Princess Margriet at the 2005 Canadian Tulip Festival (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
Princess Margriet turns 65
Ottawa birth forged special bond between Canada, the Netherlands
Last Updated Jan. 18, 2008
Far from the Nazis who had violently invaded her homeland, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born in a peaceful room in the Ottawa Civic Hospital's maternity ward on Jan. 19, 1943 — becoming the first royal child born in North America.
In a rare move, the Canadian government temporarily declared the hospital room to be of extraterritorial jurisdiction, which meant the royal baby could enjoy full Dutch citizenship. That same day, the Dutch flag flew above Parliament's Peace Tower in Ottawa.
The princess was named after the marguerite, a daisy worn in the Netherlands as a symbol of resistance to the Nazis.
Her birth strengthened an enduring relationship between her country and Canada.
In 2008, Karel de Beer, the Netherlands' ambassador in Ottawa, will celebrate the princess's 65th birthday by unveiling a plaque in her honour at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa General Hospital.
A gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs
The Dutch royal family had fled their country in 1940 and found a safe haven in Ottawa during the Second World War. Princess Juliana, the only heir to the Dutch throne, and her children initially made a home at Rideau Hall then at Stornoway House, where they would stay for four years.
It wasn't until August 1945 that Princess Margriet arrived in a newly liberated Holland.
Later that same year, as a symbol of gratitude both for Ottawa's hospitality and Canada's vital role in liberating the Netherlands from the Nazis, Princess Juliana sent Ottawa 100,000 tulip bulbs and a promise to deliver 20,000 bulbs every year of her life.
Princess Margriet went on to study the arts and history at the University of Montpellier in France and law at Leiden University in the Netherlands, as well as taking some practical training as a nurse in 1965. In January 1967, she married Pieter van Vollenhoven. In 1975, the couple moved to their current home, Het Loo House near the Dutch royal palace, where they raised their four sons.
Princess Margriet became actively involved in health care and social work, both in the Netherlands and internationally. Her nursing training eventually led her to become chair of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Cross Crescent Movement.
The princess is also an adviser to the National Union of Volunteers and chair of the European Cultural Foundation, an Amsterdam-based organization dedicated to the promotion of education, arts and culture throughout Europe.
Juliana reigned as Queen of the Netherlands from 1948 to 1980, when Margriet's eldest sister, Beatrix, succeeded her. Juliana died in 2004 at age 94 and Queen Beatrix continues to reign.
In Canada, Princess Margriet's lasting legacy remains in the form of the Canadian Tulip Festival. Thanks to the initial gift of tulips from the royal family back in 1945, the annual tulip bloom has become one of Ottawa's greatest spring attractions.
The festival officially began in 1953 and it has continued to grow in size ever since. Recent displays have seen more than one million flowers in bloom.
In 1995, Princess Margriet returned to Ottawa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.
The 2008 Canadian Tulip Festival runs from May 2-19. Admission is free.