Just a nice joke of that friend of mine who is crazy about lego. He recently placed a couple in front of the municipality hall of Zuidlaren – he is building the nicest buildings in the village in lego (see https://zuidlareninlego.wordpress.com/). They are supposed to be King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visiting Zuidlaren on King’s Day … actually Queen Beatrix once did visit Zuidlaren on Queen’s Day 1982. And guess what … there is a lego-doll with a camera taking pictures of them. And that is supposed to be ME !!! Aren’t we cute :-)
Last Friday, 17 April, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands came to Groningen to reveal a collage of her state portraits at the Beatrix Children’s Hospital, part of the University Medical Center Groningen. As it was only a five minute bike ride from my house, I of course had a look.
Then they all walked to the Children’s Hospital to reveal the wall with nine state portraits of Beatrix from the time she was a Queen. Princess Beatrix and little Guus pressed the button and the portraits appeared. Can you imagine the hospital named after Beatrix, didn’t have a single portrait of her? Now they have several.
We went back inside, “crashed” the reception – thanks hospital, the drinks and nuts were tasting quite good – and had a nice conversation with artist Marte Röling. She actually compiled the wall full of portraits and choose the ones she liked most. In the left corner of course her own impressive portrait of the former Queen.
Don’t be surprised if one of the first things you see when entering the grounds of Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn is a peacock. They walk around in the stables area, and if you’re lucky they show you their lovely colours.
I visited the palace a week ago to see the exhibition “Sisi, sprookje & werkelijkheid” (Sisi, fairy tale & reality), which was opened by Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and the great-grandson of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Archduke Michael (* 1949) on 9 April. It opened for the public on 10 April and will be on display until 27 September 2015. It is the largest exhibition about the Empress outside Austria ever. Badly readable signs, especially at the beginning of the exhibition, but I hope the museum keeps the promise that they will be better soon. Too much complaints. But the exhibition itself is a must for people who are interested, not only in the fairy tale princess from the unforgettable and romantic Sissi-films of the 1950s with Romy Schneider and Karlheinz Böhm, but also the ones who are interested in “meeting” the more realistic version. From childhood to death, from the engagement and marriage to her travels and beauty obsession. Everything is there. Including an item about her two visits to the Netherlands in 1884-1885. In case you didn’t know … she loved to travel. Unfortunately photographing is not allowed inside, so all I can show is the banners on the wall of the wing of the palace where the exhibition is being held. When I went to have lunch in the café, I had a special Sisi-chocolate with my tea, and I had one of the few Austrian dishes on the menu. There is a wonderful book published in connection with the exhibition, with the same title, written by Katrin Unterreiner and Patric Aalders together with Anne-Dirk Renting, and published by WalburgPress. Only in Dutch tough as far as I know. I accidentally happened to meet Patric at the palace and had my book signed.
After my visit to the exhibition and lunch I went into the park of Castle Het Oude Loo. The park, unfortunately not the castle, is open in the months of April and May. Unfortunately I was there a bit too early in the season. May is definitely the best month to go. The weather wasn’t very good, and I was lucky it only start raining at the end of my walk. I had brought my umbrella tough. The castle is a 15th century hunting castle with a moat around it. It is still in use by the Dutch royal family occasionally. This park is not included in your entrance ticket for the palace tough.
How to open a year to commemorate one of the grandest women in Frisian history? As written earlier 2015 is the The Year of Maria Louise. The official opening of the year on 9 April 2015 took place exactly 250 years after her death in 1765. Maria Louise Princess of Orange and of Nassau, born a Princess of Hessen-Kassel was beloved in Friesland, where she lived most of her life. And she is not forgotten yet.
