You might have the impression the Dutch monarchy stretches back hundreds of years. In fact it is just 200 years old.
Quick history lesson: In 1806, what was then the Batavian Republic became the Kingdom of Holland, under king Louis Bonaparte, emperor Napoleon’s brother. His reign lasted until 1810, when the Netherlands was incorporated into the French Empire. Three years later, the French retreated, marking an end to the period of Napoleonic rule and the start of the modern monarchy.
King Willem I (1772-1843)
When Napoleon fell, Willem was in London. In November 1813, at the request of a number of leading Dutchmen, he returned home, declaring himself to be the country’s sovereign prince. Two years later he took the title of king Willem I. He abdicated in 1840. Willem I married twice, once to his cousin who was the daughter of a Prussian king with whom he had six children, and once to countess Henriette d’Oultremont de Wégimont.
King Willem II (1792-1849)
Willem II acceded to the throne in 1840, following his father’s abdication. Willem II married Anna Pavlovna, the daughter of the Russian czar and they had five children but Willem is also said to have had several affairs with men.
In the revolutionary year of 1848, Willem gave in to the wishes of the liberal opposition movement and agreed to a constitution that drastically restricted royal power in favour of the representative assembly. He reigned until his death in 1849.
King Willem III (1817-1890)
Willem III resisted these attempts to limit royal authority, but in vain. Willem’s first wife, Sophie of Württemberg, was his cousin. It was not a happy marriage and their three sons, Willem, Maurits and Alexander, all died before their father. In 1879 the King married Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont who was 41 years younger than him. The couple had one daughter, Wilhemina, when Willem was 63. Willem III died in 1890.
When king William III died, his only daughter was too young to reign so her mother Emma acted as regent until Wilhelmina came of age in 1898. Wilhelmina and her husband, Duke Hendrik of Mecklenburg, had one child, Juliana, who was born in 1909, after several miscarriages, much to the relief of the Dutch who feared the monarchy would be handed over to German relations. Wilhelmina’s flight to London at the beginning of World War II was not looked upon with a friendly eye by everyone. She did, however, become a symbol of of the Dutch resistance against the Germans. Churchill called her ‘the only man in the Dutch government’. In 1948 Queen Wilhelmina, responsible for the cycling monarchy image, abdicated.
Queen Juliana (1909-2004)
Queen Juliana reigned from 1948 to 1980. In 1937 she had married German national and playboy Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterveld, who had numerous affairs and several illegitimate children. Juliana and Bernhard themselves had four daughters. Juliana’s involvement with a faith healer – who was brought in to ‘restore’ her daughter’s damaged sight and whose pacifist ideas greatly influenced the queen, much to the disgust of cold war adept Bernhard – nearly brought down the monarchy. In 1976 the family was hit by another scandal when Bernard was implicated in the Lockheed bribery affair. Juliana abdicated in 1980 and she and her husband died in 2004.
Queen Beatrix (1938)
Princess Beatrix married the German diplomat Claus von Amsberg in 1966, which caused a lot of raised eyebrows, given that Claus had been a member of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi Wehrmacht. In 1980 she became queen following her mother’s abdication. She and Claus had three sons in quick succession: Willem-Alexander (born 1967), Friso (born 1968) and Constantijn (born 1969). She abdicated on April 30 2013.
King Willem-Alexander (1967)
Willem-Alexander took over from his mother after her reign of exactly 33 years. Nicknamed Prince Pils for his enthusiastic antics as a student, WA has a history degree from Leiden University and has since made water management his speciality. Continuing the family tradition of controversial marriages, on July 3, 2001, he married Máxima Zorreguieta, the daughter of a former member of Argentina’s military junta. The couple have three children, Catharina-Amalia, Alexia and Ariane.
Future queen Amalia, formally known as Catharina-Amalia princess of Orange, was born on December 7, 2003. She goes to the public Bloemcampschool near her home in Wassenaar and her hobbies are hockey, judo, horse riding, ballet and playing the violin. As well as schools, boats and streets, Amalia also has the dubious honour of having a fungus named after her.