Dynasty and Government
WHEN the German attack began in the early morning of May 10th, the Queen was at the Huis ten Bosch, her quaint old palace near The Hague with its souvenirs of William and Mary and so many other Stadholders and Kings and Queens of the House of Orange. The first attack from the air opened at about 4 o'clock, and it was obvious at once that the Royal Palace was one of the principal targets. Wave after wave of bombers came over. During the entire forenoon of the first day the Queen was forced to take refuge in her bomb-proof shelter. Messengers came and went with the latest news from the front and from the cities. As the attack developed, it became clear that the Huis ten Bosch was no longer sufficiently safe. Parachute troops were landing in the neighborhood in considerable numbers. The surrounding woods made it easy for them to conceal themselves, and the Palace Guards could be taken by surprise. Beyond the woods lay flat fields--ideal landing grounds for troop-carrying planes. Some parachutists actually landed in the garden of the Royal Palace, and were promptly shot down by the Guards. But the situation was becoming very dangerous and a move was imperative.
Three miles away, in the center of the town, stood the
Noordeinde Palace. This was considered to be safer, and the Royal party set out late in the afternoon. As a preliminary, the woods had been cleared of snipers, and once in town the Queen's escort was able to prevent anybody from shooting from roofs and windows. But hardly were the Queen and her Family installed in their new sanctuary when shots rang out from houses surrounding the Palace gardens. The treacherous fifth column was in action. At once the Queen's Guards set out to clear the neighborhood. Some Germans and a few Dutch were caught, while a few managed to get away. Prince Bernhard himself took an active part in getting rid of these pests. During the whole morning he had hunted parachutists and machine-gunned low-flying planes at the Huis ten Bosch. Now, he set up a machine gun on the roof of the Palace and successfully kept up a heavy fire against any snipers he could detect.
The Queen, with Princess Juliana and her two children, found protection in the heavily armored shelter in the Noordeinde Palace. In this narrow steel and concrete space they were forced to spend three days and two nights, anxiously following the developments of the struggle and remaining in constant touch with the Cabinet and the High Command. As early as Friday, May 10th, it had become clear that the Germans, as in Norway, were hunting the Royal Family, without making even the slightest endeavor to spare their lives.
Wilhelmina Helena Paulina Maria, Queen of the
Netherlands, Princess of the ancient House of Orange-Nassau, Duchess of Mecklenburg, was born in 1880. When she was ten years old she succeeded her father, the late King William III. As she was then a minor, a regency was proclaimed lasting until her eighteenth birthday, when, under the Constitution of the Netherlands, she attained her majority. Her mother, the Dowager Queen Emma, was Regent for her daughter. Until and after her death in 1934 that gracious and wise royal lady held a special place in the devoted affection of her daughter's subjects. She gave all her attention to preparing the young Queen for her great task of ruling the Netherlands and their vast overseas territories and of continuing the high traditions of impartiality, political insight, and selfless care for the public weal which have given the monarchy under the House of Orange-Nassau a place in the eyes of the nation which no other form of Government could hold.
Ever since 1898, the Queen has ruled her country in her own name. It has become a great reign, a period of peaceful development, bringing extensive social reforms, improved education and increasing general prosperity. The population grew steadily. In the Dutch East Indies, her beneficent rule brought final pacification to the most remote islands. A public welfare policy has been inaugurated there which has proved eminently successful. Political reforms have been introduced in a progressive spirit. It has always been Dutch policy to cooperate closely with the native population in questions of administration.
Under Her Majesty's wise guidance this responsibility on the part of the native element has been considerably increased. Representative institutions have been organized and encouraged in villages, districts, provinces, as well as with regard to the affairs of the territory as a whole. Dutch Colonial administration can bear comparison with any in the world.
In 1901, the Queen married Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. When, eight years later, a Princess was born to them the country's jubilations knew no bounds. The future of the Dynasty, one of the pillars of the state, seemed assured, and when the little Princess, who has always enjoyed great popularity, was herself married to Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, the event was celebrated with unbounded joy by every one of the Queen's loyal subjects. Renewed manifestations of the happiness the whole nation felt greeted the birth of the Queen's two grandchildren: Princess Beatrix, now two and a half years old, and the little Princess born a month before the outbreak of war, to whom her parents, as an invocation of peace, gave the name of Irene.
