In the early morning of 27 April 1895, the royal yacht De Valk brought two Countesses van Buren from Vlissingen to Queenborough. The Countesses were, in fact, Queen Emma and the 14-year-old Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. From Queenborough, the Queens took the train to London where they were received by the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and the Duchess of Albany, who was Emma’s sister.
The two Queens stayed at the Brown’s Hotel at Albemarle Street. That same day, they visited the National History Museum, followed by a carriage ride through Hyde Park. The following day, they attended a service at the Church of Austin Friars, known as the Dutch church. In the afternoon, they met with the Duchess of Albany again at Claremont House after taking the train from London Waterloo.
The next two days, the young Queen spent several hours at the British Museum to continue her education. Nevertheless, there was still plenty of shopping done, and she also watched the Changing of the Guard in front of St James’s Palace.
On 2 May, the Queens visited Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. On 3 May, the youngest Queen of Europe met the eldest – Queen Victoria. They had lunch together before taking a drive. Queen Victoria wrote in her journal, “Shortly before two, went downstairs to receive the Queen Regent of the Netherlands and her daughter… The young Queen, who will be fifteen in August, has her hair hanging down. She is very slight and graceful, has fine features, and seems to be very intelligent and a charming child. She speaks English extremely well, and has very pretty manners.”1 For the occasion, a now-famous photo was made, but it was, in fact, two photos photoshopped together.
The following days were again spent shopping. On 7 May, they visited the Tower of London and had lunch with the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three daughters at Marlborough House. The Prince of Wales had met with Wilhelmina’s half-brother William, Prince of Orange in Paris before his death but it is unlikely they discussed the past. They also went to have tea with Mary of Teck, then Duchess of York.
The following day, they visited the House of Commons, where they listened to debates. That evening, Queen Emma had dinner with Queen Victoria without Wilhelmina. On 9 May – the final day – the two Queens had a last lunch with Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria presented Wilhelmina with a signed portrait of herself as a souvenir of their meeting. The Prince of Wales also visited them on that last day. Their cover as Countesses of Buren was definitely blown by now, so they received a full honour guard as they left.
On 10 May, they were back in the Netherlands. From Friedrichshof, Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter wrote to her mother, “I am very glad the visit of the Queen of the Netherlands went off so well; I should much like to see them. I have the greatest respect for Queen Emma… The young Queen must be a charming and interesting girl…2
In her memoirs, Wilhelmina wrote of the trip, “In 1895 Mother took me to England, for ten days or perhaps a little longer. It was not just a pleasure trip; Professor Krämer accompanied us in order to guide me round the British Museum, where I had to see the Assyrian, Egyptian and Greek antiquities. The museum aroused little interest in me, all the other things I found very exciting. What an experience: to see London in the spring, and to have so many unexpected things happening. I suppose Mother also wanted me to meet Queen Victoria’s large family, for I went on several visits with her and also accompanied her on several luncheons. The visit took on momentarily an official character when we went to pay our respects to the old Queen at Windsor, but otherwise, we were free in our movements. We saw my mother’s sister, Aunt Helena, at Claremont, where I played with my cousins. We had luncheon with the future King Edward VII at Marlborough House and paid a visit to his daughter-in-law, the future Queen Mary, at St James’s Palace. Her first child had not yet begun to walk at that time, and the King, who died a few years ago had not been born3. What a long time ago!”4
When Queen Wilhelmina met Queen Victoria again in 1898 in Nice, she was presented with the Order of Victoria and Albert.