Recent research on popular, international support for the Dutch monarchy has neglected to comment on the Netherlands’ colonies.2 Extant studies (of which there are only a few) of the Dutch monarchy’s influence in the colonies have shown that public celebrations for the House of Orange during Queen Wilhelmina’s reign were of an historically unprecedented scale and frequency, regularly attended by large crowds and reported in newspapers. Such works reveal the leading role of colonial elites in orchestrating these festivals, and the symbolic importance of the monarchy as a conservative institution that bound the colony to the metropole.3 However, the agency of spectators and non-elite participants in these public rites for the House of Orange, and the extent to which a popular oranjegevoel (‘Orange-sentiment’) can be said to have taken hold in the colonies, remains to be demonstrated. More generally for the scholarship on European crowns and colonies, the prevailing focus on elite agents in the orchestration of royal celebrations precludes an understanding of whether colonial audiences engaged meaningfully with the distant monarchies to whom they were notionally subject. A case in point is the renowned work of David Cannadine (especially as developed in his monograph, Ornamentalism), in which he demonstrates how monarchy played a central role in forging networks and alliances between indigenous and colonial elites across the British empire, but fails to substantiate that ordinary people in the colonies took the monarchy to heart.4 A key question that remains to be addressed in histories of monarchy and empire, then, is how did people in the colonies respond to and shape the elite dictate of loyalty to the crown, and to what ends?

I begin to address this question here by examining photographic sources from the Netherlands East Indies (colonial Indonesia) during the reign of Queen Wilhelmina (r. 1898-1948, b. 1880, d. 1962), focusing particularly on photographic practices surrounding the Queen and her heir, the Crown Princess Juliana (r. 1948-1980, b. 1909, d. 2004). Unlike British royals of the same era, no-one from Wilhelmina’s immediate family made a personal tour of the Netherlands’ most prized colonial possession.5 Photographs of the Queen and the Crown Princess and of the public celebrations held in their honour therefore served as crucial symbolic proxies for the monarchy’s physical absence from the Indies. The advent of mass photography in the Indies and the Netherlands in the early twentieth century enabled this process, especially the proliferation of amateur and ‘family’ photography. In this essay, I follow photographic historians Geoffrey Batchen and Gillian Rose in conceiving of ‘family photography’ as a set of social practices as well as visual conventions for representing the family.6 Particularly, I examine how actions such as the exchange and collection of photographs of the Dutch monarchy and royal celebrations constituted diverse social relationships, affiliations and aspirations in colonial society. I argue that the widespread production and use of such photographs in the Indies provide new evidence of this institution’s diffuse cultural significance in the Netherlands’ chief colony during the first half of the twentieth century.

The first section of this essay discusses examples of amateur photographers in the Indies, the private production of photos of celebrations for the House of Orange here, and the exchange of such photographs as a way of maintaining connections across the colonial world. My sources are photograph albums from a major colonial archive in the KITLV Special Collections7, as well as from the Royal Family Archive (Koninklijk Huisarchief) in The Hague, which holds gifts to the Dutch monarchy, including a large number of photographs and albums from the Indies.8 The second section of this article considers those examples in the context of a broader, international trend towards amateur photography in the early twentieth century, one that altered how families represented themselves. I argue that this change is also evident in photographs of the royal household, particularly from the 1930s, when Crown Princess Juliana started her family. Using published photographs in commemorative books (gedenkboeken) for the monarchy from the Netherlands and the Indies, as well as private collections of photographs in newspapers and postcards, I trace a convergence between elite and non-elite, European and colonial modes of photographically representing family that enabled the consumption of the Dutch monarchy in more popular ways. It was Juliana’s representation as a wife and mother, rather than photographs of her as a monarch per se, that defined this development. An examination of how photographs were consumed, produced and circulated in the Indies thus reveals one of the mechanisms by which ordinary people in the Indies – particularly the (Indo-)Dutch, but also Indonesians – engaged with the Dutch monarchy on their own terms as a popular institution.

