Beyond the Pageantry, the King’s Speech Is a Snapshot of the State of Dutch Politics

Beyond the Pageantry, the King’s Speech Is a Snapshot of the State of Dutch Politics
The carriage of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima during the celebration of Prinsjesdag (Budget Day) at the Binnenhof in The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 18, 2018 (Photo by Mischa Schoemaker for Sipa USA via AP Images).

AMSTERDAM—If you think the annual rundown of a government’s policy plans has to be a droll, soporific affair, perhaps you should look at the Netherlands. Its version of the State of the Union is a carnival of color, pageantry and whimsy, cleverly concealing the arcane necessity of a national budget, and the delicate state of negotiations over politically charged policy choices.

Tuesday was Prinsjesdag in the Netherlands—the Princes’ Day, also known as Budget Day. It happens every year on the third Tuesday in September, when the Dutch monarch, now King Willem-Alexander, formally opens the new parliamentary year, reading a speech to a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Ridderzaal, the Hall of Knights, in the Hague, with its massive, ornate thrones for the king and queen.

Behind the sea of orange in the streets, beyond the gilded royal carriage and the kaleidoscope of fashion choices among the throngs that witness the day’s events, lies a collection of governing decisions and a series of messages for audiences at home and abroad—all meticulously tucked into the “troonrede,” or the king’s speech.

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