It was 1945 and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was in Washington, D.C. on an official state visit. She was happy to be with friends, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the President and First Lady of the U.S. The war had brought about quick and lasting friendships for many of the heads of state, because, they had been through so much together, in their joint effort to stop the spread of the Nazis throughout Europe.
The German Army had invaded Holland at the onset of the war, in May of 1940. When the royal family and members of the government, realized that the Netherlands would be occupied in its entirety, they were forced to flee to London.
Upon reaching London, Queen Wilhelmina immediately declared that city the capital of the Netherlands, this action would allow the Queen and other members of the Dutch government, to legally continue to operate on behalf of the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies.
Taking a page from Winston Churchill, Queen Wilhelmina began broadcasting late night messages of encouragement to her countrymen. The Dutch would hide from the Germans, and eagerly await the news from Queen Wilhelmina, with their ears pressed against their illegal radios.
She had lived in exile for five long years, she had lived for her subjects to the exclusion of everything else in her life, and she was homesick for her native land. After this important visit to the United States, she would return to the Netherlands, to lead her country in their recovery from the war. If her plans did not go awry, she would be home for her 65th birthday in August.
Tonight's dinner had been a delight, especially since various food items that had been so sparse in England, seemed to be available here in America. It had been a lovely evening with the Roosevelts and others guests, full of lively conversations about Hitler, the war, and future plans, but now she was ready to retire to her rooms. What was it they had called her suite? Oh yes, the Rose Room, presumably because of the rose colored decor. Not very creative these Americans, she thought, perhaps they will call it the Queen's Bedroom after her visit.
Picture of the Rose Room, Circa 1947
Became known as the Queen's Room in the 1960s.
The Queen had slipped under the covers on the soft and surprisingly comfortable bed. It was a tall bed, with four carved posters and a rose colored canopy that matched other furnishings in the room. Her maid had bid her good night, as she closed the door behind her, in a moment she would be asleep.
After what seemed like only a short while, Queen Wilhelmina opened her eyes, she had suddenly awakened, but did not know exactly why. She looked around the room. There was a small bit of light illuminating the bedroom, it was coming from a lamp in the sitting room, so she was able to see that nothing seemed to be amiss. The windows were still dark, so she must try to get back to sleep.
She had just closed her eyes, when there was a tap, tap, tap, so soft that she could only barely hear it, what was that sound? There it was again . . . tap, tap, tap. It was someone knocking at her bedroom door. Who could it be? The door was locked from the inside, but her maid who was directly across the hall had a key. She would have to go to the door. Tap, tap, tap. "One moment," she called out, as she found her dressing gown and shoes. Tap, tap, tap.
The Queen began to become fully awake, as she realized it could be an urgent message for her from the Netherlands, or from someone in the Dutch government who had remained in England. Yes, yes, that must be what it was, because it was already morning in Europe. She opened her bedroom door expecting to see one of her staff, or the White House staff, with news from home.
To her surprise she did not know this person. Who was this odd looking man, wearing an old fashioned top hat in the middle of the night? He was much taller than she and very imposing; and as she began to see more detail in his gaunt and care worn face and eyes, she also began to feel a chill. Yes, yes, the room had quickly grown very cold!
All thoughts of home had been removed completely from her mind by the sudden appearance of this man. It was then, that she realized that the light from her room had spilled out into the hallway, making it possible for her to clearly see every detail of the door to the room across the hall, even though it should have been completely obscured by the presence of the man standing before her.
She gasped loudly, as she felt her blood run cold and her knees buckle, and that was the last that she would remember prior to falling to the floor in a dead faint.
When she awoke again, she was lying on the bed beneath the rose colored canopy, and she was surrounded by her maid, and other people that she did not know or wish to see at this minute. A stranger's voice said that there was a doctor on his way, he would be here in just a few minutes.
Her maid had placed a cool moist cloth upon her forehead, and was speaking to her in a soothing tone, asking her if she could say what had happened.
The Queen looked around the room searching for a particular bearded face in the crowd, the one she had seen at her doorway, but he was not there. Had she actually seen such a man, or was she hallucinating due to the many years of stress that she had endured?
The doctor arrived, he quickly examined her in a cursory manner, and announced that while her pulse seemed a little faster than normal, he could find no other indications of anything wrong with her.
By now the First Lady had arrived, and she was obviously very concerned about the Queen's well being. Eleanor, along with everyone else, was waiting for the Queen to tell them why she had fainted in the open doorway of her room.
The Queen began to relate her story of the knock on the door, and how she thought perhaps it was a message from home. She hesitated, should she mention the odd looking man? She decided that she would, but that she would not say anything about being able to "see through" the man.
Very quickly, the First Lady began to shoo everyone except her personal maid from the room. The Queen was pleased to see them all go, but she thought she detected a strange reaction in Eleanor's behavior.
Once all the doors were closed and only the three of them were alone in the room, the First Lady began to apologize profusely. She repeated over and over again how sorry she was for this to have happened to the Queen. The Queen was now more confused than ever, wondering what Eleanor was talking about.
Finally, the First Lady sat on the edge of the Queen's bed, and began to describe to her exactly what the man at her door had looked like. Yes, yes, that was him, that was the man I saw. She was feeling much better, now that she knew he was not a product of a vivid imagination. Eleanor had seen him too on occasion.
Her relief, however, was very short lived when her hostess went on to explain that the man she saw had been dead for 80 years.
His name was Abraham Lincoln, a former president, and all of his belongings had been moved to what had been his War Room during his presidency. That was the room directly across the hall from the Rose Room, and it was now known as the Lincoln Bedroom.
The Lincoln Bedroom, Circa 1947
Queen Wilhelmina abruptly left the White House as soon as possible. She was able to return home to the Netherlands, where she was warmly greeted by her people, and she never returned to the United States.
Top hat allegedly worn by Abraham Lincoln to Ford's Theater on April 15, 1865.
In 1867 this hat and other relics from Lincoln's assassination were removed from exhibition at the Patent Office and transferred to the Smithsonian.
For many years the hat was kept in storage, because museum officials believed it was in poor taste to show objects connected with the assassination of a president.