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THE NETHERLANDS: The Woman Who Wanted a Smile

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Just 50 years ago, while cannon boomed and church bells rang, an 18-year-old girl with a sweet and melancholy face walked across the ancient square to Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk.* A purple mantle was on her shoulders, a diadem in her hair. She was Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange, about to become Queen of The Netherlands.

It seemed like a good, safe time for a princess to assume royal duties. The Czar’s Russia was distant and implausible. The U.S., fighting Spain, was young, uncoordinated and callow. Queen Victoria ruled Britannia, and Britannia ruled the waves. Young ladies learned the simple difference between right & wrong along with embroidery and piano playing. A new century was just around the corner, bright with the promise of Progress.

As it happened, Wilhelmina’s reign was to see the world shaken by war, poverty, and floods of doubt and confusion. In World War II she was forced to flee her country, and with all the warmth she had suppressed in her younger years, she worked for liberation. War brought her a sense of comradeship with her people that she had never known. When she returned to her country, she was humble. “I should come hat in hand,” she said, “asking if someone can put me up for the night.”

Her people, who had respected her before, loved her now. But the brave simplicity of the war days and the war aims was gone. The Dutch colonies, on which the nation’s prosperity heavily depended, were in revolt. Said the old Queen proudly: “Een Oranje dringt zijn diensten nimmer op” (An Orange never forces his services on anyone). One of her young advisers said recently: “She hoped too much. She has been disappointed too much.” This week, at 68, after half a century of rule, she leaves the throne in favor of her sturdy daughter, 39-year-old Juliana. Schoolchildren were singing a new song in Wilhelmina’s honor:

You are the wisdom of our country, the mother of us all;

You always led us with a firm hand through many dark valleys . . .

Admirals & Cookery. For one more week of jubilee, the Queen will formally reign (during the past 3½ months she has been in retirement while Juliana acted as Regent). Holland was bathed last week in an orange glow of jubilee excitement; in Amsterdam orange lights glittered from the sleek façade of Heineken’s brewery, and evergreen trees with orange lights lined the roads leading to Het Loo (meaning “The Woods”), the Queen’s summer palace. (At Het Loo the Queen herself was busy discussing with Juliana the apportionment of the House of Orange’s considerable fortune.)

Bookstores bulged with patriotic literature, from Admiral Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter’s 17th Century naval exploits to descriptions of Juliana’s cookery. Tall heralds tried to fit into costumes which had been tailored for shorter, rounder men of an earlier day; the thrifty Dutch had saved the costumes for generations.

“Don’t Fence Me In.” A look around the realm of Orange last week showed that it, like the shapes of its heralds, had changed somewhat; yet its essential character was little different from the nation Wilhelmina began to rule 50 years ago. Scheveningen, once a stout and pompous resort, bore an unhealthy convalescent pallor; the run-down houses and the hotels with flaking walls were strangely unlike the old Holland of clean, fresh paint. But along the beach, ensconced in tall wicker structures, buxom Dutch housewives sat gossiping as always, while their husbands, mostly clerks and shopkeepers, strolled along in business suits with starched collars and sober neckties. The more reckless rolled up their trousers and went wading. Cafeterias and eetsalons along the boardwalk sold impressive quantities of poffertjes (pancakes), maatjes herring and ice cream.

At the village of Bergum in Friesland, the annual carnival was in percussive progress. A band (one drum, two accordions) sweated through day-before-yesterday’s American swing favorites. Blond boys in belted suits jitterbugged with straggly-haired girls in their best red silk dresses, singing (in English) Don’t Fence Me In and Sunbonnet Sue. Phlegmatic crowds licked zuurstokken (candy sticks), or chewed precious cigars, watching the day’s sporting events. The chief attraction consisted of a corps of big flaxen-haired girls swinging Indian clubs. A phonograph creaked through Strauss waltzes.

In nearby Sneek, soberly dressed men & women filed through the gaunt doorway of the church to their Sunday service. Full-throated, the earnest parishioners sang the rigidly comforting psalms of the Dutch Reformed Church. When the young, curly-haired pastor prepared to speak, a hush came over them. “Thy blessings, O Lord,” said the pastor, “also on those who were not in church today, and Thy forgiveness if our own faults have kept them away.”