Royal simplicity characterizes the Queen. Her innumerable duties she fulfills with the greatest devotion, conferring with her ministers, studying state papers, visiting military and naval establishments, attending to works of charity, and all those many interests which as a true mother of her country she has at heart. Profoundly religious, Her Majesty has always taken an active interest
in missionary work, and of later years her stimulating efforts to contribute to the moral rearmament of her country have shown in yet another way her deep interest in things spiritual. Until her sixtieth year, the Queen never declared war on any state, nor has any other state during that period resorted to armed force against the Netherlands. Because of the conservative and stable policy described earlier in this book, the country gave offense to no one and lived in friendship and peace with all. How Germany brought this blessed period to an end we have seen.
The Queen left nothing undone to prevent war. All her thoughts and her energies were directed towards this end. When, late in August, the representatives of the smaller European states met in Brussels to make an urgent appeal to their more powerful neighbors to preserve peace, it was largely thanks to the warm-hearted support the Queen so fully gave in this matter to the King of the Belgians. Even at the last hour, Her Majesty offered her good offices at The Hague to the prospective belligerents, while King Leopold, acting in conjunction with her, did the same at Brussels. During Finland's grim struggle with the Russian hordes, the Queen generously contributed towards succoring the civilian population in the gallant republic. In November, 1939, she and King Leopold once more assured the belligerents of their readiness to bring them together if it were thought that the two friendly sovereigns could usefully act as intermediaries.
All this, and a great deal more of which the public will never know, was done by Her Majesty in order to ward off from her country as well as from others the evil of war. She worked untiringly. All news, good or bad, was by her own order at once communicated to her. It made no difference whether it came at midday or in the small hours of the morning. A quick decision might be essential. No chance that might help to stop the continuing crisis must be missed. The Queen was indefatigable. In all weathers she visited and inspected army and navy posts along the coasts and the frontiers. The one relaxation and the bright spot in these months of vigilant toil were the short hours devoted to her children and grandchildren.
Everybody who had the honor of coming into contact with Her Majesty during that time, knew that if the worst were to happen the Queen would not fail to be a great source of strength to her people and to all those around her; and when the worst did happen, their anticipations were fully realized.
In order to safeguard the future of the Dynasty so essential in the public affairs of the Netherlands, it was decided to move the Princess and her children to England where their safety could be assured. The Queen insisted that the Prince should accompany his wife, but he was to return to Holland as soon as possible in order to resume his duties as Her Majesty's Aide-de-Camp. A first attempt at making the journey was undertaken on Friday evening. Princess Juliana and the children were already in the
motor car which was to take them to the coast when a message came that the journey was impossible: parachutists and air-borne troops were still at large, shooting from behind hedges and dykes at anybody in sight. Although a great number had been wiped out during the daytime, those that remained were still too numerous for the Princess and her party to travel in safety. The next day, after fresh German troops had landed in the dunes, fields, and woods around The Hague, th§ journey still was considered too unsafe. At last, after another day and night in the small shelter, the country had been cleared to such an extent that an attempt could be made. To use an armored car as a conveyance was out of the question. There was far too little room for the Royal party. Someone made the fortunate suggestion of using an armored motor car belonging to the Netherlands Bank which, although not shell proof, afforded reasonable protection against machine-gun bullets. Thirty marines accompanied the party, heavily armed with automatic weapons; they left The Hague towards 8 o'clock on Sunday evening, and drove at great speed to the harbor of Ymuiden, where the British destroyer Codrington under Commander Creasy lay waiting. All went well until the party was about to board the warship; then, suddenly, in the waning light of the long summer's evening, a German airplane appeared overhead. The pilot had discovered the destroyer and dived to attack. All were holding their breath. Was he going to machine-gun the Royal travelers?
