Today marks 15 years since the former Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, the grandmother of the Netherlands’ current monarch, King Willem-Alexander, died after suffering years of ill health at the hands of dementia.
By the mid-1990s, Princess Juliana, who had reverted to being called Princess after her reign as Queen, was diagnosed with a progressive onset form of dementia and no longer appeared in public after the diagnosis.
As the disease progressed further, doctors placed her under 24-hour care with her husband, Prince Bernhard saying in 2001 that the former monarch no longer recognised her family after years of battling Alzheimer’s.
In 2004, Juliana – who had reigned for 32 years – came down with pneumonia, and at the age of 94, she died in her sleep shortly before 6 am at Soestdijk Palace in Baarn on 20 March.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende gave a televised address to the nation upon her passing saying, “In her, we lose a warm and involved woman, a mother to us all. By her own words, if she hadn’t been queen, she would have liked to have been a social worker.”
Flags on all public buildings were ordered at half-mast until her burial.
Ten days later, on 30 March, her funeral took place, and she was buried next to her mother, Wilhelmina, in the royal vaults under the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church in Delft.
Her husband, Prince Bernhard, died four months later and was buried beside her.
Juliana was the only child of former Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and her husband, Henry, who was born Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was born on 30 April 1909 in The Hague’s Noordeinde Palace.
In 1936, Princess Juliana met German aristocrat, Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, at the Winter Olympics in Bavaria. With his religion and rank being found suitable by the Queen, Juliana and Bernhard’s marriage was arranged with Juliana said to have fallen deeply in love with the German.
They married 7 January 1937 with the Dutch public very cautious of Juliana’s German pick due to Adolph Hitler. The next two years saw the births of Princess Beatrix in 1938 and Princess Irene in 1939 before the family would be forced into exile in Canada during World War Two. It was there that Princess Margriet was born in 1943. The family returned to the Netherlands after the end of the Second World War and were joined by a new daughter, Princess Christina in 1947.
Queen Juliana reigned from her mother’s abdication on 4 September 1948 to 30 April 1980 when she abdicated in favour of her eldest daughter, Beatrix.