by Scott Mehl
Huis ten Bosch
Huis ten Bosch, in The Hague, is one of state-owned palaces placed at the disposal of the Dutch sovereign. Having served as a summer residence for much of its royal history, it became the primary residence of the sovereign during the reign of Queen Beatrix. A year after her abdication, she left Huis ten Bosch and now resides at Drakensteyn Castle, the home she has privately owned since 1959. It has been announced that King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima will move to Huis ten Bosch at an appropriate time in the future.
Huis ten Bosch was built in 1645 to be a summer residence for the Stadholder Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange and his wife, Amalia, Countess of Solms-Braunfels. The first stone was laid on September 2, 1645 by Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia (born Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James VI/I of Scotland and England, and Princess Anne of Denmark). Following Frederik Hendrik’s death, his widow turned the palace into a mausoleum in his memory. The large central domed room – The Orange Hall – was decorated with artwork dedicated to the life and work of the Prince. Following Amalia’s death, the palace passed her daughters and was later sold to Prince William III, a grandson of Frederik Hendrik (and later King of England). He continued to use Huis ten Bosch as a summer palace and made many changes to the building as well as the gardens.
Following WIlliam III’s death in 1702, the palace became the property of King Friedrich I of Prussia, but returned to the House of Orange-Nassau in 1732. Prince Willem IV made major renovations, extending the building by adding two large wings to the east and the west – the Hague Wing and the Wassenaar Wing.
After the French invasion in 1795, all the properties of the Stadholder were seized – becoming property of the state – and much of the furniture and art from Huis ten Bosch was sold. Over the next 20 years, the palace was used for many different things – it served briefly as a prison following a coup in 1798, the east wing was rented out as a brothel, and it later housed the National Art Gallery – the predecessor of today’s Rijksmuseum. Louis Napoleon lived there briefly after being proclaimed King of Holland, and is credited with much of the style with exists today.
From 1815, with the proclamation of King Willem I of the Netherlands, the palace began to be used regularly as a summer residence of the Dutch royal family. Queen Wilhelmina used it during World War I (giving up her usual summer residence at Het Loo Palace), and again prior to fleeing the German invasion in 1940. The palace suffered significant damage during World War II and following liberation, was totally uninhabitable. Over the next 30 years, the palace underwent several significant restorations, and was used sporadically for royal functions. It wasn’t until August 10, 1981, that it returned to use as a royal residence, when Queen Beatrix and her family moved in.
Today, just as during the reign of Queen Beatrix, Huis ten Bosch also serves as the site of many official functions. In 2014, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima hosted a large group of world leaders for The Nuclear Security Summit, which included an official dinner held in the Orange Hall (pictured below). The Orange Hall underwent a complete restoration in the late 1990s and continues to serve as the backdrop for many ceremonies and functions. Additionally, the Hague Wing of the palace is used as guest accommodations.
Learn more about the other Dutch Royal Residences here!