Queen's Day

In The Netherlands Queen's Day is celebrated. Since the end of the 19th century carefully the people began to celebrate the birthday of their Queen. When Queen Wilhelmina was at her beloved Palace Het Loo on her birthday, August 31, the youth from Apeldoorn came to the palace to cheer the Queen and gave her flowers and there were festivities in the whole country on the occasion of her birthday. Also on the birthday of the then Princess Juliana, April 30, it happened often that that young people came to her residence Palace Soestdijk to congratulate the Princess.

After she ascended the throne in September 1948, April 30 became known as Queen's Day. In 1949 Queen Juliana received the youth from nearby Baarn and Soest in the afternoon at Palace Soestdijk Because the weather wasn't very good, the hundreds of coloured balloons the children let fly away partly ended up in the trees around the palace. After the children, the elder came and led flowers on the steps of the palace until it was almost fully covered. The second Queen's Day in 1950 the weather was sunny and thousands of people came to the palace to show their enthusiasm during the march-past and at the end of the day many presents and flowers were left behind on the steps of Palace Soestdijk. Queen's Day already soon turned out in a yearly event in which thousands of people, young and old, from all over the country took part in the march-past while the royal family stood on the steps of the palace watching, waving and smiling. Each year flowers and presents were given to the celebrating Queen and music sounded. People showed up in their best clothes and very regularly you could see people in their local costumes. The march-past was broadcasted live on the radio and later on also on television which gave the opportunity to people who didn't go to Palace Soestdijk to see the events there and many stayed home to watch and took part in their own local Queen's Day festivities when the broadcast was over.

On the early Queen's Days the children of Queen Juliana - Beatrix, Irene, Margriet and Marijke (after 1963 Christina) - stole the show, but they soon grew older. In 1964 Queen's Day took place without Princess Irene who had married in Rome the previous day, and she didn't show up in 1965 either when Princess Margriet took her fiancée Pieter van Vollenhoven with her for the first time. Two months later Princess Beatrix became engaged and in 1966 her new husband Claus von Amsberg enjoyed his first Queen's Day. In 1967 Princess Beatrix stayed in hospital having become a mother for the first time some days earlier. Pregnant again she attended Queen's Day 1968, while her sister Margriet now had to cancel because she had gotten her first child too. But Prince Willem-Alexander enjoyed his first Queen's Day a lot. In the following years more grandchildren of Queen Juliana were born and came to celebrate the birthday of their grandmother, to the big joy of both the Queen and the Dutch. On January 31, 1980, the birthday of Princess Beatrix, Queen Juliana announced she was going to abdicate on April 30 that year. Instead of Queen's Day the Dutch saw Queen Beatrix ascending the throne. On May 31, to say goodbye as she said, a flower march-past was organised at Palace Soestdijk, and Princess Juliana, her husband, children, children-in-law and 13 grandchildren entered the steps of the palace for the last time.

On the day she ascended the throne Queen Beatrix announced in a speech to her mother in the New Church: "Dear mother, today is your birthday. Because of deep, deep gratitude for everything we received from you, this day - also in the future - will be connected with your wisdom, your sympathy, your maternal love, because this day will stay: Queen's Day." If April 30 is on a Sunday, Queen's Day will be celebrated the day before, so on April 29. A wise decision as the new queen's own birthday is celebrated in the cold winter, on January 31. But the day itself will be celebrated totally different, as the flower march-past will always be connected with Queen Juliana. In 1981 Queen's Day new style is celebrated for the first time. Queen Beatrix had decided to visit two towns or villages not too far away from each other in The Netherlands on Queen's Day from now on to celebrate the day with her people, and Veere and Breda, two historical towns, were chosen for this first visit. From now on the Queen and her family, often accompanied by Princess Margriet and her family, pass old children's plays, music, theatre, dance and even fairs each year. Once more, in 1984, Queen Juliana took part in the Queen's Day celebrations on the occasion of her 75th birthday, when she and all her children and grandchildren visited The Hague.

In the early years of Queen Beatrix's reign it wasn't difficult to get the young princes so far that they were willing to take part in some games, but when they grew older, that became more and more exceptional. Some years ago it was even said that the games played on Queen's Day were out of date and that Queen's Day should get a more modern design. But the royal house was the first to assure that they love the Queen's Day celebrations they attend in the country and every year again thousands of people go to the places where the Queen celebrates Queen's Day to enjoy the festivities there and have a look at the growing royal family, while hundreds of thousands of Dutch celebrate Queen's Day elsewhere in the country. Let's hope we will be able to continue celebrating Queen's Day for a long, long time.

Netty Leistra
Royal Watch
May 2002

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