By Kate Parvis, Toastmasters Agora 75, blogger-in-chief for the D59 2023 Conference
Yep, the Netherlands is a monarchy! In fact, it’s one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the early 16th century when Orange was part of France. After the French were finally booted out of the Netherlands for good, Louis Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon) abdicated and the House of Orange-Nassau was restored to the throne in 1815. It’s a constitutional monarchy, meaning that the King doesn’t govern.
You won’t see a Dutch king named Kevin anytime soon. The first Dutch restoration kings were all named William I, II, and III, and quite a few of their wives were named Wilhelmina. Family reunions must be interesting. Hopefully, they use cute nicknames like Binky & Boopsie to tell who is who.
The royal heirs or reigning monarchs have a historical predilection for spouse-hunting in Germany, Russia, and Belgium (which incidentally used to be part of the Netherlands). The current Dutch monarch; Willem-Alexander, went a bit further afield by marrying an Argentinian, Máxima, a former banker. It’s a safe bet that she had no trouble going Dutch with the king! She is known for her fashion sense and has been listed among the world’s best-dressed women. Her beauty is combined with brains and compassion, as she travels the world supporting projects such as microfinancing for women in developing nations.
Willem-Alexander, the great-great-great grandson of William III; is a Willem, rather than a William and there’s no number after his name; how modern! Quite modern in many ways, the Dutch monarchy makes no distinction between genders in line for the throne. If you’re first-born, you get to be king or queen, and that’s that. Hence, Willem-Alexander’s reign follows three long reigns by Queens, including Queen Wilhelmina, who reigned for 58 years (starting at age 10, she had the longest reign in Dutch history!), Juliana who abdicated after 34 years on the throne, and Beatrix, Willem-Alexander’s mother, who abdicated recently in 2013 in favor of her son.
King Willem-Alexander is quite a guy. An accomplished athlete, he participated in the Elfstedentocht, a long-distance (200 km!) skating event on natural ice and continues to be an active supporter of the Olympic Games to this day. He is also a qualified commercial airline pilot and flies both planes and helicopters. He has even flown incognito as co-pilot on KLM commercial flights! Now, that’s a real Dutch treat!
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima have three daughters, and the next in line to the throne is the eldest, Princess Catharina-Amalia, 20 years old in 2023—another queen! Her father is still a fit 55 years old, so she’ll have to wait until he decides to retire. All three princesses are active in public life and often accompany their parents on official duties and state visits. They are fluent in several languages, including Dutch, English, and Spanish.
Far from living in an ivory tower of cheese, the Dutch royal family has a long history of philanthropic work, and promoting environmental causes and sustainability, with Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard being early advocates of conservation. Very popular in the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family is known for its informal and down-to-earth approach, with the king and queen often seen out and about in public, attending events and meeting with citizens. Kings and Queens riding around on bikes comes to mind when you think of the Dutch monarchy.