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Paleis Soestdijk

 

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History of the Paleis Soestdijk

Soestdijk Palace, in the municipality of Baarn, has been the home of Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard since 1937. The oldest part of the building dates from the second half of the 17th century, when the then burgomaster of Amsterdam built a country house, the Hofstede aen Zoestdijck, on the road between the villages of Soest and Baarn. This manor probably formed the basis for the hunting lodge that was built for Stadholder William III between 1674 and 1678 by Maurits Post, son of Pieter Post who had been involved in the building of both Huis ten Bosch and Noordeinde Palace.

After 1684, when William III and his wife Mary acquired the estate of Het Oude Loo near Apeldoorn, the site of a new hunting lodge, they used their house at Soestdijk less and less. When William III died without issue in 1702, Soestdijk passed to Johan Willem Friso, Stadholder of Friesland. On his death in 1711, his wife Princess Maria Louisa and their son, Prince William IV, spent their summers at the lodge, since it was convenient for Utrecht, where William IV attended university. Even after he finished his studies, the Prince used the lodge regularly for political reasons, for it was not until 1747 that he added the stadholdership of Utrecht, Holland, Zeeland and Overijssel to that of Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe and Gelderland.

After William IV's death in 1751, Soestdijk remained the summer residence of his wife, Princess Anne, and their son, William V. Anne purchased land to extend the estates around the lodge, but did little to the house itself except to refurnish it. William V continued to use Soestdijk after his mother's death, although he visited it less often after 1787, when it was the scene of clashes between Orangists and Patriots which cost the lives of members of both parties.

When the French invaded in 1795, all the stadholder's residences were seized as the spoils of war. Soestdijk Palace and the lands around it were declared state property. In 1799, the furniture was sold and the building turned into an inn, used mainly by French troops. In 1806, when Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor, became King of Holland, he took possession of Soestdijk Palace, now sadly neglected, and had it extended and refurbished in the Empire style, like Huis ten Bosch. However, Louis Napoleon did not stay there often, and the house was uninhabited for some years after he abdicated in 1810.

In 1815, the son of the last stadholder was proclaimed King William I of the Netherlands. In the same year, Soestdijk Palace was presented to his son, the Prince of Orange, in recognition of his services at the Battle of Waterloo. The Palace was extended considerably, two wings being added, one on each side of the original hunting lodge. From 1818 onwards, it was the home of the Prince of Orange (later King William II) and his wife, the Russian princess Anna Paulovna.

After William II died in 1849 and his wife in 1865, Soestdijk was occupied by Prince Hendrik, the younger brother of King William III. On his death in 1879, it passed to the King, who continued to prefer Het Loo as his summer home.

Soestdijk was not in regular use again until after Queen Wilhelmina ascended the throne. It was the summer home of her mother, Queen Emma, until the latter's death in 1934. This period saw some minor changes, such as the installation of electric light. Three years after Emma's death, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands moved in, and Soestdijk continued to be their official residence even after Princess Juliana became Queen in 1948.

Soestdijk Palace became the property of the State of the Netherlands in 1971. On the Queen's abdication in 1980, it was designated the official residence of Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard.

 

 


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