The Royal Collections of the Netherlands include a diverse collection of photographs. These have many origins. Some were donated to the collection, some taken in-house by members of the Royal House, some purchased and some transferred from other sources. The oldest are daguerreotypes, a technique from the very earliest days of photography. Most of the recent photographs are taken in colour using a digital camera. Naturally, the collection contains many portraits. There are also images of all kinds of occasions – far more than the openings, launches and stonelaying ceremonies usually associated with the monarchy.
At one time it was common practice to present members of the royal family with a photographic album of companies and organisations they were visiting, or to mark an event like a wedding or jubilee. For example, our collection includes two remarkable series of industrial photographs by amongst others Pieter Oosterhuis, Julius Perger and Johann Hameter, presented to Queen Emma on the occasion of her marriage to King William III. They depict the construction of railways, stations, bridges and locks in the years 1864-1879.
East and West
The Dutch East Indies, Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles – are also represented in the collection, with sometimes unique images.
When monarchs and other heads of state meet one another on state visits, they often exchange official portraits. The Sultan of Siak presented this signed portrait to Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Emma when they granted him an audience in 1898. Unlike most photographs of its kind, however, this one was not taken in the giver’s home country. The sultan had sat for photographer Wilhelm Ivens during a stay in Nijmegen.
As in every family archive, personal albums and travel photography are a big part of the royal photo collection. The older of these are available for public viewing. Prince Henry, nicknamed “Henry the Navigator”, attended the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. A portfolio containing twelve beautiful photographs commemorates the new waterway. Two albums featuring shots of Cannes are probably souvenirs acquired by Queen Sophie, since she made several trips to the south of France. Prince Alexander visited Algeria in 1875, resulting in an interesting set of images of this country. The photographs were presented to him by the Dutch consul there. When Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henry married in 1901, the Dutch communities in Moscow and Smyrna (then Greek Anatolia, now Izmir in Turkey) sent them commemorative photographic albums.
Other images in the collection were originally taken for departments of the Royal Household, such as the Royal Stables. Photographs of palaces and their interiors are important sources of information for restorations and redecorations.
The photograph collection contains images by famous, little known and sometimes even anonymous photographers, both amateur and professional. Some are mounted in albums with a unique, often costly binding and a beautifully penned title page or dedication. This particular album, with its personalised binding, was presented to Queen Anna Pavlovna, widow of King William II, on 23 August 1861 by members of the Royal Household to mark the forty-fifth anniversary of her arrival in the Netherlands.
Viewing the collection
No copyright-protected images dating from the twentieth and twenty-first century are included in our public media library. However, these can sometimes be accessed elsewhere, such as through the database of images at the Nationaal Archief. Many recent photographs are available on the Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst. They include portraits of the Dutch royal family and of events they have attended. Some can be downloaded for personal use.