All about cycling in the Netherlands
In just a couple of days the Dutch will have a new head of state: the reign of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands starts on April 30th with his inauguration. (Dutch monarchs are not crowned!) After a 33 year reign, his mother Queen Beatrix stepped back. Not because she was tired of the position, but because she felt the country should be passed on to a next generation. My own generation, the king is only two years younger than I am, and that takes some getting used to. In the days leading up to this big event the Dutch get ever more exited. Orange coloured decorations are popping up everywhere. But not all the preparations were positive for cyclists. Amsterdam started removing parked bicycles a week before the event already.
And let’s stay with this topic of cycling! As I already showed you on the day of the announcement, the Dutch Royals have a long cycle tradition. Just like their subjects, they use the bicycle for all sorts of every day reasons. That day I could only show you pictures, but you are used to seeing videos on this blog. So for today’s post, I prepared a video with moving images of most of the five generations of cycling Dutch royals. Only from Queen Wilhelmina, the first generation, I couldn’t find any filmed footage.
Video of Willem-Alexander and the other Dutch Royals cycling.
Wilhelmina had fallen in love with cycling on a holiday in Austria in 1897, and she quickly got herself her own bicycle. This was against the will of her mother, the originally German Queen Emma. Just before Wilhelmina became Queen in 1898, Emma had forbidden the young Queen (she had just turned 18) to cycle. Wilhelmina was the only heir to the throne and Emma found the risk too high, that she would not be able to produce a new heir to the throne, in case of an accident. Wilhelmina challenged her mother by going to the Council of State, but they supported the decision, stating that “the matter of her Majesty’s life and death is too important for too many of her loyal subjects, to take the risk, how ever small it may seem”. The official reason given was: “Cycling is not dignified enough for a Queen”. Queen Wilhelmina obeyed the cycling ban until the early 1930s. Especially after her mother died in 1934, she was increasingly seen cycling with her daughter Juliana on public roads around the palace in The Hague.
All generations of the Dutch Royals have since cycled and have also been filmed cycling. They cycled privately but also public visits by the queens, in their own country and abroad, included a cycle tour quite often. Especially Queen Juliana was exited every time she got to ride a bicycle on an official visit. Recently the current royal couple cycled on state visits in New York and Istanbul. Willem-Alexander’s originally Argentinian wife Máxima cycles with their children and she also cycled in ’s-Hertogenbosch. She visited a school to hand out certificates to children who passed their traffic-exams. We can only speculate if Willem-Alexander will continue to publicly cycle as a king. But I see absolutely no reason to give up cycling as the head of state of a cycling nation. It is also a good sign that his three daughters, including the new crown-princess Amalia, have been seen cycling on a number of occasions already. The future of the Dutch Royals on a bicycle seems secure!