My First Royal Meeting

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I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw my mailbox this afternoon: King and Queen tp pay regional visit to Northwest Friesland on Monday 13 June 2016. It is the area in the Netherlands my parents originally come from, where part of my roots are. But of course they wouldn’t … but yes! Sint Annaparochie, Wier, Tzummarum, Franeker and Harlingen. Now the two latter ones are towns, and have surely seen royal visitors before. They were even part of Queen’s Days in the past. But I am not too sure if they’ve ever visited one of the three mentioned villages. And I have relatives living in all three of them. Not the most touristic area of the Netherlands perhaps, close to the Wadden Sea and pretty empty space. But a cycle tour or a tour by car along the coast can be very lovely if you climb the dikes once in a while.

Just a pity that the royals will likely spend so little time all the way up north in the Netherlands. In Sint Annaparochie they will visit the school Campus Middelsee, where schools and companies work together to connect secondary school students to the local labor market. They will likely not have time for the Van Harenskerk , where 13 members of that family were buried long time ago. They were monarchists as far as I know, and some descendants even married into the high nobility (Hohenlohe for example). The copper doors to their grave chapel were donated by King Karl XI of Sweden. In the old church, that was previously on the same spot the world famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn married in 1634 Saskia van Uylenburgh. There is even a statue of them in front of the church.

The King and Queen will likely immediately travel on from the Campus Middelsee to the tiny village of Wier, where they will visit the tomato farm “ItWiid”. Let’s be honest, the farm is almost situated in Berlikum, but officially it is in Wier, where my mother was born. A village with hardly 200 inhabitants. But if the Royal Couple would love camping, they would find a nice place for their caravan or tent here with a view on the old 12th century church that was restored in recent years. On the wall of the church is a very special astronomical clock, a present from a grateful man who hide in the village in WWII. And I am sure they could have a nice drink or ice cream on the terrace of the camping site. The Lautawei street remembers of the Lauta State, a noble house, that until 1748 was situated on that spot. Just outside the village is an ugly grey round building – which is much more important than you’d think. It is on of the two radar stations of the Dutch Royal Air Force that protects the Dutch airspace. I am certain the royals will pass it – and the actual village of Wier – on their way to Tzummarum, where they will visit the old people’s home Nij Bethanië. Can’t remember I have ever really gone into the village, but an uncle and aunt live there.

I am pretty sure King Willem-Alexander doesn’t really remember, but he has been in Wier before, probably the only royal that has ever been there. Ever heard of the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour), a skating tour of almost 200 kilometres leading past all eleven historical cities of the province of Friesland? And yes, somewhere just after the tenth city, Franeker, it passes Wier too. The last time it could be held was in 1997. I spent part of the tours of 1985, 1986 and 1997 in Wier with my relatives and stood near and on the ice for hours and hours. 1997 was the last time unfortunately. But it was on 26 February 1986 that I surely remember I saw a royal. 18-year-old Prince Willem-Alexander had a bet with friends that he could skate the tour and as a prince of course managed to get on the contestants list. It must be said he did finish!  He was skating under the name of W.A. van Buren, but at the time he reached Wier, it was long known that he participated and even how he was dressed – as he was very recognisable you could hardly miss him.

Anyway we had seen him passing, when a friend of my mother said, he is still there on the bridge! A cousin and I went there of course, too curious to see a real Prince from nearby. Don’t blame us, we were 12 and 13. He was sitting in a car on the bridge holding either a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. He must have been exhausted and cold at that point. Just imagine us standing there for probably 15 minutes or so just looking at the car and the poor Prince. My cousin said today that we were only a metre away and that we were sent away by his bodyguards, which I can’t really remember anymore, but of course we kept on watching from a somewhat bigger distance. If he ever noticed us? We have no idea. At one point he got back on the ice, full of energy again (hopefully). Above pictures were probably taken just after his stop, by a friend of my mother.

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