On 6 September 1898, Wilhelmina was inaugurated in the New Church in Amsterdam. She later wrote, “While my mother was already in the church, I had to walk alone, all alone, with all those unknown gentlemen, from the palace to the church.”1 Emma had done her duty, but her job was not over yet. Especially during those early years, Wilhelmina often asked for her mother’s advice. Also, a husband needed to be found for Wilhelmina. On 7 February 1901, she married Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Emma left Noordeinde Palace to the newlyweds and moved into the Lange Voorhout Palace nearby.
After two miscarriages and a stillbirth, Emma became a grandmother on 30 April 1909 with the birth of Princess Juliana. Juliana called her grandmother “Moemoem.”2 Emma was again named as a potential regent for her granddaughter Juliana, in case Wilhelmina died before Juliana’s majority. After her regency ended, Emma often accompanied her daughter and son-in-law during public engagements. She also loved to travel and spent her time doing charity. She was especially devoted to fighting tuberculosis, the disease that had killed her sister Sophie and set up the first Dutch sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers.
Emma and Wilhelmina corresponded to each other regularly though Wilhelmina would later destroy all of Emma’s letters to her.3 Emma had grown old rather quickly and had begun to suffer from several health problems. She remained as popular as ever and the 50th anniversary of her arrival in the Netherlands was celebrated in 1929. One of her final public appearances was in 1933, for Wilhelmina’s 35th jubilee.
By early 1934, the Minister of Foreign Affairs described Emma as overtired, confused and in a bad physical condition. He wrote, “She will only become enraged when she speaks of the Dutch National Socialism movement and Mussert. She hates them even more than the communists!”4 Emma also had trouble sleeping and often suffered from toothache.
On 20 March 1934, Emma died after being ill for around a week from bronchitis that turned into pneumonia; she was 75 years old. Wilhelmina later wrote in her memoirs, “In March 1934, Juliana and I left her for a few days and went to The Loo for a little fresh air and a change of scene. Except for a slight cold, she seemed in good condition. We meant to stay away for only four or five days, a short winter holiday that I often took to escape from the obligations of life in town. Juliana always assisted Miss Schoch in her welfare work in Apeldoorn. This time, however, we soon received a telephone call from the doctor, who advised me to return immediately because Mother had suddenly fallen ill, and her condition gave rise to anxiety. We left at once. A few tense days followed. Juliana and I were with her at the Voorhout night and day and Henry paid several short visits, with the doctor’s consent. On the 20th of March, God called her to him. On the 27th, we accompanied her to her last resting place in the vault of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, where she lies beside my father.”5
“Since the end of her regency, she had devoted herself entirely to suffering humanity. The warmth of her interest and her intuitive understanding of the circumstances of those who suffered as well as of those who nursed them caused many a heart to rejoice in the course of the years. Mother’s feelings went out to all, and she was a regular visitor in all classes of society. The news of her death caused general grief and regret among our people. We were particularly moved by the small tokens of love which were laid beside her bier, and perhaps even more by the expressions of those who came to as a last farewell.”6