January 30, 2013

Dutch queen Beatrix' phone

The day before yesterday, queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced that she will abdicate on April 30, when she will have been on the throne for exactly 33 years. Her efficient, professional and even perfectionist style is also reflected by the telephones which are in her office in the palace of Huis ten Bosch: a simple modern white phone from the Unifoon series:

Queen Beatrix in her office at her last meeting with prime minister Mark Rutte
Notice the white Unifoon against the wall and the prime minister having two mobile phones
while the queen only has paper and pencils in front of her (April 22, 2013).
(Photo: Minister-president @ Flickr)

Allthough the Netherlands is a very liberal society, the government and the royal family are still less open. Opposite to the United States, where we can get almost day-to-day pictures of the president and the White House, pictures of queen Beatrix and her surroundings are quite rare.

The Dutch queen Beatrix in her office at the Huis ten Bosch palace in 1987
On the right side of her desk we see a white Unifoon telephone
(Photo: Thuring/RVD)

Queen Beatrix in the same office and with the same phone more recently


The Unifoon was one of the standard telephones sold by the Dutch national telephone administration PTT during the eighties, and therefore could be found in many homes during the last two decades of the 20th century. The phone, which also appeared in the 1979 James Bond-movie Moonraker, was available in white, ivory, beige and red. There were also some modified versions, for example for usage with a small private branch exchange (PBX).

The phone at the queen's desk is also connected to an internal network for the palace. Besides that, her Unifoon has no other functions, like for example programmable memory buttons. This fits her style too, as it's known that queen Beatrix isn't very fond of modern technology, apparently she didn't even had a mobile phone for many years. It fits also with the predominantly ceremonial role of the queen of the Netherlands, working at a certain distance of the actual government.

The Unifoon telephone, as advertised in a 1987 brochure
from the Dutch national telephone administration PTT
(the 149,- guilders would now be 67,- euro)


The Unifoon was developed and initially made by the Nederlandse Standard Electric Maatschappij (NSEM), a company providing telephone equipment to the Dutch national telephone administration. The roots of this company go back to the Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company (BTMC), which started to make telephone equipment for the Dutch and Belgian markets at a plant in Antwerp in 1882.

By the end of the 19th century nationalistic policies favoured local manufacturers, and so there came a plant of BTMC in The Hague, for providing equipment to the Gemeentelijke Telefoondienst Den Haag and the Rijkstelefoon. This plant became independent in 1940 and was named Nederlandse Standard Electric Maatschappij (NSEM), manufacturing telephone sets and exchanges from 1948 to 1983.

In 1984 or 1985 this company was taken over by ITT and renamed ITT Nederland NV. After the merger of the telecommunications divisions of ITT and CGE, the name was changed to Alcatel Nederland BV.

Noordeinde palace

Besides her office at the palace of Huis ten Bosch, which is the place where she lives, queen Beatrix also has an office at the palace of Noordeinde, which is in the city center of The Hague. Pictures of the interior of this palace are very rare, but from a 2008 book about the palace, we have one great picture of her spacious office room:

The office of queen Beatrix at the palace of Noordeinde

Unfortunately we can't recognize what kind of phone is on the desk, but it seems to be different from the Unifoon which is at the palace of Huis ten Bosch.


Queen Beatrix will be succeeded by her eldest son Willem-Alexander, who will be installed as king of the Netherlands on April 30. In the years to come we will see what will be the telephone equipment of his choice.

According to for example this picture, we now know that Willem-Alexander bought and used an iPhone for several years. Also, after he was installed as the new king on April 30, 2013, he sent an SMS-message to the major of Amsterdam, thanking him for all his efforts.

- MaximumPC.com: Unredacted WikiLeaks Cables Include Dutch Queen's Residential Phone Number (2011)

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In Dutch: Meer over het wetsvoorstel voor de Tijdelijke wet cyberoperaties