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Emma, mother of the modern monarchy

15 September until 29 October 2017

Escher in Het Paleis and the National Archive presented ‘Emma, mother of the modern monarchy’, which could be viewed in the ballroom of Emma’s own Winter Palace.

Every autumn, Escher in Het Paleis joins in with the festivities surrounding Prinsjesdag. This year the theme of the Prinsjesdag festival was ‘Time to find common ground’. It was a good reason to raise the profile of Queen Mother Emma. We did this  in conjunction with the National Archive. The presentation was held in the finest room in Emma’s winter palace: the ballroom. There, the original ‘Troonrede’ (the Dutch equivalent of the Queen’s Speech) from 1891 could be seen as well as some remarkable memorabilia from the visits Emma took to the Dutch provinces.

When King Willem III passed away after a period of illness in 1890, his successor Wilhelmina was still a minor. Consequently, Emma van Waldeck-Pyrmont stood in as regent until her daughter was old enough. Emma is perhaps not the most well-known member of the House of Orange, but she did a lot to ensure the continued existence of the monarchy. Despite her regency (1890-1898) starting on the back foot. She was young, she was not from the Netherlands (was of German origin) and she was a woman.

In a time in which women in the Netherlands still did not have the right to vote, Emma was the first female head of state to sit on the Dutch throne. In a time of increasing nationalism and polarization – then of all times – she managed to unite the Dutch people and carve out a positive image for the royal house.

Emma was not only dutiful, intelligent, resolute and impartial, she was also more visible than her predecessors. Through a sophisticated publicity campaign she managed to create a positive image for the royal family and travelled throughout the country with her daughter. In so doing, she not only prepared the young Wilhelmina for her future reign, she also prepared the country for her daughter. Emma was the mother of the modern monarchy.