Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Wedding of Princess Beatrix and Claus von Amsberg


Despite the throngs of well-wishers lining the streets of Amsterdam to cheer the marriage of Crown Princess Beatrix to Claus von Amsberg on this day in 1966, perhaps because of the country's renowned propensity towards politeness history tends to remember the more sensational aspects of the event - the protestors chanting 'Claus raus'*, the throwing of an occasional stink bomb, and in general the antics of a disorganized albeit highly entertaining rabble...

At its core, though, the discontent highlighted a legitimate concern that a Dutch Princess was marrying a German (however sophisticated and suitably aristocratic) who had served in both the Hitler Youth and the Wehrmacht; only a generation had passed since the brutal Nazi occupation of Holland ended, and there were bound to be some lingering bad feelings. Perhaps time (in the form of the four decades that have since passed) offers a kind of perspective the youthful exuberance of the day does not, but I can think of no better way to heal such a hurtful rift than the solemnization of a love pact on such a grand scale. It is, after all, one of the functions of monarchy to act as the national spirit writ large. As pastor Pastor J.H. Sillevis Smit said during his sermon 'May this marriage, that has caused so many tension, be a cause of harmony in the future, a proof that the nations can together build a lasting peace.' It certainly did that, as Prince Claus eventually became one of the country's more popular royals.

In a dress designed by Caroline Bergé-Farwick of Maison Linette and wearing some seriously ornate jewellery, the Princess did everything to reward the congregation of visiting royalty by appearing throughout the festivities as every inch the princess; the calm demeanour she displayed throughout the day** may be inconsistent with the stereotype of a jittery bride but it's entirely in keeping with what's expected of princesses in general and specifically the sensational poise of Princess (now Queen) Beatrix.

*Meaning 'Claus, out' - in all a pretty witty slogan to chant (if you really must chant slogans at all)...
**Not to mention during the week of banquets and parties that preceded it.
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