He skimmed over them without shooting, and proceeded to bomb the warship. The first bomb missed the destroyer, and once again the plane climbed back to renew the attack. This time a magnetic mine was dropped in front of the vessel. In the narrow harbor entrance, this would have prevented it from putting out to sea, had not a miracle happened. The parachute attached to the mine failed to open, and as a result the mine hit the water's surface with such violence that it exploded at once. Apart from wounding a man on the quayside, so far as could be seen, no further damage was done, and Commander Creasy was able to put to sea. An accompanying vessel was shortly afterwards attacked by a group of German dive bombers, without success. After that, all went smoothly. Next morning the Princess and her children, accompanied by the Prince, arrived safely in an English port. The Dynasty was safe: the joy everybody felt when it was realized that the Germans had not succeeded in capturing these members of the House of Orange was immense throughout the country. The young Princesses stood the journey very well, the elder even enjoying its novelty; Princess Juliana showed great coolness and courage in these hours of trial, and Prince Bernhard gave proof of considerable resource.
While the Prince was completing arrangements for returning to Holland, news was received in London that the Queen was on her way to Great Britain. It was only after Her Majesty's arrival that we learned the reasons
which had made her take this momentous decision. The military situation in Holland had gone from bad to worse, in spite of the gallant fight of the Dutch soldiers, inspired by the thought of defending their country and all it stands for. On Monday morning, May 13th, the Commander in Chief informed the Queen and her Government that he could no longer assume responsibility for their safety. The Germans were threatening to bomb Rotterdam (which they did with terrible results the afternoon of the next day) and pressure on the Dutch lines was such that it appeared more than doubtful whether they could be held much longer. The Queen decided that in no case would she render the Germans the service of allowing herself to be captured. Since The Hague became increasingly unsafe, it was thought best to proceed to the southwest corner of the country, to the mainland of Zeeland. The journey by land was out of the question. All Dutch men-of-war were heavily engaged in action with the enemy, so a British warship was placed at the Queen's disposal. It was a fine day and, were it not that the vessel had to steer a zigzag course against possible submarine attacks, it would have been a smooth journey. From time to time German planes were sighted, though they did not attack. But suddenly a disturbing message reached the warship. The little Zeeland harbor of Breskens, where Her Majesty was to disembark, was being heavily bombarded from the air. Whether the enemy had news of the Queen's departure and destination will probably
always remain a secret. The fact remains that until then Breskens had been untouched. There was no town of importance, nor any military objective in the neighborhood. The conclusion seems obvious: it was a trap. The Germans hoped to destroy at Breskens what they had failed to capture at The Hague.
Her Majesty resolved not to play into their hands. Scarcely had the wireless message been received than the destroyer's bell signals rang out. Heavily she heeled over, altering her course westward--to England. The low dunes along the Zeeland coast faded slowly below the horizon, and as the late afternoon light deepened, the coast of England rose ahead. The destroyer stood in for an English port, with the Queen and her suite quite safe.
Let us place on record here the conspicuous part played by the British Royal Navy in ensuring the safe arrival in England of the Netherlands Royal House. No Dutchman can but feel deep gratitude to these officers and men who, at a time when all our naval units were fully engaged with the enemy, cared for the safety of the Orange Dynasty. They, too, helped in thwarting Herr Hitler's grim purpose and his desperate attempts to capture the Royal Family by parachutists, or to kill them by machine-gunning all places where they resided. Note the striking contrast: on the one hand, persistent efforts to hunt two women of royal birth and two baby princesses, together with their father; on the other, a number of British sailors who, at the peril of their own life, did all in their power to
protect a Dynasty which stands for so much that forms part of what most honors our civilization? Once in England, the Queen gave public expression to her feelings of deep appreciation and gratitude.
