Reflecting on Queen’s Day 2009

Oranje pride on Queen's Day in the Netherlands
A very orange street musician shows her Dutch pride on Queen’s Day

Koning is Dutch for king and Koningin is Dutch for queen. Koninginnedag (or Queen’s Day) is a national holiday in the Netherlands celebrating the Queen’s birthday.

Not the current Queen Beatrix’s birthday, which is in January, but that of her mother Juliana. Juliana was born on the 30th of April when the weather in Holland tends to be significantly better than during the winter months

She was known to have ridden her bicycle among her people with little to no security. Her subjects were even permitted to stroll right up and give her a peck on the cheek! This way, the cloggie royalty came to be known as “the cycling monarchy.”

Always available to the public, the royal family has continued to not only attend, but participate in Queen’s Day festivities: playing games and dancing as if they too were part of the crowd.

Celebrations begin on April 29th with Koninginnenacht, or “Queen’s Day Eve,” if you will. City centers all over the country are closed off from cars and bikes (the latter unless you like to live dangerously) and people swarm in to set up camp.

Camp? Yes, they head in early to ensure a place in front of houses, canals, buildings, and in parks to set up their wares. Because what is Konninginnedag if not an excuse to sell all your unwanted items? If you choose to visit the Netherlands on the 29th or 30th of April, be prepared to enter Flea Market Heaven (or hell, depending on how you feel about this pastime).

In addition to the sales is scores of live music and loads of drinking. Food and beverage tents and caravans litter the city, and pubs set up shop outside to sell beer on the streets. That way you can enjoy a brew and a snack as you peruse the rummage sales! Bands leaving much to be desired entertain the masses everywhere you turn, and DJs fill the spaces between. But most importantly, everyone is dressed in orange.

My husband and I had Dutch pancakes (pannekoeken) with friends on Koninginnenacht and then headed out into town for an evening of beer, music, and sales.

The next day, we popped over to the Rummelmarkt (yard sale) in Juliana Park and bought some great makeshift toys for the dog. He now has his very own stuffed version of Holland’s mascot Loeki the Lion. Then we headed back into the city center for a nice, ‘healthy’ lunch of patat (fries typically smothered in mayonnaise) and beer, looked around some more at the sales, and listened to several street bands. It was amazing to see so many people squeezed into the streets and canals.

Each year on Koninginnedag, the Royal Family chooses a city in Holland to visit. This year, they graced Appeldoorn with their presence. But everything went horribly wrong.

As per usual, the royal family began with their parade through the town by bus, when a car broke through the police barricades and the crowd, careening toward the bus. Just in the nick of time, the car inexplicably veered off it’s course and crashed into De Naald monument in the center of the square, stopping it dead in it’s tracks. The royal family was rushed to Paleis Het Loo and immediately put under lock-down.

Eight people were killed including the driver of the vehicle, identified as Karst Tates, who passed away in the hospital before anyone could question him. Before falling into a coma at the scene of the accident, he did confess to having planned the attack on the royal family, with crowned prince Willem-Alexander as his primary target.

Prior to these unfortunate events, Tates had lost his job as a security guard and was in heavy financial trouble. His apartment had been seized and sold, and the new family was to move in the following day. It was also reported that he was divorced and being kept from his children.

It has been concluded that he planned and carried out the attack alone. Authorities have yet to determine a motive. While taking his own life as well as the lives of seven others, Tates did not succeed in altering the relaxed lifestyle of the House of Orange, which plans to continue to enjoy many a Queen’s Day to come.

Read more about the tragedy here.

Have you ever experienced Queen’s Day in the Netherlands? If so, what was it like?

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