NEWS ABOUT the Dutch Royal family has often tended to be bad — or sad: facts and rumours of abdication, marriage rifts, shadows over business dealings — various ordeals, personal and national.
A new book Queen Juliana by William Hoffman (Angus & Robertson £5.95) is a packed and lively summary of the Queen's often stormy and troubled thirtytwo year reign.
The jacket pictures a plump. smiling woman, waving with friendly grace, standing beside Prince Bernhard who possibly did not realise that the photographer had caught his expression of apparently determined detachment.
Over the years there has been evidence of coolness, even strife, between the couple. With the Dutch people Bernhard had a bad start at the time of their marriage in 1937.
A German, with early Nazi connections. would not find this easy to live down and especially after the Netherlands had suffered grievously under Nazi occupation during the war.
Juliana's naturally determined spirit. well proved in maintaining the monarchy after the abdication of her formidable mother Wilhelmina in 1948, must have been challenged by this domestic embarrassment.
But disputes far more dangerous to their marriage and the throne followed the birth of their fourth daughter Marijke. in 1947.
At first the Prince shared Juliana's hope that a famous "faith-healer", Greet Hoffmans, could cure the near-blindness of this youngest child. But this aswoman's influence over the Queen became a matter of suspicion and anxiety at home and of jest overseas, and Bernhard. often absent on pleasure or business trips, furiously demanded that the healer leave the Soestdijk Palace. ("In the nation you rule; in the home I do" the Prince boasted he had said to the Queen).
Greet Hoffmans left but continued operations from an estate of the former Queen Wilhemina. The religion to which Juliana adhered then, and increasingly, seemed to contain a blend of belief in planetary influence, and pacificism to the point of instant disarmament.
She was later also influenced by a disciple of the Russian "mystic" Gurdjieff who had claimed to achieve physical cures in unusual ways.
Some of Prince Bernhard's considerable commercial interests clashed with the mystical guidance given to the Queen. as did the policies of her ministers.
She was begged not to deliver at least one controversial speech and her public utterances were often flavoured with obscure mystical ideas. This was curiously at variance with the forthright homeliness which the people loved in her.
Indeed whatever the backstage political storms and dangers, it was always clear thai the great majority of the people wanted the monarchy — and they wanted her.
After the wartime exile in Canada there were sharp family disputes, for instance on the effect of Canadian life on the royal children.
Their mother thought they had benefitted; their father deplored laxity of manners and behaviour ("Can't we have steak and icecream?" Beatrix asked).
Mother tried to compensate them for Dutch young friendships they had missed; Father had Beatrix and Irene transferred from the "progressive" school chosen for them by the Queen to a more formal one: enough strain here to threaten any marriage!
Also Bernhard did not grasp, as the Queen did. the firm dedication of the people to the House of Orange. He took very seriously any slackness in the matter of royal "trappings" and style.
Juliana, for all her odd "mistakes", knew how to identify sincerely with the sorrows of ordinary folk, as she proved by untiring efforts to help in such crises as the January 1953 floods which did far more damage to Holland than to England.
Behind Juliana's formation
must-be the dedicated training of her mother Wilhelmina a training which continued after the daughter's accession. Deep piety and sense of royal destiny governed Wilhelmina's life and that "oldqueen had exercised real power.
Through her guidance Holland had taken great strides in social reform in all the ways that make for human hope.
AS TOTAL contrast we have the story of another Juliana. told in a book by Elizabeth P. Armour: JULIANA — Everybody's Sister produced by Rochon Howard Publishing Consultants of Toronto £5.70). The cheerful skisuited figure on the cover is that of Sister Juliana, who for 45 years was Anglican nun in the Community of the Sisters of the Church.
At once one sees why the author was urged to put on record the generous, happy life — and death — of a rare persop with whom she had developed a deep friendship, planted from the day when a daughter was to be enrolled at St Mildred's College Toronto.
"Juliana was unlike any other person I had ever met ... it was as though I had always known her ..."
Superlatives are sometimes overworked by fervent and grateful admirers, especially — might I say? — in "transatlantic" writing. But I am quite ready to accept the complete goodness and infectious joy of this Sister.