expired peacefully today. I am convinced that the Dutch people will share the great gratitude with me and mine that we feel has been given to us by this life.”5