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Category Archives: Monarchy

While opening a 1998 African fashion show in The Netherlands, Prince Claus once ripped off his necktie at a pressconference and flung it away.  It landed at the feet of his wife, Queen Beatrix.  “A snake around my neck,” he said.  Funny thing, he got a standing ovation.  According to this AP article:

Reporting the story that evening, one TV anchorman peeled off his tie. In solidarity, so did the sportscaster who gave the soccer scores.

Now, a week later, Claus is a folk hero, and an open collar has never been more in vogue.

The phenomenon already has a name: “Claustrophilia,” which celebrates the prince for denouncing ties.

“I also suffer from Claus’s tie phobia, so I’m shouting for joy at the prince’s call for a ban on neckties,” Wouter van Winden, a businessman in the central city of Delft, was quoted as saying in Monday’s De Volkskrant newspaper.

“No piece of clothing combines so little function with so much potential to show bad taste,” he said.

“For me, a necktie is like a dog leash – both symbolize a limit on freedom. Why else does Nelson Mandela never wear one?”

Amen, says Claus, who proclaimed the South African president “the best-dressed man I know” during Wednesday’s fashion show at the royal palace in Amsterdam.

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In the United Kingdom, you can’t go a day or two without hearing some news or palace intrigue about the royal family.   Sometimes, it’s enough to tear your hair out an go, “enough already.”  Yet, for the two years I lived in Belgium, and the three years that followed in The Netherlands, I hardly ever heard or saw anything about the Belgian royal family.  In Holland, at least, I was at least aware that Beatrix sat on the throne.  Plus, there was that mildly funny incident where Prince Claus denounced neck ties during a press conference.  Yet, honestly, in my time in Europe, I never heard anything about the Belgian royal family.  And I didn’t even know who was King until five minutes ago, when I typed “King of the Belgians” into Google.”  So, when I lived there Baudouin I ruled, and after I left Europe altogether, Albert II ascended in 1993.  Like other European nations, Belgian is a constitutional monarchy, with the King sitting more as a figurehead, as Parliament and the Prime Minister do most of the governing.  According to Hutchinson Encyclopedia:

A staunch Catholic and a man of high principles, Baudouin abdicated for one day 1990 rather than sign a government bill legalizing abortion.

Part of his childhood was spent under German occupation. His father, seen by some as a Nazi appeaser, abdicated in favour of his son, but was still widely believed to be the power behind the throne.
Naturally self-effacing and living much of his life in the shadow of his much-criticized father, Baudouin was a reluctant monarch who would have preferred a private existence, but who eventually won his people’s trust and affection through his transparent honesty and integrity.

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If you ever look at Prince Charles and wonder What an idiot aloud, rest assured, not all European royal families are as dysfunctional as Britain’s House of Windsor. There’s also a few compounding factors — as terrible as Americans may think The National Enquirer and the paparazzi may be, it pales in comparison to the British tabloid press, which thrives in the UK. Of course, Charles hasn’t helped himself over the years, as had Prince Harry’s antics with drugs and wearing a Nazi uniform.

Still, if one were to cross the northern end of the English Channel, one would find that the Dutch have a resolutely different attitude. If you stopped at a newsagent or a kiosk in, say, Eindhoven, Utrecht, or Amsterdam, you’re not going to find the same type of tabloid coverage. Queen Beatrix, her husband Claus, and her children are not hounded to death, and they enjoy a greater sense of privacy, as a phalanx of reporters do not pursue their every movement, looking for the one compromising moment to cash in on.

Still, despite the differences, the roles of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Beatrix are a lot alike. The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. That is, the Queen rules and passes her throne in a royal lineage, but a constitutional document confers most of the legislative and governing responsibilities to a parliament and a prime minister. Beatrix has some responsibilities, but she’s mostly a figurehead — before the Euro Dollar killed the Guilder, Beatrix’s face in profile graced Dutch coinage. She often travels as a dignitary on behalf of her nation, but there are certain duties she’s expected to fulfill. According to the Dutch Royal Family’s website:

As part of the government, the Queen is closely involved with Dutch political life. The Queen:

  • meets the prime minister and speaks regularly with ministers and state secretaries;
  • signs Acts of Parliament and Royal Decrees;
  • appoints informateurs and formateurs when a new government is being formed;
  • is president of the Council of State, the government’s main advisory body. She became a member of the Council of State on her 18th birthday.

Also:

Since 1848, the Constitution has laid down that the monarch is inviolable. This means that the monarch is politically neutral and the ministers are accountable to Parliament for government policy. The ministers are also politically accountable for what the monarch says and does.