It’s rare in life to be able to witness history in the making. I was fortunate to have been in Berlin when the Wall came down in 1989. And this week, I was one of the lucky 2,000 in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam who witnessed the investiture of King Willem Alexander – the first King of the Netherlands for over a century.
We Brits like to think we do pomp and ceremony better than most. But the investiture in Amsterdam rivalled the best that the UK can manage: from the immaculately choreographed entrance to the church of the Royal guests – including TRH the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall – to the soaring music and stunning flower arrangements (with a heavy hint of orange of course). But there was a simplicity too about this strikingly secular event – and a certain modesty which the Dutch do rather well. The new King referred to the “citizens”, not his “subjects”. His crown remained on the table in front of him. Instead of a full choral ensemble, or world famous operatic diva, the Royal Couple were treated to a simple song sung by a children’s choir. And the presence of the 3 princesses added to the family feel. Crown Princess Amalia was caught yawning on camera – something I suspect will be replayed many times in her life!
At the reception afterwards, I was able to congratulate the new King and Queen in person. I have met them several times before: they take a lively interest in the UK (the new King has told me how much he enjoyed London 2012 in his capacity as an IOC member). They come across as warm and engaged – and that’s the secret of their increasing popularity.
Sadly, I’ll be leaving this post in a few months as my tour of duty comes to an end. But the images of orange-clad Nederlanders in the streets of Amsterdam, and the sights and sounds of Dutch ceremony and celebration at its height will remain with me as undoubtedly the highlight of my time as Ambassador here.