De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle, locally known as Kasteel de Haar, lies next to the village of Haarzuilens in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
De Haar Castle is probably the most visited castle in the Netherlands, after Muiden Castle. This Gothic fairy-tale castle we see today however was built from 1892 till 1912 with incorporation of the large 15th century ruins of the original castle.
De Haar Castle was founded in the 14th century on sediment deposits along a blind arm of the river Rhine. It was first mentioned in 1391. Originally the owner of De Haar Castle was a member of the Van de Haar family, who as a manservant of the Prince-bishop of Utrecht, had enough prestige to have a fortified residence built for himself and his family. What this residence looked like was never registered. In 1449 the castle became property of the Van Zuylen family through the marriage between Josyna van de Haar and Dirk van Zuylen. It probably got its pentagonal shape after the castle was destroyed in 1482 as a result of the quarrels between the bishop and the city of Utrecht.
The ground plan at that time consisted of a ragged pentagon with heavy round towers with a diameter of 8.35 meters on 2 of the 5 corners. There were no towers on the other corners, but there was a smaller round tower in the middle of the back wall, which was used as a dovecot. The entrance was situated in the northwestern wall, protected by two square towers, 5x5 meters each. Inside this moated pentagon the living quarters were situated on the southeast and southwestern sides around a courtyard.
In the 17th century the descendants of Josyna and Dirk became extinct and the castle was inherited by the Van Stembor family who lived in the Southern Netherlands (present-day Belgium). During 1672/1673 the castle was damaged by French troops. A female family member married to a Rudolf van Zuylen van Nijevelt and when their son died childless in 1801 the castle was inherited by a distant cousin JJ. van Zuylen van Nijevelt. By then the castle had been in a ruinous and desolate state for almost 2 centuries.
In 1890 his son, baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, inherited the impressive ruins of De Haar Castle. He had always been fascinated about his family history and had fantasized about rebuilding De Haar Castle on a grand scale as a monument of his family history. In 1887, however, he had married the French baroness Helene de Rothschild (member of the extremely wealthy De Rothschild family), which enabled him to make his fantasy come true.
In 1892 the rebuilding of the castle started under the direction of the famous Dutch architect dr. PJH. Cuypers who also built the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and rebuilt Oude Loo Castle. It's his neo-Gothic interpretation of the medieval De Haar Castle we see today. Cuypers followed the original outline of the castle and based the layout of the castle as much as possible on what was left. On other parts he built his views of an ideal medieval castle. The interior of the castle was rebuild in a luxurious style, it was equipped with electricity and the former courtyard, covered with a large roof, was turned into a large hall. Also the entrance was relocated to the northeastern wall. A new bailey with an entrance gate was rebuild on the original foundations.
The castle is now surrounded by a large park but this wasn't always so. From medieval times until 1898 the village of Haarzuilens had been situated around the castle. The entire village was torn down and rebuild 1.5 kilometers to the west. The village chapel however was rebuild and incorporated in the new park. This park, which had to be a full-grown park as soon as possible was created by transporting 7000(!) 40-year-old trees to De Haar Castle from all over the province of Utrecht.
The castle's interior is luxuriously decorated with a large but incoherent collection of valuable antiques from all over the world, such as a 18th century Japanese palanquin from the powerful and feared Tokugawa family, collected by the baron and his De Rothschild baroness during their travels.
Although this may not be an entirely medieval castle I do recommend it. The 50-minutes tour shows a lot of the great aristocratic splendor of the beginning of the 20th century. It's now used as a museum except in September of each year when its privately inhabited by the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family.