Recollections of Three Reigns

By Colin Welch; Frederick Ponsonby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
Prince Henry of the Netherlands -- Biarritz -- Asquith's visit and its repercussions -- The official visit to Berlin, 1909 -- Character of William II -- Deadlock in Parliament -- Malta - Vesuvius -- Prince Henry of Prussia

ALTHOUGH my status at this time was that of an Equerry, I rarely had to do an Equerry's duties, apart from having to attend the King in uniform when two Equerries were required. It rarely fell to my lot to have to do odd jobs, as the other Equerries had to do.

I forget what the reason was, but none of the other Equerries was available when the King in 1907 sent a Mission to The Hague to present the Grand Cross of the Bath to Prince Henry of the Netherlands,1 and I therefore received orders to accompany Prince Alexander of Teck.

We had a delightful time, as all Hague society inundated us with invitations. The presentation ceremony was conducted with the proper ceremonial and we had to dress up in full uniform. One of the Attache's from the Legation was to carry the cushion on which the insignia were placed, and in order to prevent their falling off I stuck the pin at the back of the Star through the velvet cushion. The Attaché, however, was not content with this, but secured the end of the pin by the catch to make doubly sure. The result was that when Prince Alexander, having made a suitable speech, tried to get hold of the Star, he found it firmly fixed to the cushion and spent some time in getting it loose. This rather spoilt the most impressive moment of the ceremony.

Prince Henry was regarded by some members of the Royal Family of Europe as a tiresome man, but it always seemed to me that he played the difficult part of Prince Consort with some skill, although he was never popular in Holland. Apparently he had learnt to speak English and was very proud of the fact. In the smoking-room after dinner I was brought up to him and the Chamberlain impressed upon me the necessity of speaking English and not German to him. All the Dutch suite spoke French and German, but few could manage English. It was therefore clear that he wished to show them how well he spoke. The conversation was, however, not very easy as he invariably refused any help I offered. I asked him about the wreck of an English vessel where he was said to have shown great gallantry. I said I supposed the waves must have been terrific, and he replied, 'Yes, the sea was very--very--very . . .'

'Rough?'

____________________
1
Consort to Queen Wilhelmina.

-249-

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