Soestdijk Palace is located between the villages of Soest and Baarn. Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard lived there from 1937 until they died in 2004. In 1971 the palace became state property.
Since 1 March 2011 visitors have been welcome at Soestdijk Palace. In addition to offering tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Soestdijk Palace hosts cultural events, private meetings and conferences, both Dutch and international. This was initiated by the Government Buildings Agency in response to requests for more opportunities to visit the palace and gardens.
Now that Soestdijk Palace is no longer home to members of the royal family, the Government Buildings Agency is looking for a suitable new function for this listed building. Ideally, it should be given a public function or a combination of public and private functions. The palace, annexes and the surrounding park and woodland are treated as a unit in this regard.
Around 1650 Jacob de Graeff, the mayor of Amsterdam, had a country house built, Zoestdijck Manor. Stadholder William III bought the manor in 1674 and had it repurposed as a hunting lodge, a project that was completed in 1678. This lodge, which was used frequently until the construction of Het Oude Loo, was designed by Maurits Post, the son of Pieter Post.
William III died childless in 1702 and the ownership of the
hunting lodge passed to Stadholder Johan Willem Friso. After his
death in 1711, his wife, Princess Maria Louise, and their son,
Prince William IV, regularly resided at Soestdijk, which they
primarily used as a summer home.
When Prince William IV died in 1751, his wife, Princess Anna, and his son, Prince William V, continued to use Soestdijk Palace as a summer home. Princess Anna purchased various plots of land adjoining Soestdijk, substantially increasing the size of the property. Little was altered in the palace itself, apart from it being refurnished by the Princess. After Princess Anna's death, Prince William V continued to use Soestdijk as a summer home.
After the French invasion in 1795 all residences of the stadholders were confiscated as the spoils of war. Soestdijk Palace and the surrounding grounds were declared state property. It was not until 1799 that the palace was given a new function: the furniture was sold and the building was used as lodgings, mainly by French soldiers.
In 1806 King Louis Bonaparte took possession of the palace and had it enlarged and furnished in Empire style. He did not often have occasion to use the palace, and after his abdication in 1810, it was vacant for several years. In 1815 the Prince of Orange, later King Willem II, was presented Soestdijk Palace, as a gift from the nation, for his exploits at the Battle of Waterloo. Two wings were later added to the palace.
From 1818 onwards King Willem II and his wife, Anna Paulowna, used the palace as their summer home. After the death of Willem II in 1849 and Anna Paulowna in 1865, Prince Hendrik, the younger brother of King Willem III, lived there. When he died in 1879, the palace became the property of King Willem III, who preferred to use Het Loo Palace as his summer home.
It was not until after the investiture of Queen Wilhelmina that
Soestdijk Palace was regularly used again. Her mother, Queen Emma,
used the palace as a summer home until her death in 1934. After her
death the palace was thoroughly renovated so that Princess Juliana
and Prince Bernhard could make it their home after their marriage
in 1937. As of 1948 Soestdijk Palace became the official residence
of Queen Juliana. She performed a number of her duties there, such
as her weekly meeting with the prime minister.
In 1971 Queen Juliana sold the palace to the State of the Netherlands, though the property remained at her and Prince Bernhard's disposal. After her abdication in 1980 the couple continued to live there. Princess Juliana died there on 20 March 2004, and Prince Bernhard lived there until his death on 1 December 2004.