Oranjegevoel, amateur photography and colonial connections

A small photograph album, barely the size of a hand, commences with an image of dawn breaking in the tropics (Figure 1). The image is captioned, ‘Irene born, the Indies awakes’. On the next page a telephone conversation is recalled in long-hand:

Figure 1 

‘Irene born, the Indies awakes’ (Batavia, Java 1939).

KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, Special Collections.

University Library, Leiden University: album 1258, image 159492.

               Batavia, Princess’s Birthday 1939

Quarter to ten: Ring!!!!!! ‘Hello, Kolff office orders here.’
‘Oh man, stuff your books. You’re speaking with Rick. Felicitations boy, we have a Princess. I’m bringing my gear to take a few night photographs, bring that coffin of yours too, then you can take a few day pictures.’
‘Good, then come and get me Rick, and likewise felicitations. Until this afternoon then!’
And we went for a walk: the night photographs are by Rick Baas, the others are by
Your Freek.9

The ‘Princess Irene’ referred to here was born 5 August 1939, the second daughter of Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands and her husband Prince Bernhard. Few in the Indies or the Netherlands could then have imagined the circumstances in which Juliana would take the throne as Queen nine years later. In 1948 the war of independence in Indonesia was in its third year, and in 1949 Juliana presided over the transfer of sovereignty to the Republican government. War was looming when Irene was born, but these events were still far off. Freek and Rick’s small album was made as a spontaneous, intimate and irreverent tribute to the birth of a new Dutch royal shared among three Dutch-speaking people who might have been friends or relatives. The photographs do not focus on orchestrated celebrations staged by committees and officials for large crowds, which were common enough events for royal milestones in the Indies in the first half of the twentieth century.10 Freek and Rick’s album is meaningful mainly as communication to a third person (who is not in Batavia, but elsewhere in the Indies or perhaps the Netherlands), a testimony of distances bridged by the marking of shared time and an event celebrated simultaneously by Dutch monarchists throughout the world. The simple message – ‘We were here, in Batavia, the day that Princess Irene was born’ – is constructed by means of a visual tour of the Indies’ capital. The content barely registers anything out of the ordinary. People appear to go about their daily business in the streets. Only a few photographs of nocturnal electric illuminations betray a festive atmosphere (Figure 2), and even then it is not certain whether the lighting was standard or devised especially for the occasion.11

Figure 2 

‘Noordwijk bridge. Welcome Irene!’ (Batavia, Java 1939).

KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, Special Collections.

University Library, Leiden University: album 1258, image 159497.

In its very banality and (near) anonymity, Freek and Rick’s small album commemorating the birth of a Dutch princess reveals how ordinary people in the Indies took the Dutch monarchy to heart through everyday practices, independently of initiatives from the elites – officials and steering committees – who orchestrated public royal celebrations. Precisely in not showing images of organised festivities but rather, in picturing a day unfold in Batavia, Freek and Rick’s photographs privilege spontaneity, foreground colonial temporality and spatiality and celebrate a sense of synchronicity with events in the Netherlands. These photographic acts of making and sending amateur snaps spatially stretched domestic spaces beyond the home.12 To that end, the photographs constituted relationships – between friends and relatives who were separated by distance but joined by loyalty to the Dutch monarchy, and between these people and the invisible subjects of the photographs, the Dutch royal family. In figuring photographers who were exercising local agency at the geographical periphery of royal celebrations, Freek and Rick’s album shows how personal albums turned a narrative about a Dutch historical event into a transnational story with colonial actors as part of the plot.

