The castle de haar known locally as Kasteel de Haar, is located next to the village of Haarzuilens, in the province of Utrecht, in the west of the Netherlands.
De Haar is probably the most visited castle in the Netherlandsafter Muiderslot.
The gothic fairytale Haar Castle we see today was built from 1892 to 1912 on the large ruins of the original castle which dates from the fifteenth century.
De Haar Castle was founded in the 14th century on silt 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 servant of the Prince Bishop of Utrecht, he had enough prestige to have a fortified residence built for him and his family.
In 1449, the castle became the property of the Van Zuylen family through the marriage between Josyna van de Haar and Dirk van Zuylen. The castle probably got its pentagonal shape after it was destroyed in 1482 as a result of conflicts between the bishop and the city of Utrecht.
The ground floor at that time consisted of a irregular pentagon with heavy round towers with a diameter of 8.35 meters in two of the five corners. There were no towers on the other corners, but there was a smaller round tower in the middle of the back wall that was used as a dovecote. The entrance was located on the northwest wall, protected by two square towers of 5×5 meters each.
Within this moated pentagon, dwellings were situated on the south-east and south-west sidesaround a courtyard.
In the 17th century, the descendants of Josyna and Dirk died out and the castle was inherited by the Van Stembor family, who lived in the south of the Netherlands (present-day Belgium). During the years 1672 and 1673 the castle was damaged by French troops.
Later, when the son of the Van Stembor-Van Zuylen van Nijevelt couple died without issue in 1801, the castle was inherited by a distant cousin of the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family. Then the castle was dilapidated and remained desolate for almost 2 centuries.
In 1890, Baron Étienne Van Zuylen van Nijevelt, inherited the impressive ruins of De Haar castle. He had always been fascinated with the history of his family and had fantasized about rebuilding de Haar as a monument to his family history.
In 1887 he married French baroness Helene de Rothschild. (member of the extremely wealthy De Rothschild family), which allowed him to make his fantasy come true.
In 1892 the reconstruction of the castle began under the direction of a famous Dutch architect, Pierre Cuypers, who also built the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. His neo-gothic interpretation of the medieval castle De Haar is what we see today. Cuypers followed the original outline of the castle and built on the original design as much as possible. Elsewhere he built from his point of view an ideal medieval castle.
The interior of the castle was rebuilt in a luxurious style, equipped with electricity and an old covered patio with a large roof that would become a spacious room. Also the entrance was relocated to the northeast wall. A new courtyard with a gatehouse was rebuilt on the original foundations.
The castle is now surrounded by a large park, but this was not always the case. From medieval times until 1898, the village of Haarzuilens had been situated around the castle. The entire village was torn down and rebuilt 1.5 kilometers to the west. However, the village chapel was rebuilt and incorporated into the new park. More than 7,000 approximately 40-year-old trees from the entire province of Utrecht were transported to this park.
The interior of the castle is lavishly decorated with a large but inconsistent collection of valuable antiques from around the worldas an 18th century Japanese palanquin of the powerful and feared Tokugawa family, obtained by Baron and Baroness De Rothschild during their travels.
Although this is not a completely medieval castle, a visit to it is highly recommended. The 50-minute tour showcases much of the great aristocratic splendor of the early 20th century. It is now used as a museum, except in September each year, when it is privately inhabited by the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family.