Queen of the Netherlands during World Wars I and II. Born Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Marie of Orange-Nassau, she was the Queen of the Netherlands from 1890 until 1948, and Queen Mother from 1948 until 1962. She ruled the country for 58 years, longer than most Dutch monarchs. The only child of King William III and his second wife, Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont, she was close to her parents, especially her father, who was 63 years old when she was born. Although King William already had three sons with his first wife, Queen Sophe, when she was born (thus she was not expected to take the throne), William outlived his three sons, and when he died on November 23, 1890, it was Princess Wilhelmina who became Queen and reigning monarch at the age of 10. Her mother, Emma, was made Regent, to serve until Wilhelmina's 18th birthday. In 1901, she married Hendrik, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who was given the title of Prince Consort. After several miscarriages, Wilhelmina gave birth to their only child, Juliana, on April 30, 1909. Very early, Wilhelmina developed a disliking for Great Britain, which had annexed the Transvaal republic and the Orange Free State during the Boer War (the Boers were descendents of Dutch colonists). In 1900, she dispatched a Dutch warship to South Africa to rescue Transvaal President Paul Kruger from the British. Queen Wilhelmina also had a good business mind, and through her investments in various business ventures, especially oil, became one of the world's wealthiest women; she was the first woman to be worth more than one billion dollars. During World War I, the Netherlands were officially neutral, but Great Britain blockaded her ports to prevent war goods from reaching Germany, and there was always tension between Holland and Britain because of the blockade. Shortly after the war, a pro-communist revolt was staged to overthrow the government, and Wilhelmina rode in an open carriage into the middle of the mob. Her determined stance and the respect her subjects held for her immediately ended the revolt. During the 1930s the Netherlands became an industrial power, despite the effects of the worldwide Great Depression. When Nazi Germany attacked the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, despite their official neutrality, Queen Wilhelmina moved her government to Great Britain, where she continued to rule in exile. From Britain, she established Radio Orange, and continued to communicate with her people, organizing Dutch resistance to the Nazis. Winston Churchill would refer to her as "the only real man among the governments-in-exile in London." She and the Royal Family returned to the Netherlands at the end of the war, and on September 4, 1948, Wilhelmina abdicated in favor of her daughter, Juliana, after a reign of 58 years. She was given the title Her Royal Highness Princess Wilhelmina, and retired to her Het Loo Palace, near Apeldoorn, where she wrote her autobiography, "Lonely but Not Alone" (1960). She died in her palace two years later.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
Heinrich Wladimir Albrecht Ernst von Mecklenburg-Schwerin
1876–1934 (m. 1901)