Saturday, 7 January 2017

Royal Weddings: Juliana of the Netherlands and Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld

A very modern royal bride - queen in waiting, Juliana, dropped obey from her marriage vows
(official wedding photo)

Meet a very modern royal bride. It's one thing to marry a princess, to marry a queen in waiting is quite another. When Juliana of the Netherlands said 'I do' eighty years ago today, she missed out several other traditional words. For Juliana was heir to her country's throne and as a head in state in waiting there was no place for 'obey' in her wedding vows. Her groom, Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, didn't mind. The couple were really rather fond of one another and he had been plucked from relative obscurity to become the consort of a future monarch. January 7th 2017 marks the 80th anniversary of a very modern marriage starring a very royal bride.

Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina was born to rule. Heir to the throne of the Netherlands from the moment of her birth, she was raised to be a queen. There were plenty of marriage rumours surrounding this very eligible royal bride but the strong willed princess kept her counsel until she met Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld at the 1936 Winter Olympics. Juliana fell in love and her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, consented to a marriage after putting in place a pre nuptial agreement.

Juliana was her only child and there were no uncles, aunts or cousins to step in and fill the succession. Her daughter's marriage was a desirable event even if the groom wasn't top of everyone's list. Bernhard had been a member of the Reiter SS and some of his friends and family had associations with the Nazi party. He himself disliked Hitler and soon after the couple's engagement was announced, on September 8th 1936, Bernhard became a Dutch citizen. He would later cut ties with relations associated with Nazism.

His royal bride was besotted with him but while Juliana enjoyed her romantic dreams, she also had the practical matter of a very regal wedding to deal with. As future Queen of the Netherlands, even her wedding date had to have significance. The couple announced they would wed on January 7th, the same date that Juliana's grandparents, King Willem III and Queen Emma, had married back in 1879. Juliana had been very close to her grandmother, Emma, so there was a personal link to her wedding date too but by saying 'I do' on January 7th, this queen in waiting also underlined her place in history.

The wedding took place in The Hague.  As is customary, the civil ceremony took place first at the Town Hall before the bride and groom travelled together to the Great Church of The Hague for their religious wedding. There was a golden coach, a pretty impressive collection of royal guests and more diamonds than even The Hague was used to.

This royal wedding dress looks very 1930s in the photos with its sleek satin finish, simple lines and semi dropped waist. In fact, it was inspired by Ancient Greece - yep, your guess is as good as mine - and designed by Maison Kuhne of The Hague. There was a tulle veil and despite having access to an already impressive tiara collection, Juliana wore a diadem of diamonds given to her by her mother-in-law, Princess Armgard of Lippe. As well as this rather sentimental sliver of sparkle, there were dynastic diamonds going on as well with the bride wearing a collection of brooches bought for Queen Emma by King Willem. They were in the shape of roses - the symbol of the House of Lippe.

Juliana and Bernhard had some ups and downs in the years that followed but they remained happily married. He became her consort when she finally took the throne of the Netherlands in 1948 on the abdication of her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, and he was at her side when she stepped aside for their own daughter, Beatrix, in 1980. It would be the last accession either would see. Juliana died on March 20th 2004 and Bernhard passed away on December 1st the same year. They were a very modern royal couple who set their own pace and ideas. And their royal story began eighty years ago today with a very modern royal wedding.

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