Indeed, personal photograph albums from the former Indies offer historians of modern Dutch colonial culture a rich but largely neglected source of ego documents left to posterity by large numbers of people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds.13 In the East Indies it was generally well-to-do Europeans and a small number of indigenous and Chinese elites who had the means to become amateur photographers. Together, these groups constituted a fraction of the total population, but were numerous enough to have generated a vast public archive of hundreds of thousands of images now mostly concentrated in Dutch custodial institutions (which is to say nothing of the countless examples that no doubt remain in private hands throughout the world).14

In the archive of amateur personal albums from the Indies, it is rare for an entire album to be devoted to commemorating a milestone for the Dutch monarchy. In this regard, Freek and Rick’s example is unusual. However it was very common for personal albums made in the Indies – particularly those dating between 1923, the year of Queen Wilhelmina’s silver jubilee, and 1942, the advent of the Japanese occupation of the Indies – to feature at least one photograph from Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag), and even entire sections running for several pages on royal celebrations. The common theme of the photographs taken by amateur photographers on such occasions was to show ‘what we did on the day’ to celebrate. These photographs record the participation of a wide range of Indies people in an annual, ritualised, historicised event that was performed in major towns where Europeans were congregated all throughout the Indies.

An example is the album of a Dutch engineer named E.P.L. de Hoog, who was posted in New Guinea in the late 1930s. He was a member of the exploration team of the Netherlands New Guinea Petroleum Company (Nederlandsche Nieuw Guinee Petroleum Maatschappij)15, which founded oil stations in what were at that time still densely forested and sparsely populated parts of the island. De Hoog was also a keen amateur photographer who made albums that documented his postings. These cover a period from 1928, when he was stationed in Langkat (Sumatra) as a master driller (boormeester), to 1949, when he was in Curaçao in the Dutch West Indies. In the intervening years De Hoog worked in Borneo, New Guinea and Java, and travelled frequently to Europe.16

The album of De Hoog’s time in New Guinea (October 1937-March 1939) appears to have been made to keep his mother, who lived on Java, abreast of his activities while on a posting.17 To that end, it merges visual and material modes (the scrap book and the photo album) with a textual genre (the letter, with the captions directly addressed to his mother). The photographs tell the story of De Hoog’s team arriving in New Guinea by boat on 29 October 1937 and proceed in a lucid chronological pattern, with images captioned and running from left to right like a story board or comic strip.18 The photographs record the stages by which the exploration team transformed a densely forested landscape into a fully equipped work site, with free-standing houses for European overseers and barracks for Javanese, Chinese and Papuan labourers. De Hoog’s role as captain of the drill rig is brought forth with captions like ‘the construction of your (little) son’ and pages labelled ‘My domain’.19

Significantly, De Hoog depicts Queen’s Day in 1938 as a momentous festive interlude in the founding of the drill station, particularly since it was Wihelmina’s fortieth jubilee that year. Over four pages and 22 photographs, De Hoog documents the transplantation of this Dutch colonial festival to a new frontier in the archipelago. The series commences with a photograph of a gate festooned with Dutch flags and labelled as the ‘entrance to the pasar malam (night market)’ – a reference to festival traditions on Java that were imported, along with part of the labour force, to New Guinea.20 Beside it is a photograph of the same gate, taken at night from the opposite angle and illuminated by electric lights (Figure 3). Other photographs show the participation of Babo’s local population in the festivities – Papuans, and the Javanese and Chinese labourers from the drill rig and the town’s air field, competing in games and sports contests (Figure 4), eating in the dining hall, watching dances and theatrical performances, and marching in the processions.

Figure 3 

‘(festival ground) at night’ (Babo, New Guinea 6 September 1938).

KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.

Special Collections, University Library, Leiden University: album 1042, image 140551.

Figure 4 

‘Mast-walking over water’ (Babo, New Guinea, 6 September 1938).

KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.

Special Collections, University Library, Leiden University: album 1042, image 140563.

In New Guinea, as De Hoog’s album is not alone in showing21, photographs of Queen’s Day celebrations can also be understood as the cultural flags that were hoisted above the economic and political stakes driven into Indies soil in the last and most expansive decades of Dutch colonial rule. On a more personal level, these photographs of an annual festival provided a way for De Hoog to bridge the physical and experiential distance between himself and his mother in much the same way that Freek and Rick accomplished with their album commemorating Princess Irene’s birth in 1939. Together, these examples show how royal celebrations in the Indies created a shared focal point for Europeans across the Indonesian archipelago, an occasion for affirming connections both with Europe and relations, wherever they may have been.

