Thanks, in great part, to Lady Diana, and now Prince William and Princess Kate, the British Royal Family is closing the light years- wide gap between the British Royal Family and the public. The Dutch Royal Family, however, is far ahead of them. Queen Wilhelmina, seen as the matriarch of the Netherlands, was loved by the people, politicians and the army, and esteemed by political adversaries.
Also her daughter, Queen Juliana, was seen as a kindhearted personality whom people looked up to but loved at the same time. Queen Beatrix, though somewhat more formal, was always greatly respected, and King Willem-Alexander is not only warm, but also youthful and relaxed – more in keeping with modern times and therefore more relatable. Every now and then, the Netherlands goes through a phase in which calls go up for an abolition of the Royal Family, but the fact remains that the members of this Family are considered so pleasant, politically unobtrusive and inoffensive, as well as warm and modest.
Some facts about the Dutch Royal Family:
- The Dutch Royal Family and the ‘Royal House’ are not the same.
- Not every member of the Orange Nassau family is a member of the Royal House.
- The Royal Family is made up of the former Queen and her sisters, their spouses and their children, King Willem-Alexander, his brothers, their spouses and their children and grandchildren.
Who becomes a member of the Royal House – and therefore could theoretically become the monarch – has been determined by law and consists of the Head of State King Willem-Alexander, his wife Queen Máxima, their children and their spouses and grandchildren, his mother (formerly Queen Beatrix), as well as his brother Prince Constantijn and his wife Princess Laurentien, and his aunt Princess Margriet and her husband Pieter van Vollenhoven.
- Members of the Royal House who marry without the official approval of the Parliament, lose the right to succeed to the Throne.
- When then-Prince Willem-Alexander announced his intention to marry Máxima Zorreguieta of Argentina, there was an iffy moment there, as there was some objection to Máxima’s father’s possible role in the Argentinean junta from 1976-1983 – but it was decided that though he may have been aware of what was going on, he could not be considered a participant and the couple was given the green light. This has, without a doubt, given the Dutch Royal Family a boost, as Máxima has been well-accepted by the public as an easy-going, respectable, dedicated Queen – and mother of three princesses: Catharina-Amalia (2003), Alexia (2005) and Ariana (2007).
Every year, on the third Tuesday of September, called Prinsjesdag, the King and members of his family ride in the royal Golden Coach from the palace on the Noordeinde to the Binnenhof, where the government is housed. Here the King holds his famous speech, called the Troonrede, before the members of the Upper and Lower House, in which the government’s policies for the coming year are set out. Prinsjesdag is a popular outing for schools, but also for grown-ups and tourists, who come to The Hague to admire the beauty of the royal procession and taste a bit of the atmosphere of yesteryear.
The very first ‘regent’s day’, called Princess Day, was held on August 31, 1895 – in honor of Princess Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday.
The initiative to organize this was taken by the editor of an Utrecht newspaper, who wanted to celebrate the national unity of the Netherlands. It became a national tradition, with the date following the birthdays of the reigning monarchs: April 30 for Queen Juliana, and now April 27 for King Willem-Alexander. How about Queen Beatrix, you ask? Her birthday is on January 31, and she decided that the chances of a pleasant day of sunshine were considerably greater on her mother’s birthday, and left it that way.
Almost every municipality has an ‘Orange Association’ of diehard monarchists, who like to arrange a number of festivities that involve a lot of folklore and children’s games. Wherever you go, you hear the thump of marching bands and other music. In Amsterdam, people come together to sell their secondhand items on the so-called Free Market (Vrijmarkt). This custom has spread across the nation the past 30 years, meaning that you will likely run into your neighbors’ kids selling their old toys on that day, which they have spread out on an old rug on the street. They will be flanked by grown-ups who are selling old percolators and other household items for a song. The King and his family visit one municipality on that day – giving the Orange Association the chance to go all out and organize a program of entertainment and fun for the King and his family.
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