Exhibition Review: Chapeaux! Hats of Queen Beatrix

I am thrilled to welcome Dutch royal journalist and blogger Netty Leistra to Royal Hats today. Netty blogs at Netty Royal where I have followed her for almost 20 years and developed great respect for her thorough research and excellent coverage of European royal events. Over the weekend, Netty visited Het Loo Palace to see the new exhibition on Princess Beatrix’s hats and generously shares her thoughts with us about this experience. Welcome, Netty!

“A hat is part of the uniform,” Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain once said. And of course, they are also the finishing touch to the outfit of a royal and should make the wearer stand out in a group of people. They shouldn’t be too extravagant and the face of the person should be clearly visible. Thinking about royals and their hats, there are two names most people would mention immediately: Queen Elizabeth II, of course, and Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands. Beatrix, who was Queen of her country for 33 years from 1980 to 2013, must have worn hundreds, or maybe even thousands of hats during her reign. 111 of them are on display in the exhibition ‘Chapeaux! Hats of Queen Beatrix’ at Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, from 23 March to 27 August 2017. A must see for (royal) hat lovers. The museum has worked close with the Royal Collections of the Netherlands in The Hague.

Since 1980, Queen Beatrix has made use of only three milliners. Harry Scheltens, who died in 2006, created hats for her between 1970 and 2003, Suzanne Moulijn has worked for her since 1982 and Beatrix’ dresser, Emy Bloemheuvel, has done quite a lot of work on the hats also. The three had a unique collaboration. But as the hats often were adapted later on, the makers of the exhibition decided not to mention the creator of a hat, nor the year it was created, as it often could be more than one milliner in the end. For someone with good knowledge, the hats should be recognisable anyway. Accidentally, I met an assistant of Harry Scheltens just after the exhibition and she could clearly recognise some of his work. And one thing: she said he didn’t really like bows very much.

As the exhibition says, as of 1986 the hats became more innovative and idiosynoratic than ever. Queen Beatrix’ influence as an artists shows off quite well also in the hats as they are almost sculptural, architectural and rather playful. The hats are always hand-made and unique. Suzanne Moulijn explains she first decides the type of hat, material and trim, then discusses the basic models with Beatrix, and after several fittings, the final hat still needs her approval. Moulijn mainly uses sinamay, felt, sisal and straw cloth and of course, a wooden millinery hat block. Looking at the hats at the exhibition, there is a variety of trim including feathers, flowers and bows. I loved some playful twists. Funny thing is that you often hardly notice on photos, unless you find a close-up of the back of a hat, as that is often where the hat looks at its best. Who looks at Beatrix’ hats might notice she often wears a hat pin, sometimes almost hidden in the trim. These pins are not always new. Some of them, as is pointed out at the exhibition, are heirlooms and were even worn by Queen Emma and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Just a pity some of them are not on display either but just shown in a video.

The hats shown at the exhibition are often worn at Queen’s Day, Prince’s Day, during state visits and some other special occasions. Also included are the hats she wore at the funeral of her mother Queen Juliana and her husband Prince Claus, the civil wedding of her son Prince Constantijn and the weddings of her sons Prince (now King) Willem-Alexander and Prince Friso.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images  Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Princess Beatrix’s hats for the christening of her grandchildren Princesses Amalia and Ariane are included and at the end of the exhibition is the first hat she wore as a Princess on 30 April 2013. But the exhibition also displays a funny hat her three sons created for her as a Saint-Nicholas surprise.

It is a pity you’re not allowed to take pictures at the exhibition itself but it is somewhat understandable. People probably wouldn’t stop making selfies of themselves with one of the Queen’s hats on their heads. Furthermore, the light in the show-cases has been carefully placed  so the light can’t do the hats any harm. The consequence is, however, that the colour of some of the hats looks different than in reality or on photos and videos. The hats are placed at the height of Princess Beatrix herself, who hardly reaches my shoulders (and I am 1.71m) so for me it was quite easy to stand on my toes and at least have a bit of a look at the top of the hats. A few hats had such a special top that they are placed lower, so people can have a look at it. There are several video screens next to the show-cases, so you can see her actually wearing hats, including some in the show.

Reading the texts on the wall, which are in Dutch and English, I noticed one nice piece of text, that surely also applies to this blog and is something we all agree to:


“Queen Beatrix’s outfits and hats have attracted more and more interest since the turn of the 21st century. Readers of royalty magazines and fashion blogs enjoy following and discussing Queen Beatrix and her hats. Along with the Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, Queen Beatrix is seen as an iconic royal hat wearer.”

