How does one introduce a child to royal life, especially one who is already a Queen in her own right?
Queen Wilhelmina was just ten years old when she performed her first official duty. On 28 May 1891, Wilhelmina laid the foundation stone of a new hospital in Amsterdam, called the Wilhelmina Gasthuis. The weather was apparently awful, and the organisation was chaotic. When the hospital later celebrated its 75th anniversary, a bronze statue of the 10-year-old Wilhelma, made by Mari Andriessen, was placed at the entrance. When it stopped being a hospital in 1983, the statue was moved to Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. The old Wilhelmina Gasthuis currently consists of offices and apartments.
Shortly after the visit to Amsterdam, Queen Wilhelmina and her mother received an official visit from Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and his wife Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. Wilhelmina later wrote in her memoirs, “On this occasion, I had to act as hostess to the Empress, at home as well as in public. She was very kind and motherly. We followed Mother and the Kaiser in a red carriage. I also had to attend the official banquet. The days of the visit were rich in new experiences for me.”1
Over the next two years, the young Queen laid two more foundation stones in Rotterdam and Utrecht. In June 1892, Wilhelmina also visited the capitals of the northern provinces of Friesland and Groningen. In Friesland, Wilhelmina was shown the meagre meals that a labourer survived on. During visits to Brabant and Twente, she visited textile factories and learned of the circumstances the labourers had to work in.
Wilhelmina later wrote in her memoirs, “Soon we began to pay official visits to towns and provinces, always arranged so as not to interfere with my lessons. At first, these duties frightened me, not at the moment itself but before. I became highly wrought-up about them, with the result that in spite of my perfect health I looked pale and tired during these visits, and gave the public the impression of being a weak child, which made Mother unhappy. I soon got used to the public appearances themselves; Mother made things easy for me.”2