Queen Wilhelmina's arrival under the spacious roof of murky Liverpool Street Station in London was a scene no one who witnessed it will ever forget. As the train slowly came to a standstill, a number of grim-looking soldiers in Dutch uniform jumped onto the platform. They still were in full battle dress, with rifles and hand grenades, automatic pistols, and the battered steel helmets they were wearing when told to abandon the struggle in order to accompany their Queen. They stood out in strange contrast to the hundreds of peaceful onlookers. A police cordon held back the crowd as King George came forward to welcome the Queen and offer her hospitality. As the two Sovereigns greeted each other, it could clearly be seen that at this historical moment they were not only Sovereigns, but human beings who fully realized the tragedy of the hour. Here was a Queen who, in the course of a long reign, had been so good a ruler of her country that she had won the deeply affectionate respect of two generations. Now, she had been driven from her realm by a ruthless act of aggression on the part of a nation to which she was related by kinship, which she had never harmed in any way. She had always striven to see and acknowledge the good side of the Germans, and to foster good relations. In her sixtieth year, fate decreed that it
was to be of no avail. Tired and shocked by what had happened, shaken by all she had gone through the last four days, she stood there, still undaunted and full of purpose, though for the time being an exile in a foreign land. Everybody present realized what this episode meant to her. The crowd cheered, but in their cheers was a note, not only of compassionate sympathy but also of admiration for a great lady, whose courage, though sorely tried, remained so visibly unbroken. Here was a Queen who, it was felt by everybody who saw her then, lived up to the high standards set by her forebears, William the Silent and the Stadholder King, William the Third.
After Queen Elizabeth had greeted her Royal visitor on her arrival at Buckingham Palace, Queen Wilhelmina withdrew to the apartments placed at her disposal and, indefatigable, at once resumed her task. How was resistance to be carried further? What help could be expected from the Allies? Had contact been taken up with France as it had with Great Britain? How was the position to be made clear to the people of the Netherlands and to the world at large? These, and many others, were the problems which were at once eagerly discussed. More than one important decision was taken and carried into effect. Only at midnight of that momentous and tragic day did the Queen at last retire to rest.
The next day, a Royal Proclamation was issued by Her Majesty to her people. At that time, direct communication by telephone with Holland had been cut off; but it
still proved possible to speak with those at The Hague by the use of the wireless telephone via New York. So it happened that Queen Wilhelmina's proclamation was flashed to her subjects by way of the United States of America.
This proclamation was one of two documents issued by the Queen during her first days in London, which should be rescued from oblivion. The second was a statement the Queen released for publication a few days later. In her proclamation, Her Majesty exhorted her people not to lose heart, and to remember past afflictions from which the country had always triumphantly arisen. In the article released for publication, Queen Wilhelmina gave to all the world the reasons which moved her to leave her country. Any comment on these documents would detract from their value rather than enhance it; therefore they are quoted here in full.
BY THE QUEEN OF THE NETHERLANDS
TO HER PEOPLE, DATED FROM LONDON,
MAY 13th, 1940
"After it had become absolutely certain that We and Our Ministers could no longer continue freely to exercise state authority in the Netherlands, the hard, but necessary, decision had to be taken of removing the seat of Government abroad for as long as will prove
inevitable, with the intention of returning immediately to the Netherlands as soon as this is at all possible.
"The Government is at present in England. As a Government it does not wish to capitulate. Thereby the Netherlands territories which remain in Dutch hands, in Europe as well as in the East and West Indies, continue to be a sovereign state, which will continue to raise its voice and to assert its position, especially in the joint deliberations of the Allies, as a fully recognized member of the community of states.
"The military authorities, and in the highest instance the Commander in Chief of the Naval and Land forces, will from now on judge what measures are necessary and justifiable from a military point of view.
"Where the invader is in power, the local civil authorities must continue to take those measures which may be useful in the interests of the population. They should in the first place contribute towards preserving law and order.
"Our heart goes out to our compatriots, who will pass through hard times in our country. But the time will come when the Netherlands, with God's help, will regain their European territory. Remember catastrophes in former centuries, and the resurrection of the Netherlands which followed. Thus it will also be this time.
"Let no one despair. Let everybody do his utmost in the well-understood interests of the country. We do Ours.
"Long live the Netherlands!"
In those words Queen Wilhelmina took leave, for a period unknown, of her people. When she addressed the whole world to make clear her reasons for leaving Holland, this was her message:
"At this immensely grave moment in the history of mankind black, silent night has settled on yet another corner of this earth.
"Over free Holland the lights have gone out, the wheels of industry and the ploughs of the field that worked only for the happiness of a peace-loving people have come to a dead stop or are turned to the grisly uses of a death-bringing conqueror; the voices of freedom, charity, tolerance, and religion have been stilled.
