With Koninginnedag right around the corner, I figured it would be appropriate to give my (albeit foreign) perspective on the Dutch monarchy. We already have a great post from last year written about Koninginnedag traditions, so if you’re interested, check it out here.
One of the more unique aspects of the Dutch monarchy, as opposed to some other monarchies, is that they focus on being connected with the people on equal footing. Perhaps one could say that is not entirely possible since they have far more money than the average Dutch citizen, but in general the Dutch royal family are not caught up in ostentatious displays of wealth…in general. They ride bicycles like every other Dutch citizen, they want to raise their families free from the prying eyes of the media, and mostly they just go about their business. In this post I’m going to introduce you to a few of the more prominent current members of the Dutch royal family.
Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus
One of the things that has always struck me about Queen Beatrix is her stunning collection of hats. I say this with the utmost sincerity. Any woman who can pull off those hats is a woman I can respect. My impressions of her have been that she is a tough lady with a deep sense of duty to her nation, although this didn’t stop her from marrying Prince Claus, much to the dismay of her adoring public. You see, Queen Beatrix married a German, post World War II, which led to all types of controversy and outcry from the citizens, a small group of which even protested her wedding on her wedding day. (Sidenote: many years later and a bit of maturity later they apologized for this.) It takes a woman with guts to follow her heart, and in the end it all turned out for the best. Prince Claus became much loved by the Dutch citizens, and the love between them was eventually more than enough to win the heart of the nation.
Last year the Queen gave a speech that addressed her concerns that we are living in a digital world behind our computer screens and smart phones, with social networking sites and chat rooms, but failing to make actual human contact with one another. She encouraged people to maintain lasting “in-real-life” friendships, and because of this, a large group of people who knew one another only via the internet and social networking sites decided to meet in real life. Although it sounds like such a simple thing, I was pretty impressed that despite the fact that she is perhaps getting on in years, she still stays so very well informed.
And did I mention she comes to the Parliament house in a golden chariot once a year? Yup, a golden chariot. It’s really fun to watch, even if that speech drags on just a bit.
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander is currently next in line for the Dutch throne. Unlike in some other countries, it is very common for the ruling monarch to retire. Therefore there is speculation that the time might soon be coming for Prince Willem-Alexander to become King of the Netherlands: the first king in a very long time! The last king was William III in 1890, so having a king will be a very big deal for this country.
In general, people like Willem-Alexander, though he did go through a rough patch last year over the purchase of a vacation home, which the media indulgently covered. People have seen him grow up from a wild partying college student (nickname Prince Pils) to a man wildly in love with a woman from Argentina whose family had a shady political past, to being a loving husband and father. He’s made it very clear that his life is not to be played out in front of the media, and there are strict guidelines for the press if they wish to interact with Willem-Alexander and his family. In this way he has managed to shield his young children from prying eyes, and I’m sure they are all the better for it.
Princess Maxima is the wife of Willem-Alexander. One of the first things she did to win the hearts of the people was to learn the language. And she didn’t just learn the language, she learned it very well. Granted, she had all the monetary backing of royalty to ensure that she had nothing but the very top quality courses, including total immersion courses where you are only exposed to the language, but she excelled at this more than most might. The press liked her from day one because she is pretty and articulate, and she and Prince Willem-Alexander make a very attractive couple.
Princess Maxima had one “blunder” since she’s been here that caused quite a bit of controversy. She took part in a research study that sought to define the Dutch national cultural identity. I think she should have known that this would be dangerous business as a foreigner, but it’s a little late for advice now. So she helped conduct this study, and the results she decried were that there is no Dutch national identity. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Well, the media ate that one up. But let’s look a little closer at her explanations.
According to Princess Maxima, the Netherlands includes so much diversity, in culture, customs and language, that there is no one stereotype that applies to the Dutch citizen. What may hold true for one person from the north is completely untrue for a person from the south. According to her study, the Dutch can’t be pigeon-holed into one big stereotype, but rather, people should be taken as individuals and the country should be respected for its wide diversity. Does that sound a little better?
So there you have it, my very broad perceptions of the Dutch monarchy as an outsider looking in. Do you think I left something out? Is there something you’d like to add? Do you think I got it completely wrong? Leave us a comment in the comments section below!