Het Loo Palace is symmetrical Dutch Baroque palace was designed by Jacob Roman and Johan van Swieten. It was built between 1684 and 1686 for stadtholder-king William III and Mary II of England. The garden was designed by Claude Desgotz. The building is a rijksmonument and is among the Top 100 Dutch heritage sites.

The palace was a residence of the House of Orange-Nassau from the 17th century until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962. The building was renovated between 1976 and 1982. Since 1984, the palace is a state museum open for the general public, showing interiors with original furniture, objects and paintings of the House of Orange-Nassau.

The Dutch Baroque architecture of Het Loo takes pains to minimize the grand stretch of its construction, so emphatic at Versailles, and present itself as just a fine gentleman's residence. Het Loo is not a palace but, as the title of its engraved portrait (illustration, below) states, a 'Lust-hof' (a retreat, or 'pleasure house'). Nevertheless, it is situated entre cour et jardin ('between court and garden') as Versailles and its imitators, and even as fine Parisian private houses are. The dry paved and gravelled court, lightly screened from the road by a wrought-iron grill, is domesticated by a traditional plat of box-bordered green, the homey touch of a cross in a circle you'd find in a bougeois garden. The volumes of the palace are rhythmically broken in their massing. They work down symmetrically, expressing the subordinate roles of their use and occupants, and the final outbuildings in Marot's plan extend along the public thoroughfare, like a well-made and delightfully regular street.

The private 'Great Garden' is situated in the back. This Dutch Baroque garden, often mislabeled the 'Versailles of Holland', actually serves to show more differences than similarities. It is still within the general Baroque formula established by André Le Nôtre: perfect symmetry, axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres with fountains, basins and statues.

The garden as it appears in the engraving was designed by Le Nôtre's nephew, Claude Desgotz. Throughout his military and diplomatic career, William of Orange was the continental antagonist of Louis XIV, the commander of the forces opposed to those of absolute power and Roman Catholicism. André Le Nôtre's main axis at Versailles, continued by the canal, runs up to the horizon. Daniel Marot and Desgotz's Het Loo garden does not dominate the landscape as Louis' German imitators do, though in his idealized plan, Desgotz extends the axis. The main garden, with conservative rectangular beds instead of more elaborately shaped ones, is an enclosed space surrounded by raised walks, as a Renaissance garden might be, tucked into the woods for private enjoyment, the garden not of a king but of a stadhouder. At its far end a shaded crosswalk of trees disguised the central vista. The orange trees set out in wooden boxes and wintered in an Orangery, which were a feature of all gardens, did double duty for the House of Orange-Nassau.

Outside the garden there are a few straight scenic avenues, for following the hunt in a carriage, or purely for the vista afforded by an avenue. Few of the 'green rooms' cut into the woodlands in imitation of the cabinets de verdure of Versailles that are shown in the engraving actually got executed at Het Loo.

The patron of the Sun King's garden was Apollo. Peter the Great would opt for Samson, springing the jaws of Sweden's heraldic lion. William opted for Hercules.

In the 18th century, William III’s baroque garden as seen in the engraving was replaced by a landscape park in the English taste.

In 1960 Queen Wilhelmina declared that when she died the palace would go to the State. She did, however, request that it would be returned to her family if the Dutch were to abolish the monarchy. The palace became property of the Dutch state in 1962 when Wilhelmina died at Het Loo Palace. After a thorough restoration it now houses a national museum and library devoted to the House of Orange-Nassau in Dutch history. Het Loo also houses the Museum van de Kanselarij der Nederlandse Orden (Museum of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood's Chancellery); books and other material concerning decorations and medals form a separate section in the library.

The lost gardens of Het Loo were fully restored beginning in 1970 and completed in time to celebrate the building's 1984 tercentenary. Het Loo's new brickwork, latticework and ornaments are as raw as they must have been in 1684 and will mellow with time.

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Founded: 1684-1686
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Netherlands

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User Reviews

Stephany Grevelink (3 years ago)
Definitely a good tourist attraction to at least visit once when coming to holland. Beautifully kept garden, too bad the palace is closed for a few years due to renovations. Still the garden is worth a visit.
Paul Budde (3 years ago)
Currently restoring. Visiting the gardens. Magnificent.
Anton Floor (3 years ago)
The park is amazing. Mind that you need to buy a ticket before you enter the park. Unfortunately the palace itself is being restored, so we couldn't go in and see the gardens. We saw them from a distance out back in the parc. It's absolutely gorgeous.
Jim Hunt (3 years ago)
Beautiful 300 year old palace, but it's closed until 2021 for renovation. The grounds and gardens are still worth a visit. You can still visit the stables which includes historic coaches and cars of the Royal Family, as well as an elevator to the palace roof for great views of the garden and grounds.
Bethan Daultrey (3 years ago)
Beautiful gardens. Can't wait to go back and see the house once the work is complete. Note: the peacock is crafty and will stand in front of the do not feed the peacock sign, obscuring it until after you have fed him. Don't be fooled like I was.
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