Flashback • A royal visit
Queen Juliana made Calvin's campus a stop on her 1952 tour
by Richard H. Harms, Archivist

Queen Juliana and President Spoelhof
Queen Juliana and President Spoelhof enter the Franklin Campus Administration Building in April, 1952.

In April 1952, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands made her first official state visit to the United States as the Dutch monarch. During World War II, as princess and heir to the throne, she and her daughters lived in the outskirts of Ottawa, Ont., and visited the United States several times, including a trip to West Michigan in 1941. The 1952 trip, undertaken in part to thank the U.S. for aid during World War II, included stops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Detroit. During her time in Washington, D.C., the queen became the second woman to address a joint session of Congress; the first had been her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, in 1942. Since the royal entourage also wished to visit locations where Dutch immigrants and their descendants settled, the tour included stops in West Michigan.

The three days in Michigan began in the Detroit area, including a visit to Greenfield Village, the season opener at Briggs Field, (which the Tigers lost 0-3 to St. Louis), and concluding with the queen receiving an honorary degree from the University of Michigan. The second day was spent in West Michigan, beginning with a flight to Grand Rapids. Local security was provided by all 205 officers of the city’s police force plus 50 reserves, five federal agents who accompanied the royal party throughout the tour, shore patrol personnel from Great Lakes Naval Station, a contingent of state police, and officers from East Grand Rapids and Wyoming Township.

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The mayor of Grand Rapids, Paul Goebel, and 8,000 citizens greeted the queen at the airport on the sunny spring day that saw temperatures reach the low 60s. Having accepted an invitation from Calvin’s Board of Trustees, the queen and her royal party rode in a motorcade of nine convertibles to the Calvin College campus, then on Franklin Street. There a ceremony was held to inaugurate the Queen Juliana Chair on Language and Culture of the Netherlands, currently held by Professor Herman De Vries. Events for the day were scheduled to the minute. President and Mrs. Spoelhof greeted the queen and Prince Bernhard at the curb at 11:25 a.m. The special convocation began promptly at 11:40 and lasted 30 minutes. At 12:45, she received the key to the city from Mayor Goebel at a downtown ceremony and then attended a formal luncheon at the Pantlind Hotel, now the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. During her four hours and 25 minutes in Grand Rapids, the queen was seen by an estimated 100,000 people. At 3:10, ten minutes behind schedule, the motorcade left for Holland.

After ceremonies at the Holland City Hall and Hope College, the party returned to Detroit on a special train. From Detroit, the entourage flew to San Francisco and then on to the Los Angeles area for various events, including tours of the MGM studios and Dutch settlements in the Los Angeles area, one of which was a dairy farm operated by Dutch immigrants.