Wilhelmina was the only child of Willem III and his second wife Emma. At the age of four, she became heir apparent after the death of her half-brother Alexander. Wilhelmina had a very sheltered upbringing, and had little contact with children her own age. Wilhelmina’s father died when she was ten years old. Emma became regent until her daughter reached the age of majority, preparing her thoroughly for her future duties. Wilhelmina’s investiture as queen took place a few days after her eighteenth birthday. As a young and inexperienced monarch, Wilhelmina had to prove herself to her ministers, all of whom were older gentlemen.
When Wilhelmina was 21 years old, she married her second cousin Duke Hendrik (Henry) of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Wilhelmina suffered several miscarriages, and concern grew regarding the succession. They was even talk of a German prince – a distant relative - becoming successor to the Dutch throne, until Princess Juliana was born in 1909.
After the German army invaded the Netherlands in May 1940 Wilhelmina and her family were forced to fled the country. During the Second World War she lived in exile in London. Her husband Hendrik had already died. Wilhelmina returned to the Netherlands in 1945, and abdicated in favour of her daughter Juliana three years later.