"Where only two weeks ago there was a free nation of men and women brought up in the cherished traditions of Christian civilization, a nation which itself has been the historical fountain of many values and ideals honored by all men of good will, there are now desolation and the stillness of death, broken only by the bitter weeping of those who have survived the extinction of their relatives and the brutal suppression of their rights and liberties.
"Only hope still lives among the smoking ruins, the hope and faith of a God-fearing people which no human power, however evil, can extinguish--faith in the all-conquering might of Divine justice, faith nourished by the proud memories of earlier ordeals manfully borne and in the end successfully overcome, faith anchored to the
unshakable belief that such injustice as the people of Holland have suffered cannot endure.
"But while the unhappy people of Holland still have their faith in the ultimate and inevitable deliverance to cling to, it is of all faiths the most difficult to nourish and to keep alive. For theirs must be a silent hope and a silent faith. Not for them the solace of a faith openly professed, not for them the soul-strengthening comfort of a hope shared and proclaimed in open association.
"Oppressed, threatened, watched on every side by a Power that would tear out all hope from the soul of man, they can but pray in the silence of their heavy hearts. Their voice, the voice that through the centuries has helped to spread the gospel of Christianity, of freedom, of tolerance, of enterprise and thought of human dignity, of all the things that make man worthy of his sojourn on earth, has been taken away from them.
"So it was four centuries ago when religious freedom was at stake. The world knows how the people of Holland then regained their voice. Thus it will be again. But until the jubilation of the new dawn they are not spared even this last bitterness of having to keep their flame of hope alive in the deadly silence of a night whence no voice, no ray of light shall come.
"It is because Holland's voice must not, nay may not be allowed to remain strangled in these days of fearful trial for my people that I have taken the supreme decision to transfer the symbol of My Nation, as it is embodied in
My Person and My Government, where it can continue to function as a living and a vocal force.
"At this time of universal suffering I will not speak of the racking heart-searchings which the taking of this decision has cost one who, only little more than a year ago, was stirred to her very depths by the generous devotion of a warm-hearted people celebrating the jubilee of a Queen and a woman who for forty years has tried to serve Her Nation, as she tried to serve it on that day of fateful decisions and will try to serve it to her last breath.
"I will speak only of the reasons that finally moved me to decide as I did. For there were cold and weighty reasons militating against the natural sentiment that prompted me and my family to stay and suffer what my unhappy people were called upon to suffer.
"Plans found on the invader on the first day of his wanton assault, confirmed by the action of his air-borne troops, soon made it clear that his first objective was to capture the Royal Family and the Government, thus to paralyze the country by depriving it of all leadership and legally constituted authority.
"When, soon afterwards, the likelihood had to be faced that the treacherous methods employed by the enemy would succeed in finally undermining the gallant resistance of the Dutch forces, decision could no longer be postponed.
"If authority, obeying impulsive sentiment, were to stay--for indeed those who, like us, have lived such days know
that it is not concern for personal life or liberty which supplies the driving motive--the voice of Holland, the very symbol of Holland, would have vanished from the earth.
"There would be a memory, perhaps quickly fading in these world-shaking times where yesterday's memory is to-day's oblivion. Unrelieved black silence would have settled on that once happy land whose people would not even have the hope-giving thought of a Queen and a Government fighting for their ultimate resurrection, where fighting was still possible.
"But there was more. Holland proper may have been lost for the time being, but when these crucial decisions had to be taken, one province in the south still showed hope of being able to hold out for some time.
"My Navy, with its proud traditions, remained intact, ready to join battle wherever needed, and, most important of all, an Empire scattered over the surface of the globe and counting sixty-five million inhabitants, remained free, part and parcel of that nation of free men that will not and can not perish from the earth.
"Was all this to be cast adrift on a wildly turbulent sea without leadership or authority? Duty, responsibility and far-sighted statesmanship lay elsewhere.
"To keep the voice and the symbol of Holland alive as an inspiration and a rallying-point for those of our Army, our Fleet, and our countless Empire subjects, nay, for Dutch men and women all over the world who will
give their all for the resurrection of the dearly beloved Motherland.
"To keep the banner aloft, unseen and yet ever present for those who have lost their voice but not their hope nor their vision.
