Queen Beatrix writing history
This is a good time for it to happen, in the opinion of Professor of Fatherlands History, Henk te Velde. The abdication of Queen Beatrix is a good starting point for celebrating 200 years of the Dutch monarchy, in 2013. Te Velde is a member of the National Committee for 200 Years of Monarchy: 'By standing down on 30th April 2013 the Queen is drawing attention to this historic point in time.' She is writing the history of the family of Orange-Nassau.
200 years of monarchy was exactly the reason why Te Velde hazarded a guess on 8 January 2011 in the Nederlands Dagblad: ‘Beatrix is going to stand down in 2013.’ Te Velde is well aware that this is a unique year for the succession: 'We also have to bear in mind that Beatrix will be 75 this year. It's time for the next generation, as she herself said in her speech.' On 30 April our crown prince will become King Willem-Alexander. That did come as a surprise to Te Velde: 'King Willem-Alexander, that's quite a statement. Not King Willem IV, as we might have expected. But it does fit with Willem-Alexander's policy of wanting to have an identity of his own.'
Queen Máxima, that's also what we would expect from Willem-Alexander's kingship. Te Velde refers to it as a 'dual monarchy'. Whereas Bernard and Claus were prince consorts, Máxima will make her debut as queen. Te Velde: 'At that time gender patterns still played a visible role. It was not an option for our head of state to introduce her husband as king during state visits.' Te Velde sees this is an opportunity for Máxima. 'Although the Royal House is politically relatively sensitive in the Netherlands, yet we can easily imagine having a Queen Máxima. And it is also in line with international expectations. Máxima has the freedom to play a part in serious issues, such as the microloans for new entrepreneurs in developing countries. That fits well within her role.'
Queen Beatrix's decision to step down gives Te Velde cause for reflection: ‘In a certain sense, it's not simply because of the connection with the house of Orange-Nassau, but more about how a person's life unfolds. When the last change in the monarchy took place in 1980 I was 21, and I didn't pay it much attention. But now the history of the Orange-Nassau family has become part of my life. It has much more significance, because you can relate events in the history of the Orange-Nassaus to your own memories.'
Orange is something special
Te Velde is historian for the National Committee for 200 Years of the Monarchy. This milestone means more to him than a celebration of 200 years of a kingdom. 'For a while we were part of the French empire under Napoleon. After independence in 1813 we acquired a new constitution and a completely new state system with a Parliament divided into an Upper and Lower Chamber. Our link with the Orange-Nassau family is not self-evident, Orange is something rather special, it crops up unexpectedly as different points in Dutch history.' In the coming semester Te velde will be lecturing to his students on the subject of 'The Orange phenomenon and the people'.
Orange and Leiden University
The history of the Orange family has some parallels with that of Leiden University. It has become something of a tradition for Leiden University to have the heir to the throne as a student: Princess Juliana, Princess Beatrix and Prince Willem-Alexander all studied here. Leiden also conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Queen Beatrix in 2005, in recognition of her important role in drawing attention to the significance of freedom and the responsibility inherent in freedom.
(29 January 2013)