“We Are at Home.” Voltaire, no mean foreign correspondent, wrote in 1752: “This little state . . . almost overwhelmed by the sea, was . . .almost the only example upon earth of what may be effected by the love of liberty and an indefatigable industry . . .” Voltaire could write the same today. With prayer, thrift and sweat the Dutch have, in three years, reclaimed the flooded acres (nearly 10% of Holland’s arable land), repaired their bridges and railroads. Dutch industry is producing 20% more than in 1938; the country’s steel industry alone has doubled its output. Perhaps the best evidence of Holland’s health is the position of the Communists. In 1946, they had polled 500,000 votes; last July they polled 380,000.

Another example of Dutch vigor is Walcheren Island, whose dikes had been broken in 1944 by British bombing (TIME, Aug. 23). For almost a year the tides had washed back & forth across farms and villages. After the liberation Walcheren’s soil was a mass of mud and sand. It looked as though the island would never live again. Last week, in Middelburg (Walcheren’s chief city), all the buildings stood —the neat red brick branch of the Amsterdamsche Bank, the butcher’s house, the general store, the photographer’s shop. Along the quay, barges were unloading cement, bricks, steel and timber. In every street people were working on new houses. The land was green and farmers were harvesting. Only one thing was missing on this island which had once been called the orchard of Holland—the trees. When the flood receded, there had been mussels instead of fruit in the dead branches. The sea water had killed the trees and their skeletons had to be removed; now it was possible to look from one end of the twelve-mile island to the other.

The old story that in some of the villages boys were paid to blow the dust out of the cracks in the pavement four times a day was undoubtedly an exaggeration. But everywhere women were washing, scrubbing and dusting. In Westkapelle, barely 100 yards from where the dike had broken, rows of new brick houses stood in the bright August sun. Two disabled British tanks, “Red Toad” and “Dandy,” were still standing on a street corner; village children played hide & seek in their turrets.

On the dunes stood rows of pillboxes—remnants of the Nazis’ “Atlantic Wall.” Most of the pillboxes were inhabited by families who had not yet been able to build new houses; many were decorated with flowerpots. One woman was doing her washing in front of her “villa.” Said she: “It takes an awful lot of scrubbing to keep the concrete clean. But at least we are at home on our own land.”

The Dutch have a very special attitude toward the land which they painfully wrest from the sea: it is a garden to be cherished. For miles, Holland is literally covered with glass houses sheltering peaches, tomatoes, grapes. Clean, dappled cows and well-brushed, long-maned Friesian horses graze in shaded pastures.

The Index of Rotterdam. Despite the country’s health and vigor, Holland’s magnificent start on reconstruction has run into serious difficulties. The Dutch eat adequately, but most of their food is still tightly rationed (bread & butter are about to be freed). Three-quarters of their yearly clothing ration is needed for a suit: they get only one pair of shoes every 18 months.

The causes of Holland’s economic troubles are plain. Germany, before the war Holland’s best customer, is still strangled by occupation. Worse still, The Netherlands has lost most of its trade with Java and the other East Indies. Normal trade cannot be restored while the present conflict between The Hague and the Indonesian nationalists continues. Both sides have agreed to set up a “United States of Indonesia,” but the Dutch and the nationalists are still arguing over how to interpret this agreement.

The port of Rotterdam is an index of what has happened to the Dutch economy. Before the war, the port hauled 39 million tons of sea traffic; last year it handled only 12 million. Barge traffic on the Rhine used to be 53 million tons a year; now it is 8.

The traveler who went to Hoorn on the Zuider Zee was face to face with a warning. Once one of the country’s great trading centers, Hoorn’s crabbed brown houses now totter over narrow, idle streets. On the silent waterfront stands the old East India warehouse, once filled with the sharp scents of the spice trade. Hoorn had been made useless when the North Sea Canal was cut to Amsterdam in 1876. From the town square, an imposing statue looks down at the idle harbor. It is Jan Pieterszoon Coen, Holland’s great governor of the East Indies, who had pushed into Java to found an empire. Graven on the base of the monument, for Dutchmen to read, is his terse motto: “Desespereert niet” (Do not despair).

