Paleis Het Loo is located in the heart of the Netherlands, on the outskirts of Apeldoon. Since 1984, after a thorough restoration, this former royal palace has been open to the public. The furnished rooms and chambers show how the Oranges have lived and worked here for 300 years. The baroque gardens have a symmetrical design, taking the garden of the 17th century as an example, and are unique in the Netherlands. In the course of those 300 years, the palace has had a lot of very diverse residents and the building itself underwent many changes.
In 1684, stadtholder Willem III (1650-1702) purchased the medieval hunting lodge ‘Het Oude Loo’ together with the surrounding buildings, woods, estates and water courses. He wanted to build a new hunting lodge on this site, one which would compete with the country estates of other European royalty. Willem and his wife Mary Stuart (later Queen Mary II) were lovers of architecture and garden art. The ‘new’ Loo was envisaged as a magnificent summer residence where the stadtholder could hunt and entertain his noble guests in royal splendour.
In 1686, the palace and the gardens were as good as complete. Three years later, in 1689, Willem and Mary became king and queen of the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland and this international status deserved a larger palace. The gardens were extended and four pavilions were added to the palace; these connected the middle section with the East and West wings.
After the death of King-Stadtholder Willem III, the palace was used by consecutive stadtholders, kings and queens as hunting lodge and summer residence.
The White Loo
In 1795, Willem V, the last Orange stadtholder, fled to England. The palace and the gardens fell into disrepair. In 1806, the palace became the property of Louis Napoleon, who was made King of Holland by his brother Napoleon Bonaparte. Louis Napoleon had the exterior of the palace radically changed: the palace was plastered in grey-white, creating ‘the White Loo’. He had a romantic-styled landscape park laid over the 17th century baroque gardens.
Return of the Oranges
In 1813, the son of the former stadtholder Willem V returned to the Netherlands after many years in exile. In 1815, he had himself inaugurated as King Willem I. In that year, a decision was taken to make Paleis Het Loo available to the head of state as summer residence.
In 1911, Queen Wilhelmina had an additional storey added to the Corps-de-Logis (the middle section of the palace). Several new buildings were added on the east side (these are now used as offices). This rebuilding partly destroyed the original symmetry of the palace. In the Second World War, the palace was occupied by the German military. After the war, Queen Wilhelmina returned to Het Loo, which she considered her favourite palace. After her abdication in 1948, the former queen retired to Het Loo and died there on 28 November 1962.
Princess Margriet and Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven were, together with their four sons, the last residents of the palace. They lived here from 1967 to 1975 in the East Wing. Each year at Christmas, the decorated table of Princess Margriet is on show at Paleis Het Loo.
In 1970, the decision was taken to turn the palace into a museum and in 1977 a start was made on the radical restoration. The main idea was to return the exterior of the palace to its original 17th century glory. The additions made in the 19th and 20th centuries were removed, such as the extra storey of the Corps-de-Logis and the white plaster layer. The 17th century baroque gardens were also relaid. The museum opened in 1984.