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Dhaka Tribune

Netherlands crowns new king, Gulshan turned orange

Update : 30 Apr 2013, 02:12 PM

It was a bright day to be Dutch. Europe’s youngest monarch was crowned amid much pomp and pageantry in the Netherlands today, hours after Queen Beatrix had formally abdicated to end her 33 years on the throne.

The fanfare which welcomed King Willem-Alexander in Amsterdam was mirrored 10,000km away in Dhaka, where many of the 200 Dutch nationals based in Bangladesh joined the official celebrations in Gulshan, turning one corner of the capital orange for the afternoon.

“I am happy that we have our own orange party here in my residence,” Dutch Ambassador Gerben de Jong told the Dhaka Tribune, “The last time we held an event similar to this was for Netherlands v Spain in the (football) World Cup Final, though today is an even more uniting event.”

Queen Beatrix, 75, took the Netherlands by surprise in January when she used a rare televised address to announceshe would vacate the throne for her 46-year-old son, saying “Now is the moment to lay down my crown.”

Despite her continued popularity, the move continues the abdication tradition begun by her grandmother in 1948, anda first Dutch king in over 120 yearswas warmly received by large crowds gathered in front of the Royal Palace in Dam Square.

“The balcony scene was beautiful. My father asked me to take pictures of this Bangladeshi orange event,” said Liesbeth Faas (28), a development worker based in Chitalmari, who watched the ceremony on a big screen in Gulshan.

Tuesday’s handover provided a welcome boost for a monarchy which has suffered twin traumas in recent years. On Queens Day in 2009, eight well-wishers were killed when an attacker drove his car into flag-waving crowds in the city of Apeldoorn, while Beatrix’s second son, Prince Friso, remains in a comaafter he was buried by an avalanche during a ski trip to Austrialast February.

With question marks hanging unremittingly over the long term futures of Europe’s six other surviving royal families, particularly in Spain where King Juan Carlos– born less than a month before Queen Beatrix – has been mired in scandal for much of the past year,the Dutch expats in Dhaka were just happy to enjoy the day.

Niels van den Berge, 28, a former member of the Dutch Parliament now based in Dinajpur, told the DT that helovesthe royal family, despite being a republican for democratic reasons:

“The royals are involved in sustainability and social work and they are there whenever a national disaster happens. They are an important factor in the stability of our country,” he said.

The Dutch embassy told the DT that 95% of its nationals were expected to remain in Bangladesh for the investiture, with many following the event on twitter, facebook and via online streams.

“My sister wrote to me on whatsapp from one of the public events, and when I see all the people in Amsterdam on television, I miss the Netherlands. But it’s good that we are together here (in Dhaka) and that we can have orange snacks!” said Trix Vahl, 26, a member of the embassy staff.

Known as the ‘Water Prince’ for his expertise in water management, Willem-Alexanderbecomes the largely ceremonial head of a state which, like Bangladesh, is low-lying and vulnerable to flooding. Ambassador Gerben de Jong believes this unifies their people.

“Our countries are similar in nature: both are densely populated and both are deltas. We are keen to continue working with Bangladesh and we hope this will broaden our relationship even further.”

Willem-Alexander broke with tradition in 2002 when marrying Maxima Zorreguieta, a ‘commoner’ from Argentina who is a former investment banker and a keen advocate of microfinance, the brainchild of Bangladeshi Nobel Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus.

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