The Dutch do not despair, but they know that unless the German and Indonesian trades are restored or replaced, the fate of Hoorn may become the fate of the whole nation. The symbol of Dutch confidence is Juliana.

The Princess last week attended one of her last state functions as a princess—she opened an exhibition on “The Netherlands Woman, 1898-1948.” She looked almost girlish in a tiny white Dutch cap, a green print dress and sandals. Her unpainted nails nervously fingered the notes from which she read her speech: “In the past 50 years woman has finally had courage to descend from her pedestal and to go to work herself in those spheres for which she had formerly been deemed too delicate . . . She had not considered that her so-called most appropriate work—the task of being a mother and raising a family—was exactly the task . . . that demands the most from body and soul . . .”

The task of being mother to a large family was precisely what Juliana faced. Juliana had spent many years being a housewife and a mother as well as a princess, and (when help was short) she did her own huiswerk. The new Queen faced the huiswerk of a nation. No Dutchman doubted that she was equal to it.

“Hail V.V.S.L!” Almost since anyone can remember, Juliana’s sturdy hands have been encased in spotless white gloves; yet they have never lost what only few royal hands dare possess—the common touch. Wilhelmina grew up in solitude, and did her best to spare her daughter that chilling ordeal. Instead of skating by herself on a guarded rink, Juliana did her skating with other kids. At 18, she entered Leiden University. She was a popular and adequate student, if not brilliant. Her judgment showed a Dutch caution that sometimes bordered on ludicrous understatement. Once she read a book by Leon Trotsky. Her opinion: “Trotsky is certainly a man of strong views.”

At Leiden, Juliana wrote a three-act comedy called Bluebeard. It was a slightly Shavian version of the story, with Bluebeard depicted as a psychiatrist and golf enthusiast; Juliana herself played one of Bluebeard’s wives. Another time, she tried her hand at poetry; her anonymous entry in a class contest was judged “song of the year.” The refrain went:

Hail our students’ cell!

Hail our girls’ V.V.S.L.!*

Hail our year of heaven,

Nineteen hundred and twenty-seven!

When Juliana told her mother about her achievement, the Queen said: “Don’t get excited. They gave you the prize because you are the Princess.” Juliana brought this story back to Leiden, whereupon the student jury wrote a respectful letter to Her Majesty, assuring her that the poem had won on its own merits.

Juliana’s freedom at college was distantly supervised by the Queen. Once, in the dressing room of the student theater, Juliana’s classmates twitted her about her long underwear. Next day she went out and bought something more modern. But when the fripperies arrived at the palace, Wilhelmina took one shocked look at them and sent them back. When Juliana’s marriage was being considered, her lady-in-waiting suggested that she wear some makeup. Wilhelmina declared: “The Princess will remain as God and I made her.”

That was somewhat unfair to the late Prince Henry, Duke of Mecklenburg, Juliana’s father, of whom the Princess was very fond. Prince Henry was far more tolerant than Wilhelmina. Once, Juliana was secretly smoking with several ladies-in-waiting when the door was thrown open imperiously. Aghast, the girls expected to see Wilhelmina. But when it turned out to be Juliana’s father, she ran to embrace him, crying: “It’s only Mecklenburg!”

The Flavor of Greenwich. When Juliana was 26, she met Prince Bernhard zu Lippe-Biesterfeld, a charming young man-about-Europe who worked for I. G. Farben in Paris. Declared Wilhelmina: “This is not the marriage of The Netherlands to Germany [but] the marriage of my daughter to the man she loves, whom I have found worthy of her love.” The story goes that when a German diplomat suggested how sensible it would be if The Netherlands indeed joined Germany, Juliana remarked: “Oh, I think Mama is too old to rule such a large country as Germany.”

During the war, Bernhard fought ably with the Dutch army underground. The Dutch people took to him, as did their Queen. He became one of Wilhelmina’s closest advisers and greatest favorites. Something of the playboy before the war, even taking a cocktail on Sundays, he settled down to a quiet, domestic postwar existence with Juliana at rambling, pleasant Soestdijk Palace. The household has the flavor of Greenwich, Conn. The Lippe-Biesterfelds like bridge, talky dinner parties, go to bed by 11. Each time Juliana expected a child, the nation waited excitedly to hear whether it was a boy (though by now, the Dutch have got used to matriarchy). Four times it was a girl (Beatrix, now 10; Irene, 9; Margriet Francisca, 5; Maria Christina, 1).

