From 1889, the health of Wilhelmina’s father King William III of the Netherlands deteriorated quickly. On 12 May 1889, he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his inauguration in quite reasonable health. However, by August he suffered a setback, supposedly some kind of stroke. From then on, he stayed put at The Loo Palace in Apeldoorn.
From the summer of 1890, his moods went from calm in the morning to aggressive later in the day. He was often up during the night and would wake up servants, complaining to them of hammering and knocking that appeared to exist only in his mind. He also began to suffer from excruciating headaches. Wilhelmina celebrated her 10th birthday on 31 August 1890 but from then on things moved quickly. He apparently suffered another stroke which, “shocked the brains of His Majesty so deeply, that His Majesty was completely out of it.”1
On 25 September 1890, he saw Wilhelmina for the very last time. The long months of his illness affected the young Wilhelmina very much. She wrote in her memoirs, “Although during the last few months his suffering was such that I could no longer visit him, this period left a deep mark on my life. The atmosphere at The Loo was dominated by his illness. Everything became strained. When his illness was at its worst Mother spent all her time at his bedside, and I hardly saw her. How much it means to a child when her Mother disappears out of her life, and for such a long time! The last night she did not come to bed at all – I had been sleeping in her room for some time – and that night I felt that something terrible was happening upstairs in Father’s room. People tried to hide it from me, but yet I knew what that terrible thing was.”2
The 10-year-old Princess Wilhelmina would soon become the Netherlands’ first Queen regnant.