Don’t forget to visit the restaurant in the ball room before you leave. Especially for the exhibition, a confectioner in Apeldoorn has created a small cake in the form of a red hat. I can tell you they’re sweet but really delicious.

Netty- thank you for this comprehensive review of the exhibition. Princess Beatrix is indeed, an iconic royal hat wearer and for those of us unable to attend the exhibition at Het Loo Palace this year, you have provided the most wonderful view inside. I had no idea that many of Princess Beatrix’s hats are changed throughout their ‘lives’ (and not always by the milliner who made them). This explains why it is sometimes very difficult to tell some of Princess Beatrix’s hats apart!

Those of you not already following Netty’s blog, Netty Royalty, should really do so. It’s an excellent royal source you can trust.

Photographs from Getty as indicated and from Netty Leistra. Netty Leistra photos may not be used, pinned, posted or reproduced without written permission. 

25 thoughts on “Exhibition Review: Chapeaux! Hats of Queen Beatrix

  1. Today I was able to visit the exhibition. I am very impressed by the incredible craftsmanship!!!! It was amazing too see the perfect detailing and finishing. The great lines ! I am very impressed. You can see the hats till the and of October.

  2. Thank you, Netty, for that wonderful review! And, thank you, Hat Queen, for making that happen!

    Do you happen to know if the videos are available to see online? I would love to watch them!

  3. Thank you both Netty and HatQueen for the interesting tour for all of us who cannot attend in person. Even though the exhibition did not allow photos, it is re-created in part here by this great team-up.

  4. HQ and Netty, THANK YOU for this review of Princess Beatrix’s hat exhibition! I wish I could go! I just love her and think she’s quite a lady!

  5. Thanks for this great review. I would also love to see the exhibition but feel like I got the next best thing!

    HQ are you going to see the exhibition? They should give you a free trip with all the good publicity you’re giving it!

    • Unfortunately, I’m not able to attend the exhibition. I did, however, have the pleasure of making a very small contribution to it- it was my honour to source some photographs of particular hats that the exhibition creators wanted to include.

      • Interesting! Can you say any more about that? Were there any surprises or anything particularly tricky to source?

        • Nothing tricky. The photos were ones I had posted here on Royal Hats in the early days of the blog (when, I’m sorry to say, I did not know the ins and outs of correctly crediting sources). A representative from Het Loo Palace inquired about these photos so I did some research, sent them the sources, then updated the photos here to meet copyright requirements (something I’ve been trying to do on old posts). One photo was of Queen Beatrix (as she was at the time) at Princess Amalia’s christening in the beautiful pink straw boater hat with spit brim, filled with silk flowers.

  6. I am fascinated that the hats are hung at the exact height that Queen Beatrix would wear them. What a wonderful idea to give visitors the same view as if the hat was worn by its intended wearer.

  7. Thank you so much for the information about this beautiful exhibition! I only wish I could see it in person. Maybe there will be a published coffee table book about Princess Beatrix’s hats in the future.

  8. Oh how I wish I was visiting the Netherlands this year! What a great review of this exhibit, and I’m very jealous of those that get to visit. Beatrix is definitely an iconic royal hat wearer for sure. Thanks Netty and HatQueen for all of your hard work to bring us all of this!

  9. I would love to go to this exhibit. This article was so interesting thank you so much for it. I added Netty’s Royalty blog to my blog reader. She writes very well in English.

  10. I was secretly hoping Netty would tell us about this exhibit. It sounds utterly delightful and the special cake made like a hat in a sea of cake hats just makes me smile.

  11. I wouldn’t be surprised if Princess Beatrix actually wore a hat in the modeled after that red hat cake. Thanks to both of you, HQ and Netty, for this special post!

  12. Thank you so much, Netty. I never thought of these hats as sculptural or architectural, but it’s true — they really are. I will pay more attention to the tops and backs of the hats when our HQ features Princess Beatrix.

    It’s too bad about those selfie-takers overtaking museums!

    And thanks to you, too, HQ, for inviting a special guest.

  13. I so wish I lived closer to Europe so that I could see these amazing exhibitions……Australia is a long way from anywhere sometimes. thanks for this great coverage.

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