I'm a sucker for a little royal extravaganza, and while by Britannic standards the Dutch do things in a very low-key way, I've enjoyed watching events in the Netherlands the last day or two, helped in no small part part by some extremely erudite and amusing bloggers, not least the presiding genius of The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor and dear Ella of the late lamented Mad Hattery, who now presides over the very thorough A Tiara a Day.
Having lived overseas, I think, gives one a rather personal feeling about the kinds of gatherings seen above, representatives of families ranging from the the House of Orange itself (its central players decked out in blue from head to toe, including some truly startling sapphires - go find some snaps of the new Queen Maxima if you're looking for today's sparkle fix) right on down to our own dear Sultanate.*
As the Sultan rarely joins what Queen Victoria called the Royal Mob, the Al Said family is represented by H.H. Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq (the gentleman at the very top of the back row there, in between the two in more traditional-looking Arabic headgear; he of course is wearing the distinctive Omani massar, or turban). He's nice; I met him once or twice while living there. He used to pop up occasionally to open an exhibition or some such sundry duty, driving himself and usually startling the organizers by not requiring more fuss.
Also representing the region was the formidable Sheikha Mozah of Qatar, uncharacteristically sober in black and midnight blue, but the clear winner of today's Largest Necklace stakes. I also like that her purse brooch matches her earrings. It's all in the details, kids.
The spectre at this feast, I think, is the mysterious Crown Princess Masako of Japan, decked out in unflattering thick vanilla brocade and looking as vacant and lost as she has ever since she forsook her career in the Foreign Ministry to join the imperial family. Having lived in Japan when her royal romance was daily tabloid fodder, it's hard to reconcile this woman with the lively, worldly girl who then disappeared into the maze of protocol and tradition. It was a rare international outing for her (she is said to be fond of the Dutch royal family, who have been especially kind to her, perhaps one reason for the trip), and while it's to be hoped that this means that her lingering malaise may be lifting, her wan appearance is not encouraging. While I'm dropping names, I suppose I could mention that also I've met her brother-in-law, the Crown Prince's brother (and winner by default as the heir presumptive, Masako not having had a son) who came backstage yonks ago when I was working on a production in London. No one seemed quite sure who he was, exactly, but he was terribly polite; it turned our star had met him in Tokyo. Smoked like a chimney.
Charles and Camilla are there as well; one wonders what he makes of his Dutch counterpart's smooth transition from heir to monarch. Watching Queen Beatrix turn herself back into a mere princess, in a simple ceremony that was actually rather moving, it was easy to see the virtue of having abandoned the principal of "the king is dead; long live the king." Given the Windsor women's ever-expanding longevity (if things go on like this, Princess Anne will make 120), Charles must wonder if he'll ever get to stand in the center of a group of congratulatory visiting royals.
But today belongs to Willem Alexander, the first Dutch king since before Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and his Argentine consort, who as of today commands a jewel box that would send Eva Peron into fits of jealousy. They seem to have started out very well indeed, and it will be interesting to watch their story play out, the three little girls in blue growing up and now-Princess Beatrix fading properly into the background. The secret of royalty is the seductive combination of spectacle and time, impassive continuity and little human touches. They look like a pleasant family, and there's something cozy in thinking that when I'm an old man, 30 years or so from now, I'll watch the inauguration of new Queen Amalia, perhaps with whoever the new Windsor now waiting to be born turns out to be looking on...
* One wonders if the Tongans have done something to offend; they seem to have dropped off the invite lists for these affairs...