Juliana insisted that her daughters attend a public school, once instructed the headmistress not to “tell stories about fairy princesses or any stuff like that.” The children have the Orange matter-of-factness. Recently, vacationing, Princess Beatrix grew impatient with a crowd of gaping local children. She presented herself on the porch of her parents’ house. “This is how I look in front,” she said, and turned. “This is how I look in back. Now go away and leave me alone.”

The Spirit of Bryn Mawr. Juliana is far more sociable than her formidable mother. “Wilhelmina never starts a conversation,” say friends, “and Juliana never finishes one.”

An American who observed Juliana at The Hague. Congress of Europe (TIME, May 17) last week drew a word picture of the Princess listening to Winston Churchill: “Juliana sat leaning forward, her firm chin firmly planted in her firm hand, squinting a little, nodding a little from time to time as she followed with an obvious effort Churchill’s not very difficult line of thought. Her mien was strikingly familiar: it recalled the American matron who had learned at Bryn Mawr that an active interest in public affairs was the duty of an educated, responsible woman, and who was not going to use motherhood merely as an excuse for shirking her duty.

“The Bryn Mawr alumna would buy tickets for a lecture on economics by the late John Maynard Keynes and would go in much the same spirit as Juliana went to hear Churchill. Just as the Bryn Mawr alumna would bring her husband, so Juliana brought Bernhard. He sat there looking as if he would rather be at a country club, but had been almost reconciled to the educational occasion.”

To help her discharge her responsibilities, the Dutch people have elected a sober, able lot of politicians. The two largest parties, the Laborites and the Catholics, work well together. The Netherlands’ Premier, Willem Drees, is a quiet, respected Socialist who started out as a bank clerk and parliamentary stenographer. Last week he peered through his pince-nez from behind his neat desk and spoke to a U.S. newsman. “Western Union? A fine and necessary thing, but it will take a lot of time … Holland is grateful indeed for

Marshall aid, but… in the long run our salvation depends on our own efforts.”

The Touch of Greatness. Juliana on one occasion achieved a touch of greatness. In 1940, fleeing the Nazis, she went to Canada while her mother and husband remained in Britain. For the first time in her life she was on her own. She went to a microphone and spoke to the Canadian and American people, a simple woman, a mother, and unmistakably a princess. “Please do not regard me as too much of a stranger,” she said. “But you may not know very much about me, so I had better tell you who I am. My name is Juliana …” Then she spoke of her family, finally of her children. “You will see them among you . . . for we do not lock ourselves up—it just is not in our nature … I rather think that they are very sweet children. Above all things, they smile quite easily. Please give them your smile and they will be happy and they will ask for very little more . . .”

For her nation she asked more than a smile; she asked respect: “Whatever you do, do not give me your pity. No woman ever felt as proud as I do of the marvelous heritage of my own people . . . They had always maintained the right of the individual to his own liberty … of his person and … of his soul. . . Placed before the terrible choice of surrendering those rights or of dying in their defense, they never hesitated . . . Pity is for the weak, and our terrible fate has made us stronger than ever before . . .”

Next week, when she has taken her walk to the Nieuwe Kerk, Juliana will be inaugurated (she will not be crowned, because the truculently democratic Dutch do not like their monarchs actually to wear the crown, which is considered the property of the state, not of the monarch). Juliana will swear to “protect the general and individual freedom . . . the general and individual prosperity … as it is the duty of a good Queen to do.” Then the chairman of the Joint Session of the States-General will, on behalf of the sovereign people, pronounce the proud and wary formula: “By virtue of the Constitution, we accept you … as Queen.”

The crowds will bark out a good loud “Hiep, hiep, hiep, hoera!” The woman who asked people to smile at her children will be Queen of The Netherlands.

* For news of last week’s doings in the Nieuwe Kerk, see RELIGION. * Vereeniging van Vrouwelijke Studenten (Society of Women Students), Leiden.

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