Huis Doorn in 2010
Historic house museum
Huis Doorn (Dutch pronunciation: [ɦœys dʊːrn]; English: Doorn Manor) is a small manor house near the town of Doorn in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands. German Emperor Wilhelm II lived in exile at the house from 1920 until his death in 1941. The historic house is now a national museum.
The 15th-century house was rebuilt in the late 18th century in a conservative manner and, in the mid-19th century, a surrounding park was laid out as an English landscape garden. Baroness Ella van Heemstra (1900–1984), the mother of actress Audrey Hepburn, spent much of her childhood living in the house.
Residence-in-exile of Wilhelm II
The property was purchased in 1919 by Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor, as his residence-in-exile (1920–1941), following his abdication after World War I. During his years in exile, he was allowed to travel freely within a 15 mile radius of his house, but journeys farther than that meant that advance notice had to be given to a local government official. As he disliked having to kowtow to a minor official, he rarely journeyed beyond the "free" limit. The former Emperor regularly exercised by chopping down many of the estate's trees, splitting the logs into stacks of firewood, thereby denuding the matured landscape as the years progressed. Hence he was called by his enemies "The Woodchopper of Doorn".
Wilhelm's asylum in the Netherlands was based on family ties with Queen Wilhelmina, whom, some claim, he embarrassed by his political statements. In fact, Wilhelm rarely spoke publicly, while in exile. His first wife, Dona, died at Huis Doorn and, afterwards, her body was taken back to Potsdam in Germany where she was buried in the Temple of Antiquities. Wilhelm could only accompany her on her last journey as far as the German border. In 1938, his grandson, Prince Louis Ferdinand, was married to Grand Duchess Kira of Russia, in Huis Doorn. Despite the Nazi occupation of Holland in 1940, Wilhelm went undisturbed by the Wehrmacht.
Five of Wilhelm's beloved dachshunds are buried in the park. A marker is dedicated to the memory of his dog, "Senta", who was a favorite of Wilhelm and died in 1927 at the age of 20.
Wilhelm II died of a pulmonary embolism at Huis Doorn, on 4 June 1941, with German occupation soldiers on guard at the gates of his estate. He was buried in a small mausoleum in the gardens, to await his return to Germany upon the restoration of the Prussian monarchy, according to the terms of his will. His wish that no swastikas would be displayed at his funeral was not heeded.
Historic house museum
The Dutch government seized the manor house and its household effects in 1945 and, since then, many new trees have been re-planted and the wooded parkland is returning to its earlier glory.
The house is open as a museum, just as Wilhelm left it, with marquetry commodes, tapestries, paintings by German court painters, porcelains and silver. Wilhelm's collections of snuffboxes and watches that belonged to Frederick the Great are considered by some to be the most interesting of the artifacts.
In June each year, a devoted band of German monarchists still come to pay their respects and lay wreaths, accompanied by marchers in period uniforms and representatives from modern monarchist organisations, such as Tradition und Leben of Cologne.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Huis Doorn.|
- Huis Doorn, official website
- "How A German Soldier Still Loves His Dead Kaiser": annual ceremonies at the Wilhelm's mausoleum