There is a special bond between the Dutch royal house and Philips. Philips was awarded the designation ‘Royal’ by Queen Wilhelmina back in 1916. At that point in time Philips had been in existence for 25 years and had become the largest private sector employer in the Netherlands. The company also accounted for a significant proportion of total Dutch exports. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1998 that ‘Royal’ started to feature in the company name. This was not because Philips hadn’t considered including it sooner. Records from the board under Philips president Frans Otten show that a proposal had already been made back in 1940 to include the designation ‘Royal’ in the company name by changing it from Philips’ Gloeilampenfabrieken N.V. to Koninklijke Philips Industrieën N.V. Unfortunately, this plan had to be put back in the drawer when the Second World War broke out.
Staying at villa De Laak
In the meantime the members of the royal family enjoyed a close bond with Philips. They were always present at special anniversaries, such as the company’s 60th, 75th and 100th anniversary. They also regularly visited Philips factories on working visits – not just in Eindhoven, but also in Drachten and Best, for example. They enjoyed good relations and in some cases even friendships with the Philips and Otten families, in particular with Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard. After their visit in 1936 the Princess and Prince stayed at De Laak, the home of Anton Philips.
The last visit from a member of the royal family was in 2016 when Queen Máxima visited Philips Healthcare and learned about innovations to help midwives in remote areas. She was also shown a hybrid operating room and spoke to a number of employees in one of the factory halls about X-ray devices. In that same year (2016) Queen Máxima presented the Koning Willem I award to Philips. The company won this prestigious award for innovative business enterprise in the ‘Large Corporations’ category.
But there have been other significant royal highlights at Philips too:
1927: in the 1920s there was a lot of hard work going on at the Philips Research Laboratories (NatLab) into short wave radio broadcasting. In 1927 Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana made contact for the first time ever with the colonies in today’s Indonesia, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. Never before had there been a direct broadcast over such a long distance – 10,000 kilometers – and this was the first time the Dutch overseas territories had heard their Queen and Princess speak live. Incidentally, the room from which this broadcast took place still exists in Film Theater NatLab, as does the ‘Queen’s Room’.
1929: Prince Hendrik, Queen Wilhelmina’s husband, visited various sections of the Philips factories in 1929, after having stayed the night at villa De Laak. The press reported that he had shown great interest in the bulb-making machines in particular and that he had spoken to a number of employees in his customary amiable and jovial manner. He was also taken on a tour of the Philips Research Laboratories (NatLab).
1936: the year in which Eindhoven was visited by Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard, who by this time were engaged to be married. The Princess unveiled the ‘Radiomonument’, to commemorate the radio link with the Dutch East Indies, and Prince Bernhard laid the first foundation stone for the Anton Philips Observatory.
1966: another iconic moment was the opening of the similarly iconic building The Evoluon, which was designed by Philips’ first-ever design director Louis Kalff together with Leo de Bever. In 1966 Prince Bernhard opened this building, known as the ‘flying saucer’, which was ‘gifted’ to the city of Eindhoven to commemorate Philips’ 75th anniversary. Frits Philips, who had been the driving force behind this project, wanted the Evoluon to be a meeting place for people to ‘share their knowledge, experiences, enthusiasm and inspiration’. Now a national monument, this futuristic building currently serves as a conference and events center, but up until the late 1980s it was an educational science and technology museum. In its heyday it enjoyed very high visitor numbers.
Queen Beatrix opens the Philips Museum
Separately from the many working visits to Philips factories and offices, our own Philips Museum has also had the honor of welcoming a royal visitor. Just over eight years ago our museum was officially opened by Queen Beatrix herself! This was one of her last working visits as Queen of the Netherlands. It was a fantastic day and the monarch even stayed ten minutes longer than planned! After a performance by members of the Philips Symphony Orchestra, during which she held an LED light bulb that flashed in time to the music, the Queen enjoyed a tour of the museum. Naturally, she stopped to admire a life-sized photograph of her mother and grandmother addressing the colonies in 1927. The speech itself could be heard via a microphone.
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