At 10.00 am on April 30th, Willem-Alexander of the House of Orange will become King of the Netherlands when his mother, Queen Beatrix, signs the Act of Abdication. It will be marked with huge public festivities – but not everyone will be joining in.
Five questions to young representatives of pro and anti – monarchy movements.
|“The Dutch royal family is the face of the Netherlands abroad. It commands more respect than a president.” Martijn van Beckhoven (35) is a firm believer in the
monarchy. He is chair of the newest Orange Society in the Netherlands.
|“Down with the monarchy”, is the very clear message on hetis2013.nl. Gijs Peskens (27)
is co-founder of this Republican site, and busy helping organise various anti-monarchy events.
|What will you be doing on April 30th?|
|“We’re organising a big music festival in our village. I’m looking after the programming and the bands. It’s going to be a really traditional event, with Orange- themed games and food for everyone. I won’t be wearing a fake crown, but I will put on an orange shirt.”||“We’ll be demonstrating at the Waterloo Square in Amsterdam. More than 1,000 people have already signed up. In the run-up to the 30th we’re holding all sorts of workshops about how to express your opinions creatively. An artist is showing how to make eye-catching banners; we’ve even got a body-painter. A lawyer will explain exactly what rights you have, even if you want to protest outside the official areas.
People will wear white as a sign of protest. Something white is not yet defined, which for us represents the undefined future of the Royal family because things have to change.”
|Why is this important to you?|
“There was never anything for young people to do in our village on Queen’s Day. Youngsters always headed off to the big cities. So we’re organising a party ourselves. We really want to get across a feeling of unity, an “Orange-feeling”. We’re proud of the Netherlands and I think it’s OK to celebrate that.”
“We want a discussion about the monarchy. It’s out-of-date. It’s wrong that we can’t judge our head of state. Immunity really shouldn’t exist nowadays. A leader should be accountable and chosen for their qualities, not because of their family background. “
|What do you expect from the new king and queen?
|“I think they’ll be less attached to the old traditions. Hopefully our national holiday King’s Day won’t be as old-fashioned as Queen’s Day with all that old stuff like sack races and spijkerpoepen (literally ‘nail-pooping’). I hope young people will get more involved and that it will become a bit more modern.”
|“Okay, Willem-Alexander is more modern than his mother. But real democracy would be if he said: “I’m in this position now, but let’s hold a referendum about the future of the royal family.” On our site there’s a petition calling for the law about referendums to be amended. At the moment a referendum can be called in the Netherlands on any subject except the monarchy. We think that’s ridiculous."|
|What do you think of people who have a completely different viewpoint?|
|“It’s an opinion. I think the royals are the face of the Netherlands abroad. They command more respect than a president. I know lots of Germans, and they’re all crazy about the House of Orange. It’s like football. We’re jealous of the Germans because they’re world champions so often, and they’re jealous of our royal family. “||“Fine if that’s what floats your boats, but try and open your eyes to the reality and how things could be better. We need to put the monarchy to a democratic test. “|
|What do you want to say to your opponent?|
|“Look at what the options are if you get rid of the monarchy. It doesn’t matter if you have a King or a President – it’s still one individual who’s representing your country.”||“Sign our petition – even if you’re ‘pro’. Because it is 2013.”|