The event started at the Oldehoofsterkerkhof in Leeuwarden just outside “De Brasserie”, around the corner of the Princessehof where Maria Louise once lived. Speeches by Bearn Bilker, royalty-expert and mayor of Kollumerland, and the mayor of Leeuwarden Fred Crone, also by loco “Commissaris van de Koning” (King’s Commissioner) Jannewietske de Vries. And the words “Start Maria Louise jaar 9 april 2015″ were painted on the wall and then revealed. Afterwards the people invited to the meeting on the occasion in the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk walked to this church. On 20 June a big wall painting will be revealed on this wall, with a “genealogy” with ten portraits of descendants of Maria Louise and her husband Johan Willem Friso, among them monarchs reigning today. It makes one really curious to see what it will look like. Sitting on “her” throne in the middle of the church was Maria Louise, or actually actress Tet Rozendal, and she must have been there for about two hours before she could finally climb down again. She was a magnificent Maria Louise one must admit. In between the parts of the meeting she spoke, as if she was Maria Louise, about her life and feelings. Very impressive indeed. The music by Wiebe Kaspers and three other musicians was very fitting. Readings were by Bearn Bilker about Maria Louise’s life (see text here) and historian Dr Els Kloek about the role of Maria Louise as woman and princess. There was also a small presentation of the events in the coming months … and that meant even a horse entered the church. Never seen that before, might also never see it again. At the end of the meeting there were drinks and a few little snacks. And everybody who left got a special Maria Louise bonbon, that I ate just after taking the picture. It was just too delicious …
The Frisian Nassaus Maria Louise was the last and most known of the female regents of Friesland. Count Willem Lodewijk of Nassau-Dillenburg (1560-1620), a nephew of the wellknown Prince William “The Silent” of Orange, was Stadtholder of Friesland since 1584 (Groningen since 1594 and Drenthe 1596). Willem-Lodewijk is nowadays known as “Us Heit” (our father) in Friesland. He married his cousin Anna, daughter of William of Orange, who died hardly half a year later during her first pregnancy. She was the first to be buried in the vault in the Grote- of Jacobijnerkerk (church), where most members of this so called “Frisian branche” of the family were buried afterwards. He never remarried and was succeeded as stadtholder by his younger brother Count Ernst Casimir (1573-1632), who in his turn was succeeded by his son Hendrik Casimir I (1612-1640). As the Dutch were still at war with the Spanish, the Nassaus were to be found on the battlefields often. The successor in 1640 was Hendrik Casimirs brother Willem Frederik (1613-1664). As his son Hendrik Casimir II (1657-1696) was still a child his mother Albertina Agnes became his regent. He became in 1675 the first hereditary Stadtholder of Friesland. Also he died early and left a young son, Johan Willem Friso (1687-1711). His mother Henriëtte Amalia became his regent until 1707 when he came of age. As King-Stadtholder Willem III – yes the one who also reigned in Great Britain next to his wife Queen Mary II – had died childless in 1702, Johan Willem Friso was the only hope left … if he wouldn’t have a heir, the Princes of Orange in the Netherlands would become extinct. Johan Willem Friso knew what his duty was and in 1709 married Maria Louise of Hessen-Kassel, one year his junior, which seems to have been a happy although very short marriage. The next year the first child, a daughter called Amelia, was born. While his wife was highly pregnant of her second child, Johan Willem Friso drowned in July 1711 on his way to The Hague where he was to take part in a discussion in the succession dispute about the heritage of King-Stadtholder Willem III. 48 days later his wife gave birth to the long awaited heir, Stadtholder Willem IV. The young widow Maria Louise became his regent until 1731. Her son however died in 1751 leaving a young son, Willem V. His mother Anna, born a Princess of Hannover, became his regent but died in 1759. Maria Louise took care of her two grandchildren and was regent again for her grandson from 1759 to her death in 1765, the Tuesday after Easter (the meeting took place on Thursday after Easter). She was the last member of the family to live in Leeuwarden. The rest of the family had moved to The Hague after in 1747 Willem IV had become hereditary Stadtholder of the United Provinces. Maria Louise on 13 June 1765 was also the last of the family to be buried in the church she had only visited shortly before her death. She was deeply mourned by many.
Once Leeuwarden was a real royal residence, small and unknown, from the late 16th century to 1765, when Princess-Regent Maria Louise died in the city. Just visit the Tourist Information near the railway station and get yourself the Orange-Nassau Walk through the historical city of Leeuwarden to find the traces that are still there. There is the former palace, the “Stadhouderlijk Hof“, nowadays a hotel. Don’t hesitate walking into the hall. The building became a residence of the Stadtholders of Friesland in 1587 until the late 18th century. In 1814 King Willem I of the Netherlands bought the building and sometimes it was used by the royal family when they came to the north of the Netherlands. King Willem III in 1881 donated the paintings from his Palace in Leeuwarden to the new Fries Museum. On the square in front of the former residence since 1906 is the statue of Stadtholder Willem Lodewijk, Count of Nassau-Diez (1560-1620). In 1971 Leeuwarden bought the building from Queen Juliana. Furthermore there is for example the small Waalse Kerk and the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk, where the Frisian Nassaus were buried until 1765. Unfortunately the French in 1795 destroyed the monuments and even the coffins in the vault. It is still worth a visit tough. Check opening times before your visit tough. You have the best chance in July and August.