It was not just Europeans, however, who engaged with the Dutch monarchy and their own social networks through personal photographs of royal celebrations. Asians in the Indies were also alive to the possibilities for contact in this visual medium on such occasions. At the elite level, indigenous aristocrats from the Indies sent numerous photograph albums featuring pictures of themselves and their families as gifts to Queen Wilhelmina and Crown Princess Juliana.22 Being diplomatic gifts, such photographs demand an analysis that falls outside the scope of this article. To summarise an argument I have substantiated elsewhere, however, these photographic exchanges served, firstly, to define the position of indigenous rulers within a global fraternity of royals, and secondly, to negotiate their subjecthood (a condition of their colonial status) and sovereignty (a feature of their own royal standing) with their Dutch counterparts.23 Turning to non-elites, Chinese fraternities in the Indies also sent photographs showing their members and the pupils at Chinese schools as gifts to the Dutch royal family.24 These images portray communities with a corporatised ethnic identity who might well have been using royal milestones in the Indies as an opportunity to lobby for greater social and political recognition, movements that were strengthening in the Indonesian Chinese community in the early twentieth century.25

More closely following the examples of Freek, Rick and E.P.L. de Hoog, Asians in the Indies also made photograph albums of royal celebrations for themselves. In 1923 members of the Surabaya chapter of the Javanese youth group Jong Java (Young Java) made an album that featured a series of photographs showing the celebrations for Queen Wilhelmina’s silver jubilee (25 years on the throne) (Figure 5). The organisation was founded in 1915, according to historian John Legge, ‘to educate its members in their own cultural tradition and to inculcate in them a perception not of an Indonesian nation but at least of a Javanese unity’.26 The album divides its focus between group portraits of teachers and students of schools for Javanese boys and girls, their excursions to antiquities such as Prambanan, and photographs of civic decorations in the ‘emperor’s city’ (keizersstad) of Solo during the jubilee festivities, which attracted a visit from the Queen’s representative in the Indies, Governor-General Dirk Fock (r. 1921-1926). The album suggests that one of the colonial regime’s key target audiences for royal spectacles – Indonesian students – was showing an active interest not just in observing but also in photographing these events.27

Figure 5 

‘Floral procession’ (Solo, Java 1923).

KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.

Special Collections University Library, Leiden University: album 914, image 45768.

Together, these examples suggest that celebrations for the Dutch monarchy in the Indies constituted public occasions with private significance for a broad section of society, since many groups and individuals took photographs and made personal albums to commemorate these festivals. Where such photographs were shared – in an album made for communal viewing, or even exchange – one of the functions they acquired was to negotiate or maintain a variety of social relations, be they familial, collegial or indeed, political. That the Dutch monarchy served as a meaningful focal point for such exchanges complicates the common understanding of oranjegevoel as a simple expression of political conservatism, colonial nationalism or ethnic solidarity among the Dutch in the Indies and other Dutch colonies.28 Attending to one of the ways in which oranjegevoel was expressed by ordinary people, through personal photography, provides preliminary evidence that the imagined community of colonial subjects drawn in by royal celebrations included a more diverse pool of participants whose motives for commemorating such events differed according to their affiliations and audiences, and demands closer investigation.

The amateur turn in twentieth-century photography and the new, ‘ordinary’ monarchy

Technological developments in the production and distribution of photography had enabled the proliferation of amateur, personal photography in the early twentieth century, in the East Indies as in Europe and elsewhere. In the nineteenth century, families who had wanted photographs of themselves hired professionals for the task, the expense of which often favoured (but did not exclusively privilege) the well-to-do. Around 1900, with the invention of the portable box camera and roll film, photography became technically accessible to amateurs with more modest means, a development that followed roughly the same chronology in the Indies as it did in the Netherlands.29 By the 1920s, people on relatively modest incomes in the Indies were able to afford cameras and assemble albums of their own photographs, as attested to by the thousands of personal albums in archival collections today.30

