6 August 2016
See for pictures in the Flickr album
In many monarchies the royal palaces are open part of the year or even the whole year around. Palaces where the royals live or work can be visited by everybody who likes it. In the Netherlands that has never been the case until recently. The only palace that is open regularly is the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, which is sometimes used by the royal family for official functions. However in September-December 2015 people had the chance to have a look inside the Hall of Orange at the Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, which in a few years time will be the official residence of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. In the Summer of 2016 they opened their working palace Noordeinde in The Hague for four Saturdays late July/early August. Also the royal stables opened their doors a few days a week during the same period. Unfortunately for people like me who live a bit further away (about three hours at least by train) you couldn’t combine visits, as palace and stables were open on different days. A pity really.
Once again it was a struggle to buy tickets online. Where the entry to Palace Huis ten Bosch had been free, a visit to the Noordeinde Palace or the royal stables costed 6 Euros, which I think isn’t very much at all compared to many other museums. Because of a foot/ankle injury I didn’t buy tickets for the stables immediately, which I regretted afterwards, as I never managed to buy them. But I managed to buy tickets for myself and two friends for the palace for August 6th. A good thing is that the huge success – all 20.000 tickets were sold – means that both locations might open their doors again next Summer. So in case the palace and stables will be open again in the next year(s) and if you manage to be in The Hague at the right time, try to get yourself a ticket. However I can tell you from experience it isn’t the easiest thing to do, but maybe it will be less difficult when the palace opens its doors more often.
I was pleasantly surprised by the opening of both the palace and the royal stables. I had never been any further than a few steps inside when Prince Claus and Queen Juliana were lying in state years ago. Of course I have passed the palace very often, and I also had been in the gardens in the back, which are usually open to the public. But I never had a look inside, not even as a journalist. I just never have the possibility to go to events there, as I live on the other side of the country. Normally I will never come any further than the fences in front of the palace. Now you are the one to pass them and have a somewhat closer look to the front of the palace. What you won’t see are the rooms the guests of the royals stay in or the working spaces of the King and Queen, nor will you be allowed to have a look in the kitchen. The rooms and halls you will see are clearly not really meant to live in, as most of them are scarcely furnished. What you will see inside are several halls and rooms in the middle part of the palace that are normally used for representative events like audiences, dinners, official and state visits. You’ll climb and go down stairs normally used by the royals and their guests, pass rooms and halls that you might known from photos. And even will be very close to the balcony where the royal family appears on Prince’s Day, the third Tuesday in September. Worth a visit for sure! But just don’t expect the grandeur of bigger palaces like Versailles or even Palace Het Loo.
The eldest part of the palace dates back to before 1533 when a property from the Middle Ages was transferred into a big house by Willem Goudt, steward of the States of Holland. The chellars from that time are still there. From 1566 to 1591 the house had another owner, and then was rented by the States of Holland, and bought in 1595. The first royal to reside here was Louise de Coligny, widow of Stadtholder Willem I Prince of Orange, and her son Prince Frederik Hendrik. The family received the building as a gift in 1609. Frederik Hendrik bought himself several pieces of land and had the house, called the “Oude Hof” (Old Court), extended. The main building was enlarged and wings added on both sides. After the death of his widow Amalia in 1675 the family seldomly used the palace. In 1702, after the death of King-Stadtholder Willem III, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm, inherits the palace. King Friedrich the Great sells his Dutch possessions to Stadtholder Wilhelm V in 1754. His son, hereditary prince Willem (later King Willem I), lives at the Noordeinde Palace from 1792 to 1795, when his family has to leave the country because of the French invasion. The Palace becomes national property, which it is until today.
When Willem I returned in 1813 and became the King, the Palace was renovated, and in 1817 he started living there. He used it as a winter palace. His son King Willem II didn’t use the palace, but King Willem III did, also as a winter palace. In 1876 he ordered the royal stables to be build. Queen Wilhelmina was born at the Noordeinde Palace in 1880, and after the death of her father, she and her mother Queen Emma kept on using it as a winter palace. 1895 Emma ordered the building of the Royal House Archives in the palace gardens. While Emma moved to the Lange Voorhout Palace in 1901, the Noordeinde Palace remained in use as a winter palace by Wilhelmina and her husband Prince Hendrik. The middle part of the palace was destroyed by a fire in May 1948. Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard prefer Palace Soestdijk as their residence, but part of the court still worked from the Noordeinde. From 1952 to 1976 the north wing of the Noordeinde Palace was in use by the Institute of Social Studies. Only in 1984, after another extensive renovation, Queen Beatrix started using the palace as a working palace again, and so do, since 2013, King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Máxima.