Were the Dutch crown jewels hidden in Wolverhampton during the war?

Were the Dutch crown jewels kept for safe keeping in a vault in Wolverhampton during the war?

 Lieutenant General Paget (left) watching a Dutch soldier demonstrating a Tommy gun at the Dutch military camp at Wrottesley Park, Wolverhampton, in December 1942.
Lieutenant General Paget (left) watching a Dutch soldier demonstrating a Tommy gun at the Dutch military camp at Wrottesley Park, Wolverhampton, in December 1942.

It's a piece of local legend and now, thanks to a Dutch researcher, we can give the answer, sort of.

And it's a no, but the main reason for that is that it turns out that the Dutch don't have any crown jewels – but that doesn't mean that there wasn't something else kept in the vault.

A Dutch sergeant, who had been an architect in South Africa before the war, uses a dictionary to chat to Wolverhampton folk in August 1942.

It is stated as fact by some sources on the internet that the Dutch crown jewels were taken from The Hague to Britain for safe keeping after The Netherlands were overrun by the Nazis, and were kept in the Wolverhampton Town Hall vaults for the duration of the conflict. Another local story is that Dutch gold was held in the Perton area.

Wolverhampton's wartime connection with The Netherlands was through Wrottesley Park becoming a huge Dutch military camp where, in 1941, a new regiment was born called the Princess Irene Regiment, comprising soldiers who had escaped to Britain after the German invasion , as well as Dutch volunteers from across the world.

Dirk Paagman, who is a teacher, author, and local historian in The Netherlands who has done much research into the Second World War, has been looking deeper into the story after we told the tale a little while ago.

Dirk said: "In fact, The Netherlands has no crown jewels at all. Because in The Netherlands the king or queen is not crowned but inaugurated, the crown only has a supporting role. It lies on a table near the new monarch at the inauguration, together with the orb, the imperial sword and the constitution. It is a glorified prop as a symbol of sovereign power.

"Because the crown does not play a leading role, William II chose in 1840 tinsel, gilded silver with cut glass and imitation pearls coated with fish scales, so compared to the British crown jewels it has almost no value.

"I do know that the Dutch royal family went to the UK on May 12, 1940, via a British frigate, together with the Dutch government. They took a large amount of gold and all the government papers with them. But there is no info at all about the symbolic crown jewels."

He added: "Nobody really knows. I have approached various agencies and groups and the facts are that a Dutch army unit was established under British supervision in Wolverhampton, the well-known 'Princess Irene Brigade'. This group stayed and trained for several years in Wolverhampton and the surrounding area. But in the historiography of this unit nothing is known about guarding, for example, the Dutch crown jewels.

"I do have another idea. If there's a story that jewels were kept in the Wolverhampton vault, it could be a private collection of the royal family, so the jewellery, necklaces, rings, brooches, and so on of the Queen and her family that she brought from the Netherlands on May 12, 1940."

As for the Dutch unit that was born in Wolverhampton, Dirk said: "In May and June 1941 the Princess Irene Brigade had its own camp in Wolverhampton on the Wrottesley estate. It was a complex of modern buildings used by the brigade until the end of the war.

"The camp remained in use until a few years after the war, mainly for the training of Dutch troops destined for the Dutch East Indies. It was then demolished and the land returned. The brigade's strength fluctuated between 1,200 and 3,500 men."

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