As the camera moved from the hands of professional and studio photographers into the home, the hallmark of amateur family photography was a new element of informality, intimacy, spontaneity and, importantly, individual agency. The personal albums in the previous section illustrate an important result of the advent of mass photography and the amateur turn in the early twentieth century that has been documented by anthropologists Elizabeth Edwards and Karen Strassler – the emergence of the ‘camera as historian’31, the notion that ‘anyone can be a witness of history and that history needs everybody to be its witnesses’.32 Amateur photographers commemorating royal celebrations in the Indies positioned themselves not as spectators of an event located in the metropole, or choreographed by Dutch authorities in the colonies, but as creators of and participants in an historic ritual anchored in a web of connections – personal, public, local and international.

Ironically, the Dutch monarchy was itself undergoing a process of democratisation due in part, I would argue, to the same technological and cultural shift in photographic practices that I call the ‘amateur turn’, and which altered the ways in which families represented themselves. The progress of more informal modes of representing the family in the twentieth century are visible in published photographs of the royal family, which were usually taken by court photographers whose work was authorised by the Queen or Crown Princess. The difference between photographs of Wilhelmina and Juliana at the same early stages of their married and reproductive lives is telling in this regard.

Official photographs of the reproductive phase of Queen Wilhelmina’s life emphasised the regal dignity of her family. In 1901, Wilhelmina married Prince Hendrik of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1876-1934). That year, an Oranje-Album was issued to the Dutch public for 50 cents – the cost of a few tram rides – and illustrated with 45 plates, many of them detailing the couple’s family history.33 The volume contained official photographs of Wilhelmina in her youth, including one of her as a little girl with her mother, Queen Regent Emma (both clad in mourning black, the photograph having been taken within a year of King Willem III’s death), and a formal portrait of the royal family taken the year before Wilhelmina’s wedding. Hendrik’s family was visually constituted through individual busts of his relatives, reproduced in the volume as vignettes. Wedding photographs of the royal couple emphasised their remoteness from their subjects through their rich clothing, dignified posture and splendid surroundings.

In 1909 the reproductive promise of Wilhelmina’s marriage was fulfilled as she and Hendrik welcomed the birth of their only (surviving) child, the Crown Princess Juliana.34 Family photographs that were published in the Netherlands and the East Indies during Juliana’s childhood showed Wilhelmina in a new light, as a doting mother.35 This persona is best illustrated in a well-known image taken when Juliana was three years old and subsequently reproduced in numerous gedenkboeken for the remainder of her life (Figure 6).36 Wilhelmina and Juliana’s fine dresses, the queen’s jewellery, the opulent divan on which she and her daughter pose and the elegant room forming the backdrop of the photograph all continue to stress the wealth and privilege of royalty.

Figure 6 

Queen Wilhelmina and Crown Princess Juliana (1912).

Photographer H. Deutmann.

Koninklijke Verzamelingen (Koninklijk Huisarchief Den Haag).

In January 1937 Juliana married Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911-2004), and between 1938 and 1947 the couple had four daughters. Photographs of Juliana’s branch of the House of Orange in these years differed markedly from those of the same period in her mother’s life. Over the decade that culminated in Juliana’s inauguration as queen in 1948, a more informal style of representing the princely family became standard in mass-mediated images of the Dutch monarchy. Rather than depict the monarchy’s remoteness from (most of) their subjects through emphasising their wealth, dignity, responsibility and privilege, the hallmark of the new photographic style was to create resonance with the visual forms adopted by ordinary people. Like the albums of amateur photographers everywhere, Juliana’s genealogy and childhood development were depicted for the public in the format of a family album.

