It is the 30th of April, Koninginnedag. This is the symbolic (not actual) birthday celebration of the Dutch queen. Normally on this day the Dutch royal family and their entourage visit one of the provinces and join the “folk” in celebrations, mainly old Dutch games and handicrafts. The rest of the country immerses itself in one huge, drunken orgy of a yard-sale. Usually we avoid the rest of the country and hide in our own backyard, drinking wine, enjoying a bbq and a swim if the weather is fine and not venturing past our property lines until the 1st of May.
As an ex-pat, the phenomenon of Koninginnedag baffles me. The Netherlands is a largely socialist country, but on this one day of the year, the Dutch en masse turn monarchist. Being an outsider, I can freely admit any day of the year that I admire the Dutch royal family, especially (since 10 am.CET) King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima. I like Willem Alexander because he looks (and I’ve always found this a bit suspicious considering Hengelo’s proximity to Bad Bentheim) a lot like my husband. I like Queen Maxima because she’s brought a good dose of salsa and style to this rather dull little country.
This year my husband and I woke up early and donned our orange apparel. FOTI hoisted the Dutch flag and wimple in front of our house and we settled down with a coffee to watch TV. This year is the last Koninginnedag. This year Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne in favor of her son Willem Alexander and the Netherlands has a king for the first time in more than 100 years.
Princess Beatrix is a femme formidable. As head of state, (not to be confused with head of government), she steered this country through 33 often turbulent years. The May 2000 fireworks disaster in Enschede hit us (literally) closest to home. Twentsche poet, Willem Wilmink wrote in his poem, Enschede Huilt:
Arm Enschede, verberg je in
de armen van je koningin
en huil, want daar is reden voor
en huil dan maar aan één stuk door.
Poor Enschede, hide in
the arms of your queen
and cry, because you have reason to
and cry until you are all cried out.
His words forever sealed the image I have of the queen. I am, by nature, a social libertarian and no monarchist. Since then, I hold her in special regard as queen and mother.
Most people outside the Netherlands don’t know this, but (now) Princess Beatrix is a gifted sculptor. On this last Queens’ Birthday, I wish her lots of time to work in her atelier, time to enjoy her family, and that she goes to bed tonight without the cares of a country on her mind.
* First and last photos are my own. Other images from Google.