Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

The only thing I was lacking when I flew to Amsterdam last weekend for the wedding of the Prince of Orange and Maxima Zorreguieta was something orange. From the moment I landed I have never seen so much orange. Everyone was wearing orange jackets, orange coats, orange scarves, orange crowns, orange afro-wigs. Amsterdam was completely orange. I was lucky enough to be invited, with thousands of others, to the wedding, because my wife, Santa, was friends with Maxima long ago. Since I've never been to a royal wedding, I was fascinated to be there - but it also had lessons for us in Britain. On Friday night, we started our Orange odyssey at the national celebration in the Amsterdam Arena. We all know from Tony Blair's Millennium how ghastly such events can be: the Dutch, who unlike New Labour can mix history with mischief and modernity, could have taught him how to do it. This was exhilarating, funny, warm, sometimes outrageous, and entertaining - cleverly combining rap, heavy metal, torch-singers, weird modern ballet and inclusive multiculturalism with folksy songs, military bands and 18th-century costumes. Fifty-five thousand Dutch Orangeists behaved like teenage boyband fans for their monarchy. My favourite moment of this public part of the wedding was the arrival of Loes Luca, an extraordinary old Dutch torch-singer - their version of Shirley Bassey - who arrived in the stadium in a white stretch-limousine, whence she emerged to sing 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen for the Queen of Holland - and Nelson Mandela. The guardsmen in l8thcentury jodhpurs, boots and shakos, whom I presumed must be members of their household cavalry, turned out to be prancing dancers who would be more at home in a Robbie Williams video. In a priceless mixture of showbusiness, blazing charm and modern media monarchy, the crown prince and Maxima arrived in a vintage car, followed by hundreds of couples dancing in white tie, and then dismounted to universal Maximania. The marriage itself the next day was simple and touching: we sat in silence listening to the vows - and the roaring of the crowds outside. As for the festivities, the pale icing of Europe's interbred archipelago of Teutonic princelings was simply melted by the scarlet exuberance of the Latin tango.

The Maxima who has created Maximania and made Holland glamorous is a lovelylooking, intelligent, blonde, sensual, sunny Argentine, who has learnt fluent Dutch and possesses a gentle, all-conquering Latin charisma - but she never plays cheaply to the gallery. She has doubled the popularity of the royals to 75 per cent. The Dutch are lucky to have her; but I couldn't fathom the many banners reading 'Maxima loopen'. This means, I believe, 'Maxima walks', which I took to be a Dutch statement of the obvious until they explained to me that Dutch girls just walk like any old Anglo-Saxon but that Maxima, being Argentine, walks a special tango-fuelled walk that drives Dutchmen mad. She really can loopen. I even saw a republican demonstrator holding a placard: 'Maxima for President!'

The whole thing gave me hope. The Oranges and Windsors have both had their troubles. I returned to England to the usual dreary dirge of the BBC undermining the jubilee, which everyone was undermining before it had started. The Dutch enjoy things at which we chippy, self-hating Britons only sneer. …

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