In September 2023 it will be 75 years ago that Queen Juliana was inaugurated as the monarch of the Netherlands. Her eldest daughter, Princess Beatrix, on Thursday 13 October 2022 opened an exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands: “De eeuw van Juliana” (The century of Juliana). It was here that the investiture of Juliana, in attendance of 10-year-old Beatrix, was held on 6 September 1948. The exhibition will be on display from 15 October 2022 to 10 April 2023. I finally visited on 11 December 2022 and really enjoyed it.
To many people Juliana is known as the “Queen alongside the red carpet”. She was quirky and averse to protocol, and is loved for her simplicity and humanity. However she also was a head of state, and during her reign both Dutch colonies Indonesia and Suriname became independent countries. The eventful century in which Juliana lived, was marked by unprecedented setbacks and spectacular prosperity, which was reflected in her personality and her ideals.
“De eeuw van Juliana” provides context and aims to give a complete and also personal picture of this remarkable queen. Visitors are taken back in time to see Juliana (1909-2004) grow up from a little baby to a steadfast monarch 1948-1980 and old lady. More than 400 objects are on display, from the family cradle, dresses from her childhood, toys, royal tableware, gifts from the former colonies and even a Rolls Royce and a carriage, although I have no idea how they managed to get these inside the church. There are also photos and paintings, as well as historical documents and special film fragments. For fashion lovers there are glasses, hats and headscarves. Several dresses are on display: Julianas wedding dress, the dress she wore at her inauguration and a few other dresses that she wore at important occasions in her life. Over 200 objects are from the Royal Collections, others from museums and private collections.
The exhibition starts with a display of the Crème Calèche and a display of her inauguration dress and some other objects at the exact spot where she was inaugurated. From there you slowly go through Julianas life, from 1909 to 2004, although the last part of her life is mainly represented by the interview she and her husband Prince Bernhard gave in 1987 on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. At the end of the tour you can sit in the “cinema” and have a look at videos. Halfway the exhibition is also a table with books about Juliana, that you can have a look at. Don’t miss the blue Daffodil-car that is shown behind the ticket desks. Although it is not obvious immediately for people with less knowledge, the car is part of the exhibition. Juliana and her family loved to use it during their vacations in Italy in the early 1970s.
Earlier in 2022 the church sent a Juliana-Bus into the country to collect stories and memories people have of Queen Juliana. Someone told me that videos taken in the provinces were shown at the exhibition. I noticed on the “steps of Soestdijk Palace” there were screens telling stories, but they all showed the same video. And when I was there they showed an expert and a person who had actually met/worked for her. I also saw a kind of cinema showing old footage. So although I went through the whole exhibition twice, I somehow missed these videos! And I was told my video was probably even shown. Wish someone had told me before my visit.
The church is located in the heart of Amsterdam, and on walking distance from the central station of Amsterdam. The church is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Tickets can be bought either online or at the church for € 19,50 (less when you have certain cards, like the Museumkaart), children from 0-11 years old can go in for free, young people from 12-17 and students pay the reduced price of € 7,50. For foreigners who try to visit as much as possible in and around Amsterdam: check out whether the I amsterdam City Card is something for you. There was a surprisingly amount of foreign visitors in the church when I was there.
An audio tour is available, with more than twenty different voices, from famous to less well-known people, from eyewitnesses to experts. I am not a huge fan of any audio tour, but I listened to it a few times. Some of the text is readable on the screens also. Next to the regular audio tour there is also a “Rebel Queen’ audio tour, that I think is more for young people.
If you’re really interested, or like me take photos, you easily spend 1-3 hours in the church. Don’t forget to check the area outside the exhibition space.
WBooks has published a wonderful book in connection with the exhibition called “De eeuw van Juliana. Een koningin en haar idealen” (The century of Juliana. A Queen and her ideals)”.
The book has lots of illustrations and was written by Pieter Eckhardt.