Stadtholder William III, the future king of England, built the magnificent Het Loo Palace, regarded as the “Versailles of the Netherlands,” as a royal hunting lodge in the 17th century. Generations of the House of Orange used the lodge as a summer palace. The main architect was Jacob Roman (1640-1716); the interior decoration and garden design were the responsibility of Daniel Marot. The building’s Classical facade belies the opulence of its lavish interior; extensive restoration work was completed on both in 1984.
THE HOUSE OF ORANGE-NASSAU
The marriage of Hendrik III of Nassau-Breda and Claudia of Chalon-Orange established the House of Orange-Nassau in 1515. Since that time, the family has played a central role in the political life of the Netherlands. The House of Orange is also important in British history. In 1677, William III of Orange married his first cousin, the English princess Mary Stuart. William and Mary became king and queen of England in 1689 when Mary’s father, James II, went into exile in France, and the couple ruled as joint monarchs.
HET LOO PALACE INTERIOR
The Orange-Nassau family continued to use Het Loo Palace as a royal summer house until 1975. The palace is now a museum, and painstaking restoration has re-created its 17th-century appearance. The interior, which is sumptuously decorated with rich materials, is laid out symmetrically, with the royal apartments located to the east and west of the Great Hall. The wings of the palace contain exhibitions of court costumes, along with documents, paintings, silver, and china belonging to the House of Orange-Nassau over three centuries.
THE GARDENS AND FOUNTAINS
In 1686, the Formal Gardens surrounding the palace were laid out and soon became celebrated. The designer was Daniel Marot (1661-1752), who added a host of small details such as wrought-iron railings and garden urns. The gardens, which include the Queen’s Garden and King’s Garden, were designed to be strictly geometrical.
They were decorated with formal flower beds and embellished with fountains, borders, topiary and cascades. Statues were placed throughout. Today, the King’s Garden features clipped box trees and pyramid-shaped juniper trees. At the center stands an octagonal white marble basin with a spouting triton and gilt sea dragons. The slightly raised Upper Garden is home to the impressive King’s Fountain, which is fed by a natural spring and operates 24 hours a day. It is a classic, eye-catching feature in a royal garden.
The wall coverings and draperies in this luxuriously furnished bedroom (1713) are of rich orange damask and purple silk.
The Chancery Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of international orders, decorations, and court-dress, is found here.
Old Dining Room
In 1984, six layers of paint were removed from the marbled walls of this 1686 room. They are now hung with tapestries depicting scenes from Ovid’s poems.
The gardens combine plants, statuary, and fountains in Classical style. The Fountain of Celestial Sphere stands in the Lower Garden.
Stadholder William II’s Closet
The walls of William’s private study (1690) are covered in embossed scarlet damask. His favorite paintings and Delftware pieces are exhibited here.
STABLES AND COACH HOUSE
Vintage cars, carriages, and sleighs, some of which are still used by the Dutch royal family, are on display in Het Loo’s stable block and coach house, near the main entrance. One of the best exhibits in the stable block is a 1925 Bentley, nicknamed Minerva, which was owned by Prince Hendrik, husband of Queen Wilhelmina. The coach house has a state coach, a state chariot, and sports, shooting, and service carriages from the first half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th.
After the Death of the Dutch King William II (r. 1848-90), his daughter Wilhelmina was the first female to rule the country as queeen (r. 1890-1948). During her reign, Wilhelmina used the Het Loo Palace as her summer retreat.
THE FORMAL GARDENS
Old prints, records, and plans were used as the guidelines for re-creating Het Loo’s formal gardens, which lie in the vast acres behind the palace. Grass was planted over the original walled and knot gardens in the 18th century, and this was cleared in 1975. By 1983, the intricate floral patterns had been reestablished, replanting had begun, the Classical fountains had been renovated and the water supply fully restored. The garden reflects the late 17th century belief that art and nature should operate in harmony.
1684-6: Building of the Het Loo Palace for Prince William III and Princess Mary.
1691-4: King William III commissions new building works on the palace.
1814: Het Loo Palace becomes the property of the Dutch state.
1984: Restoration of the house and garden is completed.