King’s Day – The Holland-Orange Bond

King’s Day – The Holland-Orange Bond

A euphoric article by Johan Huizinga, 80 years ago.

Now we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the reign of King Willem-Alexander, let us turn our attention to a newspaper article written to mark the birth of the King’s mother, Princess Beatrix on 31 January 1938. At that time, the economic crisis in the Netherlands was severe, unemployment high and the threat of war imminent. Over two generations the royal family, the House of Orange, had consisted of only a few members. Wilhelmina (1880-1962), Queen of the Netherlands 1898-1948, was the only child of her parents, King William III and Queen Emma. After her marriage to Prince Hendrik of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1901, she had several miscarriages before giving birth to their only child, Juliana (1909-2004), Queen of the Netherlands 1948-1980. Juliana’s marriage to Bernhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld on 7 January 1937 was intended to be blessed with children to safeguard the Dutch monarchy and, with that, the country itself.

Princess Juliana studied at Leiden University with great pleasure. She enjoyed her relative freedom, away from home and being together with other young female students, with whom she lived in a villa in the adjacent village of Katwijk. One of her teachers was Dr. Johan Huizinga (1872-1945), professor of general history, of national and international renown. Huizinga was in charge of presiding over the Princess’ debating club in Katwijk, where such wonderful modern topics were discussed as ‘cinema and radio as factors in present day society’, ‘The contrast between Eastern and Western culture, or ‘Modern developments in the arts’.


Alas, her freedom was to last only two years: Wilhelmina, who had become Queen at eighteen, had never herself enjoyed such a time at ease and wanted her daughter back. The University decided to distinguish the Princess with an honorary Doctor’s degree, to confirm its close relationship with the House of Orange. To Huizinga fell the delicate task of bestowing her with the degree and holding the speech. But Huizinga was used to finding the right words, without overdoing it.

When the Princess married, she invited a German cousin to be a witness, but he was not allowed to leave Hitler’s Germany. The Princess decided to ask Huizinga in his place. She made the phone call herself, and Huizinga accepted. A year later, when the Princess was due to give birth to her first child, Huizinga wrote his ‘De Eenheid Nederland-Oranje’ (The Holland-Orange Bond), which was published in several newspapers. The illustration and the text left in the middle whether the child was a boy or a girl. His article was not about the child itself, but a short history of the bond between the country and its princely, later royal family. It is one of Huizinga’s most euphoric or impassioned articles, neglecting or simply denying any tensions, let alone divisions, in Dutch politics over the centuries. At the end of the article, he used the expression ‘it was a wonder’, characterizing the vicissitudes and qualities of the Dutch state in history, no less than seven times. In his final sentence, he changed this to ‘It is the fragile wonder of a new human life on which now depends the continuation of that beneficial and blessed community of almost four centuries: the bond between the Netherlands and the House of Orange.’


1. Huizinga’s article was published in various other newspapers as well. Leiden University Library, HUIZIN 305a. Also published in his collected works: Verzamelde Werken (9 vols., Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink, 1948-1953) VIII, pp. 563-570.

2. Memo on the purpose of the debating club and list of themes, drawn up by Huizinga. The last theme, ‘Centralisation and specialisation in the economy’ is in his own handwriting. Leiden University Library, BPL 3711: 6.

Portraits of Huizinga and the Dies Natalis of Leiden University

Portraits of Huizinga and the Dies Natalis of Leiden University

The most requested portraits of Huizinga are located in the printed menu of the festive dinner to celebrate the Dies Natalis of Leiden University on February 8, 1933.

The most requested portraits of the famous Leiden professor Johan Huizinga are published in a printed booklet of great rarity. Only the University Library and the Academisch Historisch Museum in Leiden own a copy. They are in the printed menu of the festive dinner to celebrate the Dies Natalis of Leiden University on February 8, 1933. On that day Huizinga became “Rector Magnificus” (i.e. Chancellor) of the university for one year (as was the custom). According to tradition one of the participants had to design the menu. Huizinga’s personal friend, J.A.J. (Ton) Barge, professor of anatomy, had the original idea of portraying Huizinga as Rector Magnificus and as six historical figures. Each course and each portrait corresponds to one of Huizinga’s publications. The witty names of the dishes and the striking drawings must have been a great success at the dinner table. Had we been able to be there, we would have seen a most amused Huizinga. 


Collection Leiden University Libraries (HUIZIN 2008)

The portraits were published for the first time in the proceedings of the conference in honour of the centennial of Huizinga’s birth in 1972. Since then there is a regular demand for these drawings, a reason to publish the entire booklet at this time in digital format. The original drawings are still with the Huizinga family. 

