King Willem-Alexander has ruled for ten eventful years marked with controversy
Three weeks from Sunday marks the tenth anniversary that Willem-Alexander ascended the throne, after his mother stepped down as queen, now holding the title of Prince Beatrix. It has been ten eventful years for Willem-Alexander. He struggled with the restrictions the rest of the public faced during the coronavirus pandemic, but he also contributed by making the hunting lodge Het Oude Loo available to Ukrainian refugees. His decision not to use the Golden Carriage for the time being because of its link with the country’s colonial past and links to slavery was also considered to be a landmark move.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the king made several missteps, including his decision to spend a holiday in Greece with his family. This while the population was called upon to stay at home as much as possible to help contain the coronavirus outbreak. Almost immediately after the trip became public knowledge, the royal couple flew back to the Netherlands and apologized. Rarely has a monarch been taken to task to such an extent by the Dutch media and public following the anger caused by the trip. After all, it was not the first time that Willem-Alexander made such a mistake: just a few months earlier, he and Queen Máxima failed to comply with the coronavirus rules in Greece by taking a picture side by side with a restaurant owner.
Things went awry again the following summer, when he shook hands and did not keep a safe social distance from football supporters in The Hague just before the Dutch men’s national team was set to take part in a European Championship match. A few months later, the family made another error during the eighteenth birthday of Princess Amalia. The eldest daughter of Willem-Alexander and Máxima had invited more people to a party than was allowed.
The king will not use the controversial Golden Carriage for the time being, he announced last year. The carriage was taken out of service for restoration after Prinsjesdag in 2015, the day in which the monarch traditionally rides in the Golden Carriage to address Parliament on the upcoming budget and national objectives. Since then, the Glass Carriage has been used instead. After the restoration was completed, the Golden Carriage was put on display at the Amsterdam Museum, where the king said it was where it belongs.
Last January, Willem-Alexander said in a video address that the Netherlands is not yet ready to put the Golden Carriage back into use. In line with this, the king also joined the Cabinet’s formal apology for the country’s past history of slavery. According to the monarch, it was a start to repairing the damage that was done, but there is also "a long way ahead of us," he said during his speech at this year's traditional New Year's reception.
The royal couple was clearly affected by the war in Ukraine that broke out last February. The couple said they "deeply sympathize" with the people in the country that found themselves under Russia’s unprovoked attacks. Ukrainian refugees were therefore also welcomed by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima at Het Oude Loo, the hunting lodge castle on the grounds of the Het Loo Palace. The king said that he had already visited the refugees a few times and that he had good contact with them. "They are doing very well. Some have already traveled on to other addresses, others have returned to Ukraine. But the fantastic thing is that they have actually all found a job," said the king after the State visit to Greece last November.
There has been some criticism in recent years about the royal grounds of the Het Loo Palace, where the king hunts "part of a day a year." The domain is closed to the public every year. Officially, that is to create more peace in the area, but the royal family also hunts there during that period. Many environmental conservationists and public activists do not agree with the annual closure, that also serves the royal family’s interests, and there is criticism of the million-dollar subsidy that the king receives for this: about 4.8 million euros over the past five years.
Reporting by ANP