I have long been advocating for more books to be written in English about the royals of mainland Europe, so I was thrilled to hear about and read Darling Queen – Dear Old Bones: Queen Wilhelmina’s correspondence with her English governess Miss Saxton Winter by Emerentia van Heuven-van Nes and published by Amsterdam University Press. It was initially printed in Dutch several years ago before being translated into English for a new release this year with additional letters that have recently been located.
The book contains letters from Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands (the great-grandmother to the Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander) to her English governess, Elizabeth Saxton Winter and vice versa. These letters were originally written in English and the author only thought it right to publish the book again with the messages in their original format.
It begins with a brief biography of both Wilhemina (Darling Queen) and Elizabeth (Old Bones) to give the reader valuable details before reading the correspondence between the two women. It is an easy and quick read (only 356 pages) and for any person interested in history and royals, draws you in from the beginning as you are getting a more intimate look at the late Queen of the Netherlands, her life and the life of her family – including her mother Queen Emma and later her daughter, the future Queen Juliana. The letters began while Wilhemina was just a child, and we see her knowledge and confidence grow in the English language as she ages (her early letters were written in phonetic English). Even after Wilhemina’s education and need for a governess had ended, she still stayed in contact with her beloved governess until Ms Winter’s death in 1935.
Topics in the letters vary from childlike topics to religion to her role and duties as Queen and her feelings of loneliness. Wilhemina also discusses her relationship with several different people ranging from royals to other famous individuals.
In total, there are 320 letters – including some from Wilhemina to her mother (who was regent for her until she turned 18) Queen Emma, as well as to her daughter then-Princess Juliana. Readers will also find the family trees of the European royal houses that have members mentioned in the letters to help them place their relations to one another.
Emerentia van Heuven-van Nes worked for years on the manuscript after working at Paleis Het Loo National Museum, Apeldoorn for over 30 years as a curator. Emerentia is a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
I highly recommend this book, and it is my favourite of 2017. It would make for a wonderful Christmas present for any royal watchers and historians! You can purchase it directly from Amsterdam University Press or on Amazon. It will be released in the United States on 15 December, just in time to add it to your loved one’s stocking!