28 January 2013 was a memorable day. Beatrix, queen regnant of the Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1980, announced her abdication, leaving the throne to her oldest son Willem-Alexander, affectionately referred to as ‘Willy’ by the Dutch people. This is an ode from one unusual character to another. Because if a king isn’t an unusual character, then who is?
When I first arrived in Amsterdam, the concept of having a royal family mystified me. The tropical island of Réunion, my birthplace, belongs to the French Republic, and they don’t have one. I was soon brought up to speed by my new Dutch friends. Though Beatrix is sorely missed (she was the perfect queen, aristocratic and folksy at the same time), Willem-Alexander gained respect with his rock & roll student life, toilet-throwing abilities and incredibly charming wife, the Argentinian beauty Máxima.
Since his inauguration five years ago, king Willy has become emblematic for the Dutch: understated, fond of sports and water, full of wanderlust and slightly awkward on the dancefloor. His birthday celebration is a nation-wide affair. For those that are blissfully unaware: on Kingsday, 27 April, The Netherlands collectively loses its mind. Everything and everyone is covered in orange. Drinking starts at dawn and goes on far past dusk. Your worst enemy becomes your best friend in the matter of minutes, as does the neighbor you usually avoid.
All thanks to Willem-Alexander, who each year shows up in another town to interact with the people he represents. However painstakingly boring or uncomfortable his job at times may be, the Dutch king approaches it with patience and professionalism. (I would long ago have lost my mind.) This Kingsday, I imagine him coming home after a long day of hand shaking, opening the liquor cabinet, pulling out a bottle of Sir Edmond and fixing himself a well-deserved Up and Over with some extra drops of Orange Bitters. Toasting the man in the mirror to another year of royal escapades.