On this day 70 years ago, the Netherlands’ war time Queen,Wilhelmina, handed over the reign to her oldest daughter Juliana.
On 4 September 1948, after a reign of 58 years, Wilhelmina abdicated in favour of her daughter Juliana, because of advancing age and declining health. The abdication meant that she would henceforth be known as addressed as “Her Royal Highness Princess Wilhelmina of the Netherlands”
She had been inaugurated as Queen aged 18 on September 6 1898.Technically she had been Queen since 1890, after the death of her Father ,King William III. But since she was only 10 at the time her mother,Queen Emma served as regent until Wilhelimina turned 18. Therefore technically her reign was for 58 years even though the first 8 years her Mother reigned in her stead.
During World War II she took charge of the Dutch government in exile,in the UK. On August 5, 1942 She addressed the U.S. Congress and was the first queen to do so.
In the night of 20/21 February 1944 she was nearly killed during Operation Steinbock, sometimes referred to as Baby Blitz, by a bomb that took the lives of two of her staff and severely damaged her country home near South Mimms in England.
She was not a great fan of politicians, instead stating a love for the people. When the Netherlands was liberated in 1945 she was disappointed to see the same political factions taking power as before the war.
Following the end of World War II, she made the decision not to return to her palace but to move into a mansion in The Hague, where she stayed for eight months. She traveled throughout the Netherlands to motivate people, sometimes using a bicycle instead of a car. But in 1947, as the country was still recovering from the woes of World War II, the revolt in the oil-rich Dutch East Indies saw sharp criticism of the Queen by the Dutch economic elite.
Around the same time, her health started failing , forcing her to temporarily cede her monarchial duties to Juliana at the end of 1947 (14 October tto 1 December). At that stage she already contemplated abdication, but Juliana convinced her to stay on for the stability of the nation, urging her to stay on the throne until 1950 so she could celebrate her diamond jubilee. Wilhelmina had the intention of doing just that , but unfortunately exhaustion forced her to relinquish duties as a monarch to Juliana again on 12 May 1948. The timing wasn’t great as it left Juliana to deal with the early elections caused by the demand for independence by the Indonesian colonies.
Dismayed by the return to pre-war politics and the pending loss of Indonesia, Wilhelmina abdicated on 4 September 1948.
During the last years of her life she wrote her autobiography entitled Eenzaam, maar niet alleen (Lonely but Not Alone), in which she gave account of the events in her life, and revealed her strong religious feelings and motivations.
Wilhelmina died in Het Loo Palace at the age of 82 on 28 November 1962.
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