In the center of the Netherlands lies the city of Apeldoorn. It has about 160,000 inhabitants and is well-known for its zoo with 35 different species of monkeys, called Apenheul. The city is also famous for one of the finest Dutch palaces: Het Loo. I recently visited the palace, the gardens and the park. Although I was there a couple of times before, it was interesting again to see the staterooms and to read about the royals who lived here during many centuries. In the first half of the 20th century Het Loo was the favorite palace of Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962). After she abdicated, she spent the last fourteen years in quietness in and around this palace. Here she made many paintings of the surrounding area. Her granddaughter, princess Margriet, was the last resident. She lived here until 1975, together with her husband and four sons. Since 1984 the palace is a museum and is open to the public.
One of the most fascinating parts of Het Loo’s history, is the fact that it was built between 1684 and 1686 for stadtholder William III of Orange (1650-1702). Because of his marriage to Mary Stuart in 1677, he became king of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1689. As a Prince of Orange he was already a sovereign prince and this – together with the office of stadtholder of the Dutch Republic – gave him an international status. His position only improved when he ascended the English throne. He now needed his palace in Apeldoorn to be an impressive summer residence, full of splendor and grandeur. The palace was enlarged, the gardens became a true example of garden art. If you want to read more about the history of the palace, please visit the website of Het Loo. https://www.paleishetloo.nl/en/the-palace/
On the ground floor I saw some staterooms complete with furniture and decorations as they were during the time of William and Mary. I started my tour in the entrance hall, where two large portraits of William and Mary make clear who were once ‘lord and lady of the manor’. The next room is named after one of William’s closest friends and important counselors, Hans Willem Bentinck. When he was at Het Loo, he would use this room as his private office. From the entrance hall I walked into the old dining room. No table here, as this piece of furniture would only be placed in the room when the stadtholder wanted to eat. In 1692 the palace got a new dining room, and the room retained this function through the following centuries. Next to the stairway to the chapel I admired the portrait of Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715), bishop of Salisbury, who was a close friend of king William.
I climbed the stairs to the first floor and took a look at the large audience hall, where William and Mary would invite their guests. The other parts of this floor are reserved for the private rooms of the king and queen. On one side are the dressing room and bed chamber of Queen Mary II, on the other side are the study and bed chamber of King William. All these rooms are still decorated in the style as they were more than 300 years ago. It felt as if I stepped into the past. I saw many other rooms, but their interior is of more recent centuries. On the day I was at Het Loo, visitors could enter the roof of the palace. I climbed about 130 steps to reach the roof terrace. From there I had a stunning view: the lower gardens, the upper gardens, the king’s gardens, the queen’s gardens and the rest of the park and the royal domain.
Friends in England
My visit to Het Loo made clear that William and Mary had a wonderful place in Apeldoorn where they could welcome and entertain their guests. These guests must have come from all over Europe. The reverse is also true. When William of Orange became king of England, Scotland and Ireland, he introduced some of his best Dutch friends to the English court. I already mentioned Hans Willem Bentinck (1649-1709), one of Williams oldest and closest friends. He was created Baron Cirencester, Viscount Woodstock and Earl of Portland. Another confident of the king was Arnold Joost van Keppel (1670-1718), who accompanied the king everywhere. He was created Viscount Bury, Baron Ashford and Earl of Albemarle.
Descendants of both noble families still live in the United Kingdom. The last Duke of Portland died in 1990, the current Earl of Portland is Timothy Bentinck (born in 1953). Among the descendants of the Keppel family are Diana, Princess of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The current Earl of Albemarle is Rufus Keppel (born in 1965).
Bentinck and Keppel are the most prominent examples of Dutch men who started a new life in the United Kingdom. Not only the king-stadtholder, but also these noblemen had advisers, staff members, servants of soldiers who joined them overseas. Are their descendants still living in the United Kingdom, or in Scotland or Ireland? I would like to hear from them. What do they know about their Dutch ancestors?