King Willem-Alexander had forgotten his parents’ warnings on his Greek vacation. For Prime Minister Rutte, it is a signal that he cannot rely blindly on the royal antenna.
Prince Claus once put this maxim to his son: “Remember in everything you do: can it tolerate the daylight if it comes out?” Willem-Alexander took his father’s advice to heart, he said in an interview. “With every action you take: if it is for fun, then you have to weigh it twice as hard.”
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His mother Beatrix told writer Hella Haasse during her reign that she had “a red light” in the back of her mind. It warned her. “I don’t hurt anyone, can I say this, can I do that, is this justified?” She added: “And yes, you still make so many mistakes.”
His parents’ warnings failed King Willem-Alexander last weekend. He made a mistake by wanting to spend the autumn vacation with his family in the white villa in sunny Greece. In the days before, the cabinet had advised against unnecessary travel movements. And although the head of state flew to a country with code yellow, according to the website of Foreign Affairs, there are also “risks” associated with this.
The House of Representatives is now enthusiastically targeting Prime Minister Rutte – after all, he is always politically responsible, but for the first time in years this affair is also raising the question of the King’s sense of responsibility himself. It is remarkable that he and his permanent entourage have apparently not harbored any suspicion.
They could accept that the holiday would not remain a secret. It is known at court that aircraft spotters follow the movements of the government aircraft. Warnings may have been defied, but this is a sign anyway that old ghosts can reappear just like that.
In the first seven years of his reign, Willem-Alexander showed that he has accepted the office inwardly and can successfully exercise it. This was often questioned in his early years as “Prince Lager”. The image of a hopping riot who didn’t take matters so seriously stuck to him. Even his grandmother Juliana, according to former Prime Minister Lubbers, expressed doubts about the suitability of her grandson.
But his engagement and marriage to Máxima Zorreguieta, in combination with a thorough preparation for the kingship by many auxiliary troops, made that he was ready for the inauguration in 2013. The soap around the holiday villa in Mozambique, the clumsy reference to a letter from former dictator Videla in defense of his father-in-law (“a bit stupid,” said Máxima) – they had not been forgotten but forgiven.
In his court, the new king created a new position, that of “personal adviser”. He has three, and they act as “eyes and ears in society.” They take part in the royal couple’s program with advice and action. Willem-Alexander does not aspire to political monarchy, but wants to represent the country, be a connecting link between heterogeneous citizens and encourage social initiatives. Good for him, good for the Netherlands, harmless for Prime Minister Rutte.
It has led to a series of moments that are as diverse as they are memorable, from the surprise visit to the Hague market, the empathy with the relatives of the MH17 disaster, to the impressive speech on 4 May earlier this year during the Remembrance Day on an empty Dam. After some getting used to it, the new King’s Day style was also well received by the people.
Sunbathe in Greece
But don’t touch your private life. It is sacred to the House of Orange. Willem-Alexander is at least as strict and stubborn in this as his parents. Since the birth of the three princesses, school holidays have been blocked in the royal calendar. The family goes to their in-laws in Argentina, ski in Lech or sunbathe in Greece. Here it comes first of all to the king’s own assessment.
It is a wake-up call for Rutte that he cannot rely blindly on the royal antenna in this complicated period. This observation coincides with a renewed sensitivity to the privileges of the House of Orange. While large parts of the population are badly affected by the consequences of corona, the king is getting a raise. And his eldest daughter will soon receive a generous benefit.
In the debate earlier this month, Rutte, faithful to his loose style, smoothly stepped over the emotions that all this evokes. But it will be clear to him by now that, however busy he may be, he better be on top of it in the near future.