A gedenkboek published specifically for an Indies audience in 1937 to celebrate the princely couple’s engagement and wedding is a case in point. Among the hundreds of photographs in the Nederlandsch-Indisch herinnerings-album (Netherlands Indies Commemoration Album) were three pages of images from the youths of the bride and groom laid out in a border montage surrounding captions arranged in the centre (Figure 7). Such pictorial arrangements mimicked the family album format and emphasised the semblance between royal families and ‘respectable’ households everywhere while also fostering bourgeois aspirations for the affluence that monarchs manifestly continued to enjoy.

Figure 7 

Page from F.A.W. van der Lip, Nederlandsch-Indisch herinnerings-album aan de verloving en het huwelijk van H.K.H. Prinses Juliana [en] Z.K.H. Prins Bernhard (Bandoeng 1937).

University Library, Leiden University.

De gouden kroon (The Golden Crown), a gedenkboek published in the Netherlands in 1948, at the end of Wilhelmina’s reign as Queen, continued the practice of arranging illustrations like family album pages. On one such page, in a chapter titled ‘Granny and her grandchildren’ (‘Oma en haar kleinkinderen’), a portrait was reproduced that had originally been taken in 1943 to mark the birth of Crown Princess Juliana’s third daughter, Margriet (Figure 8). At its centre Juliana holds up her new baby. She and her second-born, Irene, proudly gaze into the camera. Her husband Bernhard and their eldest daughter, Beatrix, smile at an observer to their left. The plainly furnished room is ornamented by only two objects, both of them from the East Indies. One is a wooden wayang golek puppet from Java, the other a painting of a Balinese girl by the Indies artist Willem Hofker.37

Figure 8 

The princely family in 1943, soon after the birth of Princess Margriet in Canada, in: De gouden kroon. Gedenkboek bij gelegenheid van het gouden regeringsjubileum van H.M. Koningin Wilhelmina (Haarlem 1948).

University Library, Leiden University.

Unlike Wilhelmina (or earlier forebears, for that matter), when Juliana married and began to have children in the late 1930s, she appeared in official photographs as a wife and mother who spent time with her family in the same way as ordinary Dutch women, in modest, respectable surroundings that did not suggest excessive privilege. Certainly, state portraits and official photographs from Juliana and Bernhard’s wedding ceremony continued to emphasise formality, pomp and splendour. But from the nuptials onward, and particularly once Juliana began to produce children, the photographs of her family that circulated in newspapers, commemorative volumes and on postcards drew attention away from the Dutch monarchy’s wealth and nobility and focused instead on their modesty and accessibility. Importantly, Juliana had a direct hand in her public image insofar as court photographers were only allowed to publish their portraits with her express permission.38

The amateur turn in family photography thus appears to have influenced how Juliana chose to have her family depicted by court photographers and how editors selected and arranged images of the princely family for public consumption. Cultural and technological developments in photography encouraged a convergence between the ways in which ordinary people were depicting themselves in private albums and how the Dutch royal family was presented to its subjects. Two other factors may have encouraged Juliana’s emergence as an ‘ordinary royal’ in photography from the 1930s: first, an unusual coincidence of important milestones for the House of Orange that kept the royal family much in the public eye from the late 1930s and into the 1940s; and second, social and political changes in the Netherlands that forced a democratisation of the public image of the monarchy.

To begin with the first: the decade preceding Juliana’s inauguration as queen was a busy one for the royal family. Her marriage to Bernhard in 1937 was soon followed by the birth in 1938 of their first daughter (and the future Queen of the Netherlands) Beatrix. That same year Queen Wilhelmina celebrated her fortieth regnal year. As war descended on Europe in 1939, Juliana’s second daughter, optimistically named Irene, arrived. Margriet, born in 1943, made it three girls for Bernhard and Juliana, and a good news story for supporters of the Dutch monarchy in the Netherlands and the Indies as they endured their respective occupations by German and Japanese forces. The arrival in 1947 of a fourth daughter, Marijke (or Christina, as she was known after 1963), served as a metaphor for Dutch survival and renewal in the postwar era.

