Today in World History: August 31st

Queen Wilhelmina of Netherlands, who ruled from 1890 to 1948, was born on this day in 1880. Her father, the King of the Netherlands, had three children from a previous marriage, but they all died before he did on November 23rd, 1890. This resulted in ten year old Wilhelmina becoming Queen, but her mother served as regent until Wilhelmina turned eighteen in 1898. Nine months after Wilhelmina’s marriage in 1901, she had a miscarriage, and later gave birth to a stillborn son. She had two more miscarriages before finally giving birth to an heir in 1909, Juliana, who as her only child would succeed her to the throne. Wilhelmina became very involved in Dutch politics, and also in business. Wilhelmina was the world’s richest woman at the time, and became the world’s first female billionaire in American dollars. She also related to the former Dutch colonies in South Africa, and due to the British Empire’s annexation of Boer lands, she grew a dislike for the British Empire. Wilhelmina served as Queen throughout the World Wars, and when Germany invaded the Netherlands during World War Two, she fled to Canada, along with her daughter. This helped create a bond between the two nations, as Canada also temporarily granted the Netherlands land in Ottawa so that Juliana could give birth on Dutch land. However, at the end of the war, the Netherlands were faced with the independence of Indonesia, along with political and economical problems that forced Wilhelmina to abdicate on the 4th of September, 1948, and she died at the age of eighty-two in 1962.

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