Canada and the Netherlands’ Symbol of Friendship

May 24, 2022

When news broke that Princess Juliana of the Netherlands went into labor during her stay in Canada, “the Canadian Government declared in December her hospital room ‘extraterritorial’ to ensure that the child would not be born a Canadian citizen and British subject; an important consideration in order for the child to maintain its right to heir of the Dutch throne.”

Sprouting tulips is a tell-tale sign that spring has arrived—and that’s what’s happening across Canada, particularly in the nation’s capital.

From May 13-23, the Canadian Tulip Festival returned to Ottawa, celebrating the “historic Royal gift of tulips from the Dutch to Canadians immediately following the Second World War as a symbol of international friendship.”

Tulips in full bloom on Parliament Hill

A Princess is Born

While Canada is remembered for helping to liberate the Netherlands and Europe during World War II, the festival also commemorates the birth of a Dutch princess. On January 19, 1943, Princess Margriet was born at Ottawa’s Civic Hospital to Princess Juliana.

Three years before her birth, Princess Juliana’s family moved to Britain just before the German army invaded, and later, they moved to Canada to escape the war.

When news broke that Princess Juliana of the Netherlands went into labor during her stay in Canada, the Canadian Government declared her hospital room as ‘extraterritorial’ to ensure that the child would not be born a Canadian citizen and British subject—an important consideration in order for the child to maintain its right of heir of the Dutch throne.

Later that year, Princess Margriet was baptized at St. Andrew’s Church in Ottawa. She spent the first two years living in Canada, but it wasn’t until August 2, 1945, when the Netherlands found liberation, that Princess Margriet and her family moved back to the Netherlands and set foot on Dutch soil.

Now 79 years old, Princess Margriet is an active member of the Dutch Royal House and has strong interests in health care and cultural diversity.

So Many Tulips

In 1945, the Dutch Royal Family sent Ottawa 100,000 tulip bulbs to thank them for sheltering Princess Juliana and her children during the war. 

This was just the beginning of the Canadian Tulip Festival—Ottawa soon became famous for its tulips. In 1953, the festival was created by the Ottawa Board of Trade and photographer Malak Karsh.

Featuring large displays of tulips in Commissioners Park and along the Rideau Canal, the annual celebration sees over 650,000 guests each year. The tulip is now a symbol of friendship between Canada and the Netherlands.

This Year’s Festivities

This year, celebrating its 70th anniversary and Platinum Jubilee, the festival will feature Tulip Legacy Walking Tours, Tulip Bingo, walks through the tulips at night, movies, ghost walking tours, and fireworks.

With over 300,000 tulips in bloom at the festival, it’s one of the most significant events worldwide, and the Netherlands continues to send 20,000 bulbs each year.

Learn more about the festival by visiting its website HERE.