For the second factor: The historically novel notion that royals should not be considered too far removed from commoners was one that had been gathering momentum in the Netherlands since the late nineteenth century – during Wilhelmina’s childhood and especially after she became queen, as an eighteen year-old in 1898 – in the context of social and political changes that led to a universal franchise and other liberal-democratic developments.39 Scholars of the Dutch monarchy have frequently noted that the basis for royal legitimacy shifted from heredity to popularity in this period.40 Some two decades before similar images of the British royal family emerged in the public sphere, then, photographs of Juliana and her kin in the late 1930s already portrayed the Dutch monarchy as figures of ‘popular identification’.41 Dutch scholar Peter Jan Margry is thus correct in pointing out that it was Juliana who democratised the image of the Dutch monarchy. However, his assertion that this development dates from the first televised broadcast of Koninginnedag in 1952 needs to be brought back some fifteen years, to Juliana’s (married) depiction in photographs.42

The way in which the Dutch royal family came to be photographically represented and ‘democratised’ in the 1930s was by no means common to other European monarchies in the same era. Swiss historian Alexis Schwarzenbach’s work on photographic cultures surrounding the British, Belgian and Italian monarchies traces a similar shift towards more visually accessible royals, but identifies a different register and reason for this change. Royals in these countries were depicted by court photographers as ‘romantic’ figures out of fairy tales rather than as people with whom ordinary folk might identify – except that such imagery reflected the rising incidence of royals marrying commoners for love rather than wedding fellow aristocrats for status (here is the democratic connection).43 In the Dutch context, it seems, the same political development – the democratisation of monarchy – resulted in a bourgeois vision of the royal family rather than a rarefied image. The Dutch monarchy thus reinforced the (self-)image of the Netherlands as a middle class country in this period.44

The private papers of some amateur photographers in the Indies who admired Juliana reveal that the ‘ordinary monarchy’ held appeal in the colonies. Often amateur personal albums held in custodial institutions are not accompanied by additional documents that detail the lives of their makers, particularly where these were ‘ordinary’ people without particular fame. However, some are embedded in archives of multiple sources that flesh out the lives and interests of the photographers and their families. These need not necessarily have accumulated around people of renown. The Indo-European Max Foltynski Junior (1897-1979), born and raised on Java, is a case in point. As an adult he worked in various large cities on Java for the Netherlands Indies Life Insurance and Annuity Company (Nederlands-Indische Levensverzekering en Lijfrente Maatschappij, NILLMIJ), a profession that placed him among the respectable, white-collar working classes of the Indies. Max and his Indo-European wife, Petronella Peeters (1897-1978), produced a collection of fourteen photo albums of their Indies family life spanning the years 1915 to 1928.45 Among them is an album with photographs commemorating celebrations in Bandung for Wilhelmina’s silver jubilee in 1923.46 Foltynski’s personal papers include the special supplement printed in the Java Bode, a leading Indies newspaper, to celebrate the birth of Juliana’s heir, Beatrix, in 1938.47 It was the first time the newspaper had used the rotogravure process, a printing technology that enabled cheap, high-resolution photographic reproductions. The supplement opened with a full-page portrait of the princely family, followed by two pages of montages that combined official photographs (state portraits of the Crown Princess, images from Juliana and Bernhard’s wedding day, pictures of the couple appearing before crowds of subjects) with family snaps (of the couple and their new baby, and various close-ups of Beatrix). The Foltynskis continued to follow the fortunes of Juliana’s kin for at least another decade. Max’s private papers show that in 1946 and 1947 the Foltynskis either personally visited The Hague or were brought a souvenir by a recent customer of Permentier’s at Lange Poten 23, a purveyor of postcards of the royal family.48