Knowing the city already I however started my tour at the brand new Fries Museum, opened by Queen Máxima on my 40th birthday, 13 September 2013.
My visit to Leeuwarden this time was focused totally on Maria Louise, once regent of the Stadtholders Willem IV and Willem IV and resident of Leeuwarden. The Fries Museum until 10 May only unfortunately has quite a small but nice exhibition about Maria Louise. On display are some portraits, the wedding contract between Maria Louise and Prince Johan Willem Friso of Orange, some documents and coins. On the second floor the section “Oud Geld” of the museum also shows some Orange-Nassau history in Friesland. If you have time do visit the other interesting sections of the museum.
But for me it was time for the next museum. Not far from the former residence is the Princessehof, the national museum of ceramics, with yet another really tiny exhibition about Maria Louise: “Thuis bij Marijke Meu” (At home with Aunt Marijke; which was Maria Louises nickname in Friesland). The museum is actually a 18th-century palace that once belonged to Maria Louise, who bought it in 1731 and lived here until her death in 1765. Apart from the dining-room of Maria Louise, that is open, until 5 June there is another room dedicated to her. Not much of an exhibition to my opinion, but a visit to the building is not to be missed anyway, so just have a look.
One small exhibition was left for me. It was opened on 9 April and will be there until 3 January 2016. Apparently not many people know about this exhibition at the Historisch Centrum Leeuwarden yet, as at least halfway the afternoon my mother and I turned out to be the first official visitors. It is not much bigger than the one in the Princessehof and just around the corner of that palace. Not about Maria Louise herself, but about her gardener, Johan Hermann Knoop, who came all the way from Kassel, Maria Louises native town, to Leeuwarden. Hardly anything is known about him, but … he was hired in 1732 to design and take care of Maria Louises gardens of her residence Mariënburg (no longer there). He was a teacher in mathematics, and wrote books about apples, pears and other fruit, that are on display and look quite impressive.
This centre is situated on the edge of the Prinsentuin, a park since 1648 when Prince Willem Frederik of Nassau-Diez, Stadtholder of Friesland ordered to have it laid out to honour the end of the war against the Spanish. Only King Willem I of the Netherlands donated it to the people of Leeuwarden, and then it became a public park. In 2004 it was restored to the situation around 1822. A lovely place to hang around when the weather is good.
I only was very disappointed that there was absolutely not a single souvenir, not even a postcard or a book, of Maria Louise available at the exhibitions. Just the new and absolutely lovely post stamps (that cost more than the regular ones). However I had to ask for them, as they were not on display in the shop.
I almost didn’t make it to the second exhibition I wanted to visit after the Hermitage in Amsterdam. On my way to the railway station I was diverted by “Open Tower Day”, and several great towers on my way to the train were open. I did climb the tiny tower of the “Waag”, and made it to the top of the tower of the Beurs van Berlage, the building where the civil marriage of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima took place. Luckily the train left almost immediately, even when it took 45 minutes to reach The Hague. Then the trouble began. Only one of three busses passing the Louwman Museum is actually available on weekends … and of course it turned out I had to wait for 45 minutes before the next bus came. So I finally managed to get at the Louwman Museum and had only 1 hour and 15 minutes left for the museum … I actually had to hurry through the museum to get out in time, so if you want to pay a proper visit take more time than that. A pity as all these old cars (more than 250!), posters and other items connected with cars in this quite big car museum deserve a bit more attention. From old carriages to racing cars, you can simply find the whole history of the car here. Cars once used by famous people like Elvis Presley, James Bond, Steve McQueen and Sir Winston Churchill and also some royals. The real reason for my visit however was the Glass Coach … the exhibition about its restoration will be on display until 21 June.
This Ferrari 500 superfast speziale from 1965 was once owned by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. A big lover of fast cars, especially Ferraris, and he loved them to be green. As a good friend of Enzo Ferrari he had the car done the way he wished it to be: painted in Verde Pinto, with a beige leather interior and a 4.0 litre twelve-cylinder.
A (Mercedes) Benz like this one was used in June 1910 in the Prince Heinrich Race – named after a brother of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany – a race of 1,900 kilometer across Germany and a part of France. Some of these cars also took part in the Tsar Nicolas’ race in Rusland a month later, and drove 2,800 kilometers in eight days. This car was completely restored a few years ago.