"To speak for Holland to the world, not of the rightness of its cause, which needs no advocacy in the eyes of honest men, nor of the unspeakable horrors or the infamous tricks inflicted on its gallant army and its innocent population, but of the values, the ideals, the Christian civilization that Holland at the side of its Allies is helping to defend against the onslaught of barbarism.
"To remain true to the motto of the House of Orange, of Holland, of all that immense part of the world that is fighting for what is infinitely more precious than life: Je maintiendrai--I shall maintain."
These words speak for themselves. It would be difficult to express more clearly or more cogently why the course the Queen had taken was the only one compatible with the higher and permanent interests of the country. They have a significance for all times. That is why they are reproduced here.
When the Queen arrived in London, the only members of her Cabinet present were the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Colonies, who had flown to England on the day the invasion began. The next day saw the arrival of
their colleagues who had remained in Holland, in spite of the Germans' attempts at capturing them in order to take them to Berlin. Since the battle was in progress day and night, they had had little rest, but their spirit remained undaunted. On Monday evening they, too, were confronted with the anxious question whether they should allow themselves to be taken prisoner, or whether they should leave the country. For this was the alternative; there seemed no prospect of their being allowed to make themselves useful once the Germans had Holland in their grip. They would either be placed in the position of a Schuschnigg, or the Germans might have attempted to use them in order to give their occupation a semblance of legitimacy.
At such grave moments, sentiment tends to engulf reason. And yet, the interests at stake being those not of private persons, nor even of members of the Government, but those of the whole nation, make it imperative that reason should prevail. The Dutch Ministers fully realized this cruel necessity. Not one of them who had remained at The Hague was able to be accompanied by his wife or his children. In the turmoil of street fighting, most of them could not even say good-bye in person to their nearest and dearest; yet they went. A last brief meeting on Dutch soil took place in a fort near the Hook of Holland; a final consultation by telephone with the Commander in Chief, and they were on their way.
They, too, were given a British destroyer to take them to England, where they were to join their Queen. Many attempts were made by enemy aircraft to bomb and sink the vessel; under cover of darkness these last attempts also proved fruitless. Another vessel, which conveyed several members of the diplomatic corps at The Hague, had an even narrower escape. But in the early hours of May 14th, all arrived safely in England.
During the few days that all the members of the Royal Family as well as the Cabinet remained in London, a short ceremony took place on the 31st of May: nine-months old Princess Irene, whose christening had been put off more than once on account of the international situation, was baptized in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth was the baby's godmother; her godfathers were the highest representatives of the Netherlands army, the navy and the army of the Dutch East Indies. The poignancy of this christening in exile was enhanced by its simplicity: no waving flags, cheering crowds, or gala uniforms. No more than thirty people attended the service, which was held partly in English, with a short address by the Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in London.
After the death of Lord Tweedsmuir--the gifted Governor General of the Dominion of Canada, the Earl of Athlone was appointed as his successor. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, a first cousin of Queen Wilhelmina,
had invited Princess Juliana to join them at Ottawa, where the two little girls would be able to live in peace, far from the unrest of Europe--and undisturbed by a repetition of the harrowing experiences through which they had passed. The kind offer was gratefully accepted. A Dutch cruiser took the Princess and her party to Canadian shores, where they were given a warm-hearted welcome.
In all their misfortune the Netherlands were more fortunate than their southern neighbor Belgium, whose King is now a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, while Queen Wilhelmina is in a position to take all decisions necessary in order to work towards the ultimate resurrection of her country as an independent Kingdom. The Belgian Government, as well as the three motherless Royal children, were driven from Belgium to France, from France to Spain, and from Spain to Portugal. The Dutch Government, on the other hand, was at once able to set to work in London to carry on the struggle, to ensure the administration of the Dutch Empire overseas, and to safeguard Dutch interests abroad. In this, they received assistance from numerous Dutch citizens who, in every conceivable way and in many cases at great peril of their lives and personal sacrifice, had managed to find their way to London; some arrived in fishing smacks, others in open boats, others still after incredible peregrinations through Belgium and France, where the war was raging fiercely and crowds of refugees blocked the roads. The offers
of service the Government received were far more numerous than they were able to accept. But the all-important affairs of state could be carried on; and, in spite of German ruthlessness, the doors leading to a brighter future have not been closed.