The Royals Visit G.R. (and some other places in the U.S.)
The plain brown envelope that arrived in our mailbox mid-May looked deceptively like some kind of advertisement. The sticker on the back said “Pure Michigan,” and “Michigan Economic Development Corporation”. Thinking it was junk mail we almost did not bother to open it. But once we did and saw that another envelope had a lovely gold seal, we knew it had to be something special. And it was! An invitation from the Governor of Michigan, to attend a lunch in honor of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. And while we were totally surprised to be included, we also felt truly honored.
The Heritage Lunch, as it was called, was one of twenty-five events the King and Queen attended while in the United States. Their tour began at Arlington National Cemetery where they laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and greeted a number of American Veterans who had helped liberate the Netherlands during WWII. From there, they visited President Obama in the Oval Office of the White House. Their conversation ranged from the tragedy of the MH17 that took many Dutch lives, and the work Queen Maxima is involved in the fight against Ebola.
A planned attendance on June 1 at a Major League Baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Toronto Blue Jays was rained out, and the couple had a chance to rest up before their flight to Grand Rapids the next morning.
Tuesday, June 2, turned out to be a glorious day weather wise—blue skies, low temps, no humidity! Dressed in our Sunday best we drove to Meijer Gardens. Once inside we had to show our driver’s license for identification, were given a large name tag, and were told at what table we would be seated in the grand ballroom.
Two hundred and fifty guests had been invited. Mostly business people and others from the Dutch community in Grand Rapids, Holland, and Zeeland. Luke and Ann De Vries, long-time president and secretary respectively of the Dutch International Society Board were also in attendance. Promptly at 12 o’clock the Dutch Royals walked in. We all stood and applauded. Before the lunch there were speeches by Michigan’s Governor Snyder, Paulus Heule, honorary Dutch Consul for West Michigan, and Willem-Alexander. Speaking excellent English, the King had a short speech about Dutch-American relations going back four hundred years. He stated that Michigan is the only place where one can drive from Zeeland to Vriesland to Groningen and to Drenthe in less than an hour! He also enjoyed pronouncing some Dutch names in their original pronunciation, e.g., Huizinga, Van Andel, De Vos, Meekhof, Hoekstra, Dijkstra, etc.
Lunch consisted of Michigan salad, Lake Superior white fish with mushroom risotto and steamed asparagus. Chateau Grand Traverse provided the Pinot Gris and Merlot wines. After lunch, there was coffee and small tarts for dessert and you could get up and mingle. About fifty people, who were given an extra star on their nametag, were allowed to personally greet the royal couple. After Willem-Alexander and Maxima exited the ballroom, they planted a tree and attended the last part of a ballet performed by the Turning Pointe School of Dance of Holland, Michigan. The ballet “It Is Well,” was inspired by the Dutch World War II Dutch Resistance. From there they were whisked away to spend some time at the Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’ Hospital and the Van Andel Research Institute before flying to Chicago where they toured the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
This Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (www.ric.org) is known for its advanced research into patient care, solving patients’ problems better and faster. Willem-Alexander anticipates that Dutch medical professionals will be able to work together with this institute. As a final gesture of goodwill between our two countries, the royals presented 60,000 Dutch tulip bulbs to Chicago, which Mayor Rahm Emmanuel personally accepted.
Before coming to the United States, the King and Queen had paid an official state visit to Canada to explicitly thank the Canadian people for liberating the Netherlands seventy years ago in May, 1945. What you may ask is the difference between a state visit and the less formal visit the royal couple made to the United States?
During an official state visit, the visiting head of state is greeted upon arrival by the host and the national anthems of the two countries are played. The host country gives a formal state dinner in honor of the guests. There is usually an honor guard on arrival and a trooping of the colors of each county.1
The purpose of their trip to the USA was two-fold: to voice their gratitude and to pay their respect to American veterans who helped liberate the Netherlands seventy years ago, and to further trade relations between the two countries.2
1 For a report on the Canadian State Visit go to:
2 For those of you who still understand Dutch, go to
http://www.eo.nl/tv/blauwbloed/ for film clips of the royal visit.