On 16 March King Willem-Alexander personally opened the exhibition in this museum that was opened by his mother, then Queen Beatrix, on 2 July 2010. The exhibition is being organised in connection with the celebration of 200 years Kingdom of the Netherlands, a Kingdom that actually existed exactly 200 years on 16 March.
The Glass Coach was ordered by King Willem I of the Netherlands in 1821 at Pierre Simons in Brussels, and was finished in 1826. It is the eldest coach in the collection of the Dutch Royal Stables and was only used on special occasions, like the weddings of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard in 1937, and Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus in 1966. Apart from the coach itself, also the harnesses of the horses are normally being used by the Royal Stables. And there are uniforms of coachmen also. Although it has been restored and might be used again in the future, you never know when that is. And even then … when do you have a chance again to get this close to such a beautiful coach> I for sure enjoyed being able to have a good look, and did of course take the opportunity to have myself photographed with it.
Yesterday I toured half of the Netherlands to see two royalty related exhibitions. The first was in the Hermitage in Amsterdam. On Friday 27 March 2015 Prince Nicolas Romanoff and Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski opened the exhibition “Alexander, Napoleon & Josephine. A Story of Friendship, War & Art from the Hermitage”. Another highly interesting royalty related exhibition in this museum. Probably good I didn’t hear beforehand who was going to open, as it was during the week and I was busy anyway … and I wonder if I would ever had made it home, as there was an enormous power outage that day, that influenced the train schedule on Friday. I might just have been able to make it to Amsterdam, but I am not sure. Anyway luckily the power outage was solved completely on Saturday. As the exhibitions in the Hermitage sometimes attract lots of people who have to stay in the queue for ages, I thought I’d better go early. Turned out I was only the second person to arrive at the museum, half an hour before it opened at 10am. At least I got in before the big crowds, and had some good space to look at items. Just a pity you weren’t allow to take photos this time. I took a few at the start of the exhibition, as I didn’t think this part was a problem.
Tsar Alexander I of Russia, Emperer Napoléon I of the French and his first wife Joséphine de Beauharnais are three of the greatest names in Europe at the start of the 19th century. They are part of European history and still fascinate many people. They were friends and enemies, and their lifes were powerfully interwoven. Napoléon and Alexander met in 1807 when the Treaty of Tilsit was concluded. In the years to follow they exchanged letters and gifts. Their friendship came to an end when Napoléon invaded Russia in 1812. Alexander’s forces however defeated the French. And in the end it was Alexander who entered Paris as the victor, and Napoléon was sent into exile. Alexander made friends with Napoléons then ex-wife Joséphine, which ended with her early death in 1814. It was Alexander who bought quite a few items from Joséphines personal art collection, and that is how the items ended up in the Hermitage. The exhibition shows more than 200 paintings, sculptures, personal possessions, gowns and uniforms, works of art and weapons connected to the three of them. At the start of the exhibition you can learn about the battles Napoléon was involved in at the start of the 19th century, and there are several uniforms of Alexander, and weapons of Napoléon and his stepson Eugène de Beauharnais on display, and a few huge and impressive paintings depicting some of the largest battles. Unfortunately some of the information going with it, does have a few printing mistakes (letters or numbers missing, or partly missing).
And as for the present day monarchs: King Philippe of the Belgians, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, King Harald V of Norway, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden do descend from Joséphine and her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais, through their son Eugène, who married Princess Augusta of Bavaria and had a daughter Joséphine, who married King Oscar I of Sweden.
I thought the exhibition to be quite interested, as usual. The Hermitage has found a nice balance between history and art, which makes the exhibitions interesting for many. The family tree almost at the end of the exhibition was pretty usable, not necessarily for me, but it was for quite a few other visitors I think. Of course there is a catalogue of the exhibition available, for € 24,95, there is a Dutch and an English version.
Throughout 2015 and 2016 there is another exhibition in the other wing of the Hermitage: “Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age” with many and often enormous group portraits from mainly the 17th century, similar to the famous “Night Watch” by Rembrandt. They are from the collection of the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and are rarely on public display.
In case anyone is interested – I didn’t have the time to go here also – in the nearby Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is another exhibition: “Joséphine. An empire in a garden”. The exhibition also started on Saturday and can be visited until 18 October 2015. The exhibition in the Hermitage can be visited until 8 November 2015.