Huis Doorn – Haus Doorn – House Doorn

Huis Doorn in 2010.

Huis Doorn ( English: Doorn Manor) is a manor house and national museum in the town of Doorn in the Netherlands. The museum shows the early 20th century interior from the time when former German Emperor Wilhelm II lived in the house from 1919 to 1941.

Location of the museum in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Huis Doorn was first built in the 9th century. It was rebuilt in the 14th century, after it was destroyed. It was again rebuilt in the 19th century to its present-day form. The gardens were also created in the 19th century. After World War I, Wilhelm II bought the house, where he lived in exile from 1920 until his death in 1941. He is buried in a mausoleum in the gardens. After the German occupation in World War II, the house was seized by the Dutch government as hostile property.

Huis Doorn is now a national museum and a national heritage site. The interior of the house has not been changed since Wilhelm II died. Every year in June, German monarchists come to Doorn to pay their respects to the emperor. In 2012, the museum had 25,000 visitors.

Bust of Wilhelm II in front of Doorn’s house.

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Portrait of Wilhelm II in 1909, by Bruno Heinrich Strassberger.

Early History

The first house was built in the 9th century, but it was destroyed and rebuilt in the 14th century. It was again 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.

Hermine Reuss of Greiz and Wilhelm II at Huis Doorn in 1933.

Residence 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, although a recorded interview of 1931 does exist, spoken in English. It reveals anti-Semitic views he possessed.

His first wife, Augusta nicknamed Dona, died at Huis Doorn 11 April 1921 and her body was taken back to Potsdam in Germany, where she was buried in the Antique Temple. Wilhelm could only accompany her on her last journey as far as the German border.

Wedding picture of Sigurd of Ilsemann , the adjutant of the German Emperor and King of Prussia Wilhelm II. In front of the porch of the house Doorn 1920. At the groom’s left hand is the Empress Augusta Victoria .

In January 1922, Wilhelm invited the widowed princess Hermine of Greiz and her young son to Huis Doorn. He took a liking to Hermine’s company, they had much in common and got married on November 5th, 1922. Hermine lived in Huis Doorn with Wilhelm in his exile until his death in 1941. She then returned to Germany and after her death, she was also interred in the Antique Temple in Potsdam due to being Wilhelm’s second wife. Hermine stood for the property management of Huis Doorn, and in 1927 she wrote her biografic book An Empress in Exile: My Days in Doorn.

In 1938, Wilhelm’s grandson, Prince Louis Ferdinand, was married to Grand Duchess Kira of Russia, in Huis Doorn.

Despite the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, Wilhelm and his household 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 be displayed at his funeral was not heeded.

Mausoleum of Wilhelm II.

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.

Huis Doorn opened its doors as a historic house museum in 1956. It was just as Wilhelm left it, with marquetry commodes, tapestries, paintings by German court painters, porcelains and silver. The collection also includes Wilhelm’s collections of snuffboxes and watches that belonged to Frederick the Great.

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.

The house became a national heritage site or rijksmonument in 1997. In 2012, the museum had 25,000 visitors.

Dining room in 2013.

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