When you shake hands with a celebrity, it does feel as if the glamour rubs off a little on you too. So yes, I admit, I do feel a little special for having met the Dutch Queen Beatrix, when she visited Turkey in 2007. I was covering it for the main NOS T.V. news in Holland, so I was following her every public footstep.
In Ankara we journalists also got the chance to chat with her for a while. All standard procedure, confined by protocol, I know, but still. Actually, the Turks whom she visited because they had spent their working life in Holland, had a much better deal. They had a real conversation with her.
One of them came up to me afterwards, very excited. He had invited the Queen to visit again, and she had laughed. ‘When you have retired, just like us,’ he had insisted. ‘Who knows,’ she answered according to him, ‘maybe in a year or two.’
At the time speculation about when she was going to abdicate was flying back and forth, so I felt it my duty to call the editor-in-chief and inform him. The NOS is a serious radio and television station, so it did not make the news. Just as well, because it’s only today that she really passes on the scepter to her son Willem-Alexander.
Exactly a year after her visit, our Consul General revealed that he had been appointed the Grand Master of her Majesty’s Household. Soon after, my collection of portraits from Istanbul (Gezichten van Istanbul) was presented in The Hague, where the Queen resides, and the Grand Master honored me with a visit and invited me and my then 5-year old daughter to the the next day.
Knowing my daughter’s love of horses, he arranged for a tour of the royal stables by the Royal Stable Master himself. Now, who can blame us for feeling slightly royal ourselves after having cuddled her Majesty’s favorite horse Gijs, and peeking at the Golden Carriage?
So when the invitation came to follow the coronation of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander at the Palais de Hollande, as our Consulate General here is called – it is the oldest property of the Dutch state abroad, on the same site since 1612 – my daughter and I were not going to miss it. What better day, I thought, for her, who struggles sometimes with the question of where she belongs, to express her Dutch genes. I arranged for her to leave school early for this once-in-a-life-time-event.
Alas. A few days later she burst into tears when I had to tell her a second message came that said this event was only for age 18+. ‘As if children are not Dutch!’ she bristled angrily. I had trouble convincing her to join me for the yearly celebration of Queen’s Day this last Sunday, which she viewed as ‘fake’ because it wasn’t on the real day. Luckily, during the games she reluctantly participated in, she met a new friend. Her first Dutch friend!
Already she’s bubbling with enthusiasm about their upcoming play-date, and I think she has half-forgotten about today’s coronation. Not me. But then again, I’m the one who’s Dutch. She is a world citizen.
As for our new Queen, Maxima, we go back a long way 🙂 …