Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Positive Thoughts About the Netherlands: The Royals Keep It Real

No one in the Netherlands will forget the television images of Queen Beatrix, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima enjoying and joining in the festivities on Queen's Day in Apeldoorn. The fact that they were clearly having so much fun in the course of the morning made the tragic events of the afternoon such a stark contrast.

What followed may change the shape of future Queen's Day celebrations, though the Royal family is determined not to let that happen. The debate following the tragic events this year centred on the fact that the Queen and her children put themselves in a potentially vulnerable situation when they wander amongst the crowd and join in the activities when they are out and about.
It is a unique outlook for royals to have - to raise themselves above their titles and dive in and enjoy themselves on the streets with the Dutch people, in a manner I can't picture the British couple, Prince Charles and Camilla, doing.

Compared to the stuffiness of the British Royals that I grew up watching in media, the Dutch Royal family is a breath of fresh air. Compare the British Queen's reaction and public response to Diana's death and the heartfelt, emotional and immediate outpouring from Queen Beatrix on 30 April this year. Beatrix felt the need to address her people, and share her sorrow and feelings. They are sovereigns a world apart; the stiff upper lip of the British versus the openness of the Dutch.

Even though the Dutch Royals come across about as 'normal' as royalty can, they still have their fair share of scandal and soap opera entertainment to keep us all on our toes.

Take Mabel Wisse Smit as an example. The scandal (Mabelgate as it was dubbed by the British press) around her former relationship with mafia boss and drug dealer, Klaas Bruinsma, led to Prince Friso giving up his right to the throne in order to marry Mabel in 2003 after the government refused to give their permission for the marriage.

Then of course we have to look no further than the Crown Princess for more scandal when her parents were conspicuously absent from her wedding to Willem-Alexander in 2002. Her father was the Minister of Agriculture during the reign of the military dictator, Jorge Rafael Videla, responsible for atrocities against the Argentine people. Although the Dutch government found no direct wrong doing on the part of Maxima's father, he offered to stay away from the wedding to keep the peace. It was a hotly debated issue during the lead up to the couple's special day.

My recent attendance at Veteran's Day in The Hague brought me within sight of the Crown Prince, and eyeball to eyeball with the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende as they walked around the Malieveld. I found it astounding to find such figures nonchalantly wandering around (albeit with security) to talk to everyday people, and take in a horse parade.

It makes the Netherlands a little different, and although the country's innocence has been dealt serious blows in the last few years, I hope the Royal Family retains its ability to feel at home amongst the general public.

No comments:

Post a Comment