Yeah, you heard that right: I’m working at a castle. As part of my masters programme, I’m following an internship at Amerongen Castle. And I can tell you that it’s certainly different from the university world in Utrecht. Want to see were I’ll be working the following months?
I still have to take some pictures myself, ’cause all I can show you for now is this exterior picture. Doesn’t it look amazing?
I study history, so of course I should tell you something about the castle’s fascinating past. It’s not the typical medieval castle you’d probably imagine: it dates from the 17th century. The medieval castle that stood there before was burned down by the French in 1673 when they invaded the Republic. In the Netherlands, the year 1672 is commonly known as the ‘disaster year’ (‘rampjaar’ in Dutch), ’cause the Republic was attacked from the west by the English and from the east by the French, together with the bishops of Münster and Cologne. Only the most western parts of the Republic managed to escape the invading troops of Louis XIV by the inundation of the Dutch Water Line (‘Waterlinie’).
At that time the third generation of the Van Reede family lived at Amerongen Castle: Margaretha Turnor and her husband Godard van Reede. Godard was actually abroad on one of his many diplomatic assignments when Margaretha left Amerongen and fled to Amsterdam, together with her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren. The French threatened to burn the castle down if the family wouldn’t pay 3000 guilders (a small fortune at that time). Before Margaretha could ask her husband’s permission, the castle was burned to the ground and with it some 60.000 guilders that were invested in the castle during the past years. When the French had retreated, Margaretha immediately returned to Amerongen en started the construction of a new, fashionable home.
Margaretha’s descent was vague: she probably was daughter to the wealthy Dutch noblewoman Salomé van Meetkercken and the English captain George Turnor. But because she was left a great fortune by her uncle, some historians argue that she was perhaps his illegitimate daughter. Anyway, she was wealthy enough to throw up a new castle. It was finished in 1680. When Margaretha died in 1700 (aged 87), she had already survived her husband by nine years. The Van Reede family continued to live at Amerongen Castle for about a century, until the French (again!) made them leave. The family then moved to England, where they owned a county (the son of Margaretha was given the title Earl of Athlone, Lord of Agrim by the Dutch-born English king William III). They never returned and the family eventually died out.
When the last member of the Van Reede family died, the by then neglected Castle of Amerongen was passed on to the Aldenburg-Bentinck family. They are distant relatives to the famous Bentinck, Earl of Portland who played a major role during the Glorious Revolution and who’s descendants include Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck, the grandmother of the present queen Elizabeth II. The Aldenburg-Bentinck family bequeathed the Castle in the 70s to the Foundation that still has the Castle in its possession.
What do I do? Well, I do research on five famous women that lived at Amerongen Castle through the ages. What did their lives look like? And how did they differ from other women’s lives? Eventually, this research has to result in a guided tour. I’m so excited! Oh, and, pst! This is of course the perfect setting to read some historical novels centred at a castle or another stately home … Northanger Abbey, anyone?
Anything you’ve always wanted to know about (working at) a castle?