The references to the menu courses are self-evident. The menu opens with Huizinga as Rector Magnificus. Regarding the other portraits: the boy scout (Dutch: verkenner) refers to Cultuurhistorische verkenningen (Explorations in Cultural History), Erasmus of course to Erasmus, Philip the Good to The Waning of the Middle-Ages, Uncle Sam to Man and the masses in America, and Lorenzo de’ Medici to Huizinga’s studies of the Renaissance. The eighteenth-century gentleman, powdered and with a tache de beauté, can be a reference to Huizinga’s first article about the play-element of culture.

Barge has drawn his signature in the form of two small legs, because he, Huizinga and three other professors formed a walking club, “De Beentjes” (“The Legs”). The portrait of Philip the Good is accompanied by a sophisticated joke. Barge gives here a variation of a quote by Huizinga himself, that it was impossible to recognise the portrait of Philip the Good in the works of the Burgundian chronicler Georges Chastellain. In translation: “Somebody will tell us: no, I don’t recognise Chastellain’s Philip”.

link to: HUIZIN 2008

Huizinga and the historical sensation

Huizinga and the historical sensation

‘I am too much in it, in history. ‘t Is no science for me, it is life itself’

The theme of the dies natalis 2010 of Leiden University is science and emotion. Few scholars will have represented such a just equilibrium between science and emotion as the historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945). His extensive archives belong to the exquisite treasures of the University Library, counting over 135 boxes, dealing with the most different subjects concerning the history of culture.

To the most spectacular parts of the Huizinga archives belong his notes for a great work he intended to write (ca. 1906-1908) on the cultural history of the Low Countries. It should have been a magisterial treatise on the culture of the Netherlands from the brothers Van Eyck till Rembrandt. Huizinga made numerous remarks, among wise advises to himself. When he had incorporated his notes in his text, he collected them in an envelop, on which he wrote a specific keyword. These envelopes with notes are a treasure for the cultural historian. How attached he felt himself to history, is obvious from various notes in the envelop ‘eenzelvigheid’, ‘introversion’: ‘I am too much in it, in history, it is no science for me, it is life itself’.


Collection Leiden University (HUI 122: 2-2.7)

As is apparent from the adjacent notes and many others, Huizinga felt himself emotionally attracted to history. At the same time he rendered himself account that with emotion alone no writing of history could be achieved. As he hold to himself in another remark: ‘Can you make all these reflections become true? Can you demonstrate them in thousand peculiarities? Because before that, you will not have achieved your task as an historian. It is not the general but the specific we want to know’.

History could fall upon him by reading a document or chronicle, hearing a song, examining a print, looking at an old land- or cityscape. It made him surpass above himself and let him so to say having part on history. Huizinga expressed this with the term ‘historical sensation’. Philistines condemned this approach, but he knew for himself that susceptibility for things past was a pure emotion, leaving reason apart, nothing more, but also nothing less.

This left unimpeded that he remained a strict scholar or scientist in his historical writing… as long as history could be called a science. An historian may be very scholarly, but when he has no eye for the passions in the past, he will badly fulfil his task as an historian. When Huizinga himself as rector of the university hold the annual lecture at the dies natalis of 1933, he choose as his subject: ‘On the boundaries of play and earnestness in culture’. Here he presented for the first time his thesis that every culture, wherever on earth, emerges in the form of play. In his Homo ludens (1938) he elaborated on this bold thesis in every field of live. On few occasions in Leiden such a lucid discourse on science and emotion will have been hold as on that memorable February 8th, 1933.




 Images licensed 

Transcription of the depicted notes:

  • it touches upon the peculiar, silent way in which the old, that has past, has been persecuting me, since my 13th year, time and again in a different manner, but always with the same voice and colour.
  • first of all, and now even most, the old houses have spoken.
  • I am too much in it, in history, it is no science to me, it is life itself.
  • o, the protestant towns, where no bells are ringing, only the chimes.
  • saint John by Geertgen [tot Sint-Jans], that grey, pensive figure in that flower-garden, there you have the Northern Netherlandish renaissance!
  • use seldom the words psychological and economical, but deal continuously with the objects themselves.
  • and above all, never use the word mystical, but imbue the entire representation with the object itself, the direct perception of it, leaving reason aside.
  • first explorations.
  • understanding just a little bit of the mystical beauty of the quotidian – In our land the Imitatio had to emerge.
  • the humanists the first who were haunted by the past. But how different than the past does obsess us.
  • the difficulty is that this should become a work of poetry, a piece of myself. Your case is at stake.