Distinguished anthropologist and former colonial administrator Jan van Baal (1909-1993) similarly collected photographs of Juliana and her family among his private papers. Throughout his time as Governor of New Guinea (1952-1958), Van Baal avidly recorded the conduct of royal celebrations for the Dutch monarchy in his private albums, focusing particularly on local participation.49 In the months immediately following Indonesia’s independence in December 1949, Van Baal was stationed in Medan, Sumatra. There he subscribed to De Nederlandse Vereniging (The Dutch Society), the monthly periodical of the Society of Netherlanders on the East Coast of Sumatra (Vereniging van Nederlanders ter Oostkust van Sumatra), and kept an article that celebrated the birthdays of Beatrix, Margriet and Marijke (all born in January and February) that year.50 The clipping contains informal portraits of two of the princesses and Juliana (now queen) receiving a garland of ‘flower kisses’ from delegates of the East Coast Residency’s Oranjebond (Orange Union). Although more powerful and renowned than a great many other Dutchmen who served in the Indies, Van Baal behaved much like ordinary colonials who integrated collections of published photographs of the monarchy into their family archives to express oranjegevoel and articulate a sense of belonging to the Dutch community.


Analysing amateur photograph albums and, where possible, the archives around them in the context of a broader colonial visual culture allows historians of monarchy and empire to move beyond the elite orchestration of imperial spectacles to focus on the meanings of Orangism to diverse sectors of colonial society. When ordinary people in the Indies collected photographs of Dutch royals, celebrated royal birthdays, anniversaries and marriages, photographed their participation in such occasions, and sent photographs to friends and family in other parts of the Dutch colonial world, they claimed membership of a globally dispersed network of subjects whose social connections and rites of passage were replicated throughout the Dutch empire and perfectly embodied in the royal family itself. In colonial circles, to cultivate a transnational identity – a sense of cosmopolitanism anchored in familiarity with Dutch culture – in fact arguably resonated with the prerogatives of royalty.51 Even as nationalism strengthened everywhere during the early twentieth century in popular culture and high politics alike, internationalism reigned among mobile colonial people and also among Europe’s aristocracy, including the House of Orange – as evidenced by their peripatetic lifestyles, multilingual social networks and complex family trees with branches into many countries.52 The transnational experiences, global historical ties and multi-ethnic kin structures of royalty thus oddly paralleled those of many ordinary colonial families in the Dutch imperium.

The amateur turn in personal photography that enabled ordinary people in the Indies and elsewhere to record their participation in royal celebrations also affected how the Dutch monarchy represented itself in ways that made it more accessible to a wide population. Particularly from the 1930s onwards Crown Princess Juliana’s embrace of an informal, modest depiction of herself as a wife and mother (and not as a monarch per se) represents a convergence between elite and popular styles of family photography, a representational shift of the legacy of which remains visible in present-day images of the Dutch monarchy.53 While Wilhelmina holds the distinction of being the first Dutch monarch to preside over an age of mass photography, Juliana was the first monarch whose depiction was clearly influenced by the amateur turn in family photography, and whose photographic image as an ‘ordinary’ wife and mother circulated back to a wide public through global media in illustrated newspapers, postcards and commemorative volumes.54 The complex, ancient, international connections of the Dutch monarchy that evoked ‘dynasty’ were replaced by the simple, contemporary, nuclear iteration of ‘family’. The emphasis in such photographs was on the similarities between royals and their subjects, rather than their differences, a convergence that aided the popularity of the monarchy. This bourgeois, nuclear vision of the Dutch royal family was only seriously suspended at times when dynasty and inheritance must be at the forefront of royal occasions, such as inaugurations, which turn on the principles of clan, lineage and succession.

During the reign of Queen Wilhelmina the proliferation of amateur photography and particularly the personal album made monarchy a family affair. In the Indies, a broad range of spectators and participants at royal celebrations placed photographs of these occasions in personal albums, shared these albums with friends and family and, in doing so, strengthened social connections within their own circles while engaging with the distant Dutch monarchy. Historic events became integrated into personal, colonial occasions through such practices, and public narratives of monarchy and empire were linked with family histories and local affiliations. Colonial photographic practices around the House of Orange in the early twentieth century thus exemplify Gillian Rose’s observation that the ‘collective experience of “feeling”’ is one of the key modes in which family photography has intervened to forge public cultures in the twentieth century.55