17 April 2013 — Both the new King Willem-Alexander and his predecessor Queen Beatrix studied in Leiden. Leiden even has a member of the House of Orange to thank for its existence. Leiden academics are specialists in the history of the Royal House. Alumni gather in circles around the royal couple. All these are examples of Leiden’s bonds with the Royal House, in honour of the succession.
Willem-Alexander followed in the footsteps of his mother Beatrix, his aunt Margriet and his grandmother Juliana, as a student in Leiden. The Prince graduated in 1993 in History. ‘I was always interested in History, but I also took subjects that were going to be useful for me in the future, such as constitutional law, European law and economics. I am now reaping the benefits of my studies in Leiden,’ he explained in 1995 in the alumni magazine Leidraad. His brother Constantijn and cousin Floris, the son of Princess Margriet, also opted for Leiden. Leiden Honorary Doctorates were awarded to the three Queens Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix, Queen Beatrix received her Honorary Doctorate in 2005 for her dedication to freedom of opinion and the responsibilities that go hand in hand with this freedom.
The links between the Royal Family and Leiden University are close. A number of recent examples illustrate this mutual bond: Willem Alexander opened the new premises of Campus The Hague in 2012, with the flourish of a prince preparing for kingship, as we now know. In 2009 Queen Beatrix unveiled a sculpture by Theo van de Vathorst, at the same time opening the newly renovated Academy Building. Earlier that year Willem-Alexander and Máxima visited the Hortus botanicus with the Swedish royal couple. Their visit focused on Swedish botanist Linnaeus and the Systema Naturae devised by him. Leiden archaeologist David Fontijn was received by Queen Beatrix at the Het Loo Palace in 2012, when he presented her with his book about burial mounds. Princess Máxima received the first example of ‘A world without Cervical Cancer’ from Professor Lex Peters.
The bond with the Royal Family is particularly visible in the Academy Building, the heart of the University. With William of Orange as the founder of the Academia Lugduno Batava, a close bond with the Royal House of Orange is a given. And this bond goes further than following in their footsteps along the Rapenburg. ‘Een vast blochuys ende bewaernisse der gantscher landen’ (Engels: A firm stronghold for the whole country. ) This is how William of Orange decribed the university in his proposal to the States of Holland and Zeeland in 1574. The sentence is woven into the carpet of the Senate Room, where PhD candidates are called to defend their dissertation under his portrait. Another portrait of William of Orange watches over Leiden professors as they don their robes for the university’s ceremonial occasions. A white marble plaque of Queen Beatrix over the door of the Great Auditorium looks down on brand-new professors as they leave the Hall after their inaugural lecture. Traces of the Royal House of Orange is also to be found among the masterpieces in the Academy Building Exhibition in the Academic Historical Museum.