Our Australian friend John met the new Dutch king on his trip down under a few years ago. Like me, John has a Dutch wife and speaks fluent bad Nederlands.
He and his wife were invited to an official reception for Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and the immensely popular Princess Maxima and checked on the correct way to address the royals. ‘Uw koninklijke hoogheid’ (‘your royal highness’) is a mouthful, even for Dutch people.
John practised the phrase faithfully on the way to the event. ‘Uw konning likker hoe geid…you konick linker hog height…’ It wasn’t going well.
Time ran out. John reached the head of the queue and stood before royal couple. He took a deep breath as the prince stuck out his hand.
‘Hallo,’ said the prince.
‘Hallo,’said John, and breathed out.
‘I’m no protocol fascist,’ said the prince in the pre-handover interview on Dutch TV, ‘I’d rather people didn’t stumble over their words and not dare to say anything.’
Hey, a good bloke! We commoners always thought Willem-Alexander was a bit stuffy, but he came over well.
I can’t help it. Staunch republican though I am, this royal succession in the Netherlands hath me in thrall.
I know, I know, what are royal families but the descendants of successful warlords who managed to butcher and enslave their neighbours, declare their landholdings ‘countries’ and make themselves kings of the castle?
Dutch Queen Beatrix may have obscene inherited wealth and income on which she pays no tax, but she seems so nice. Few deny that she’s done a good job and deserves the nation’s thanks and a quiet retirement.
The international news story about the ceremony is that the official ‘koningslied’, the pop song composed for the occasion, has caused widespread fear and loathing and has been withdrawn by its composer. Whatever you think of the song, the video is revealing in its attempt to show a cross-section of multicultural Dutch society and to give a feeling of inclusiveness.
There are a lot of bikes, but no tulips, clogs or windmills.
Here it is on YouTube, with the three-fingered salute representing the ‘W’ from Willem-Alexander:
We love the cruel re-editing by the satirical Lucky TV of the official royal TV interview, showing Willem-Alexander invited to listen to the song and give his considered opinion, while Maxima greets his efforts to be diplomatic with an even more cruelly dubbed laugh.
It’s worth a minute and five seconds of your time, even if you don’t speak Dutch.
By some oversight, Mevrouw T and I have not been invited to any of the official ceremonies and we will avoid the crowds under the palace balcony in the Dam Square.
But the last Koninginnedag for the time being will be a great street party anyway.
The date of Queen’s Day, 30th April, is the birthday of the former Queen Juliana. Beatrix’s birthday is 31st January, when it is usually too cold for playing outside in Holland.
Willem-Alexander was conveniently born on April 27th, so there will be a smooth transition to ‘King’s Day’, 2014.