In spite of its current fairy tale renaissance exterior, Castle Wijchen began life as a defensive tower castle, and has had a number of dramatic moments in its long history. It has also been the backdrop to star-crossed lovers and the home of royalty. A rich history that makes a visit to the castle well worthwhile for the historically minded.
14th to 17th centuries
Castle Wijchen is first mentioned in a written source in 1392. The earliest castle probably dates from the middle of the 14th century.
The castle has passed through the hands of many different families. In the middle of the 14th century it belonged to the family Van Galen, in 1536 it passed into the ownership of the lords of Batenburg. By then the castle had been thoroughly sacked at least once. The rebuilding is likely to have been the initiative of one of the lords of the manor of Batenburg (the Bronkhorst family), but the castle was only completed at the beginning of the 17th century. The responsibility for the completion of the current castle lies with the royal couple Princess Emilia van Nassau en Don Emanuel van Portugal.
17th to 20th centuries
In 1609 Emila, daughter of Prince Willem of Orange, bought the castle. It was some time before she moved in. First she had the castle extensively renovated. The money for this enterprise came partly from the sale of an extremely valuable pearl necklace. Emanuel was without prospects and a catholic. Because of this he and Emila had not received permission to marry from the government or Prince Maurits. They had eloped together, and thus had a long and rather difficult love story behind them by the time they came to Wijchen. Many of the decorations on the building are references to their struggle to be united together in marriage, such as the beam fixings in the form of a closed ‘S’ which stand for the French ‘fermesse’ – fidelity.
Emilia died in 1629 and the castle was eventually sold by her children to Philips van Nassau, lord of Grimhuizen near Breda. Having passed through the hands of a further thee families, the castle and estate came into the possession of the Osy family in 1771
The heirs of Baron J.J.R. d’Osy put the castle up for sale in the summer of 1903. It was bought by the honourable A.W. van Andringa de Kempenaer from Den Haag for 26,850 guilders.
As a result of a fire in one of the chimneys on the evening of December 5th 1906 the castle was gutted. Only the walls remained – the entire interior, furniture, books and works of art fell victim to the flames. However in a very short time the castle was completely restored under guidance of the Nijmeegse architect F.A. Ludewig. By 1908 Castle Wijchen had risen phoenix like from the ashes.
After the death of Miss van Andringa de Kempenaer in 1926 the castle passed to her nephews. They tried to sell it in 1932, but their were no buyers because of the economic crisis of the time. Spurred on by the mayor, the municipality of Wijchen bought the castle for the sum of 32,000 guilders. Since that time the castle has been the official meeting house for the council, and every resident of Wijchen is also ‘owner’.
The future looks rosy for the castle. Renovated in the 1990s the castle has housed, since 1996, Museum Castle Wijchen and the chief meeting room and wedding salon of the municipality of Wijchen. The Museum is situated on the second floor of the castle, and also makes use of a part of the castle gardens. The museum has collections of archaeology and modern art, with both permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as a regional history exhibit about the five castles within the parish. In the garden of the castle is Museum Garden ‘De Tuun’ with historic crops and herbs.