The Royal Archives comprise the Oranges’ personal archives as well as their library, photographic archives and art collection. The archives fall under the management of the Royal Household.
The Royal Archives date back to the regency of Queen Emma. The construction of the repository at Noordeinde made it possible to manage the archives, the library and the historical collections from a central location. The various collections continue to grow steadily, thanks to donations and purchases. After 1945 the director of the Royal Archives was also put in charge of the historical collections in the palaces.
The Royal Archives contain the personal archives of the members
of the House of Nassau and Orange-Nassau, from the 13th century to
the present day. The archives for the period before 1795 are
fragmentary. From 1814 onward the archives are more complete. The
archives of the secretariats are also part of the collection. One
of the archive's oldest documents is the Primo Divisio of
1255. With this contract the brothers Walram and Otto von
Nassau divided up the Nassau estates, using the Lahn river as the
The archive also includes topographical and thematic maps and a manuscript collection. The manuscript collection was started in the 19th century and consists mainly of manuscripts from royal houses, artists, soldiers and scholars from the time of the Reformation and the Thirty Years' War (16th and 17th centuries). There is also a series of 18th and 19th-century manuscripts.
Together, the archives form an important source on the history of the House of Orange-Nassau. An overview of the entire archive was published in the guide Private archives in the Netherlands (Particuliere Archieven in Nederland) in 1992.
The neo-classical building which houses the Royal Archives was built between 1896 and 1899. The archives are located in the gardens of Noordeinde Palace, between the Royal Stables and the Palace. The building was renovated in 1997, and a year later a new underground depot was put in.
The library encompasses the books of the House of Orange, the
library of Louis Bonaparte and the music library. The library was
begun in 1813, following the return of the Oranges to the
Netherlands. King Willem I allowed the stadholder's library to
remain part of the Royal Library in The Hague.
The library houses a collection of some 70,000 books, journals and brochures. The music library has 6,000 scores, going back to the mid-1700s. The catalogue is integrated into the central catalogue of the Royal Library in The Hague.
The backbone of the library's collection is formed by works collected by the members of the Royal House and books presented to them as gifts. The collection includes a great many specially bound volumes, some of them bearing autograph dedications. The library also purchases material, primarily in the fields of history and art history.
The documentary collections consist of:
- a photo archive
- topographical drawings and prints
- picture postcards
- printed matter, such as newspaper clippings, brochures, menus and programmes.
The photo archive consists of more than 3,000 albums and 60,000 individual photographs. The latter include portraits and pictures of palaces and other residences of the Oranges. The collection also contains private albums of family photos. Many of these albums were presented to members of the Royal House as mementoes of visits and other events.
The art collection contains many paintings (including watercolours) and sculptures. The collection is especially strong in:
- miniature portraits
- Indonesian art
- commemorative medals
- textiles, like Queen Emma's lace collection.
The collection also includes the Atlas Munnicks van Cleeff, a series of 1,200 topographical drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries of the province of Utrecht.
Consulting the Royal Archives
Members of the public who wish to consult archival material must apply to the director of the Royal Archives. In general, archival materials from the last century are not open to researchers. Access to and scholarly use of the collections are governed by the rules of the Royal Archives.
Visits to the library are by appointment.
Written requests to consult the museum's collection or borrow
items for exhibitions should be submitted to:
Secretary of the House of Orange-Nassau Historic Collections Trust
2500 GK Den Haag
tel.: (070) 362 4701
fax: (070) 365 9348
Address for visitors: via the Paleistuin entrance, Prinsessewal.
House of Orange-Nassau Historic Collections Trust
In 1972 Queen Juliana established the House of Orange-Nassau
Historic Collections Trust. The purpose of the trust is to acquire
and manage items or collections relating to the history of the
House of Orange-Nassau.
The trust, which is run by the Prince of Orange, Ms A.C. van Es and Mr J.M. Boll, owns the building in which the Royal Archives are housed. Its secretary is the director of the Royal Archives. The trust's museum collections are managed by the director and the staff of the Royal Archives.
Parts of the collection are on permanent loan to Het Loo Palace National Museum in Apeldoorn and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.