Wilhelmina’s War


Earlier today, Willem Alexander, Prince of Orange was officially inaugurated as King Willem Alexander l of The Netherlands. He’s the first Dutch king in over a century. Holland’s first Queen was his great-grandmother, Wilhelmina. Pictured above on the cover of Time magazine during World War ll, her symbolic leadership of the Dutch resistance during that conflict has long solidified not only a place for her in Dutch, but also in world history. Were Queen Wilhelmina’s actions at that time as noble as they’ve been purported as being? One Dutch researcher who disputes the official historical record is Charles Destree. In their book, War of the Windsors, authors Lynne Picknett, Clive Prince and Stephen Prior conducted several interviews with this historian in which he greatly revises the notion that Queen Wilhelmina was an enemy of Nazi Germany.

Fascism is defined by sociologist Oliver Cox in his book, Caste, Class, and Race, as the last, desperate effort by a country’s ruling elite to prevent a worker revolution by exploiting extreme bigotry, racism, sexism and nationalism among its proletariat. After the fall of the Romanov, Hohenzollern, and Habsburg monarchies following the First World War, and the execution of the last Tzar and his family at the hands of the Bolsheviks, the remaining elites of Europe, and particularly the royal families, were convinced their greatest enemy was their collective underclass. It was because of this, among other deep seated reasons, that they sponsored and encouraged the rise of the Nazis in Germany, the Fascists in Italy, and their various second rate imitators all over Europe throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. According to Charles Destree, Queen Wilhelmina and her only child and heir, Princess Juliana, were no exception.

Possessing a greater degree of power over her government than her constitutional British counterparts, Wilhelmina supported the formation of the Dutch Fascist League in 1932, decreed that the national anthem be changed to emphasize her German ancestry, and generally encouraged warm relations between her country and Germany prior to World War ll. Princess Juliana even introduced Goring to former Kaiser Wilhelm ll, and several years later married a German prince and former member of the Nazi Party and the SS, Prince Bernhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld. Wilhelmina strongly discouraged Britain from going to war with Germany once it invaded Poland. She also benefitted directly from Germany’s rearmament. As a substantial shareholder of Royal Dutch Shell, she profited immensely from its sale of oil to the Nazis. Charles Destree points out that when the Luftwaffe began bombing Rotterdam in 1940, their planes were fueled by Dutch oil.

The outbreak of the Second World War did nothing to dampen Wilhelmina’s Nazi sympathies. Such sympathies became so alarming to Winston Churchill that, Destree asserts, the British government kidnapped the Queen and her family in an effort to prevent her from deliberately capitulating to the German invaders in the same manner as King Leopold ll did in Belgium. Once in London, Wilhelmina gave frequent radio speeches that were broadcast to Dutch Resistance fighters. These speeches undoubtedly encouraged the Free Dutch Forces in their fight against the Nazis, and are by and large what Wilhelmina’s remembered for outside of her country. Privately, however, she wrote a letter to her daughter in Canada in 1940 that not only expressed her belief that Germany would win the war, but that she was determined to negotiate with them so the Netherlands would possess some degree of sovereignty in a newly German controlled Europe.

According to Charles Destree, it was at this time that she dismissed her Prime Minister-in-exile, Dirk Jan de Geer, so he could secretly return to Holland and act as a back channel of communication between the Queen and her country’s Nazi occupiers. It was perhaps through this means that Wilhelmina was able to foil a British engineered intelligence operation in which Dutch agents parachuted secretly into the Netherlands only to be instantly captured by Nazi soldiers who’d been tipped off beforehand.

Of course, the Nazis lost the War, the Dutch Royals returned to their country as heroes, and whatever part of their immediate past that did not agree with their heroic image was quickly hidden. In her abdication speech, Wilhelmina’s grand daughter, Queen Beatrix, emphasized that loyalty to the their country has served as the constitutional bedrock of the Dutch people in times of struggle and the fight against foreign domination. Far be it from the author to question her grand mother’s sense of loyalty to the Netherlands, but a closer examination of Queen Wilhelmina’s wartime activities reveals a monarch whose definition of national loyalty was greatly at odds with that of the majority of her people. Now that The Netherlands has a new king, perhaps its time to revise the monarch’s role within the constitution so that his powers are exercised with the majority consent and agreement of the Dutch people, and episodes such as what the author has just described never occur in Dutch history again.