In early 1880 the new Queen Emma of the Netherlands realised she was expecting. By March, rumours were circulating around the country. In the evening of 30 August 1880, Emma went into labour at Noordeinde Palace and her husband was by her side throughout. A Princess was born the following day at six o’clock in the evening, much to (almost) everyone’s joy. A 51-gun salute welcomed the Princess. King William showed no disappointment in the gender of his fourth child. She received the names Wilhelmina (a traditional Orange-Nassau name) Helena Pauline Maria (after three of Emma’s sisters). She was initially known as Pauline, though her parents later switched to Wilhelmina. The following day, William registered the birth himself and insisted on showing off the newborn Princess to the gentlemen in attendance, calling her “a beautiful child.”1
At the time of her birth, the future Queen was third in the line of succession. At the time, the Netherlands operated on a semi-salic line of succession, and so, she was behind her elder half-brother Alexander (the only one of her three half-brothers still living) but also behind her great-uncle Prince Frederick. Prince Frederick died in 1881 without any surviving sons, followed by the unmarried Alexander in 1884, leaving Wilhelmina as her father’s heir at the age of four.
The baptism of the infant Princess took place on 12 October 1880 in the reformed Willemskerk in The Hague with all the royal ceremony they could muster. There was a horsedrawn carriage with six horses, three lackeys by the door and two gentlemen who carried the train of the satin baptismal gown. The baptismal gown would be worn by Princess Juliana in 1909, Princess Beatrix in 1938, Prince Willem-Alexander in 1967 and Princess Catharina-Amalia in 2004.
Pastor Van Koetsveld held the sermon with the words, “Children are the blossom of life.” For the first time in many years, it was the mother herself who held Wilhelmina as she was baptised. Most of the extended family was present, except for Emma’s mother who was not well and Wilhelmina’s half-brother Alexander.