A Royal Visit to Northwest Friesland in 1905

Ha, ha, asked my uncle Wietse Leistra, who is a local historian, whether the royals had ever been in the area of Northwest Friesland, The Netherlands.


Royal train at Sexbierum, 27 September 1905. Source: http://oudtzummarum.nl/

He came up with this picture from the royal train at Sexbierum, not too far from Tzummarum, on 27 September 1905. I searched and it turns out the railway between Stiens and Harlingen was opened in December 1902 (and closed in December 1940). It among others passed Sint Annaparochie and Tzummarum. An extensive newspaper report says that Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik of the Netherlands spent several days in the Province of Friesland at the time. On the 27th of September they apparently took the train from Leeuwarden to Stiens, and from there to Harlingen. They stopped for five minutes each on the railway stations of Stiens, Sint Annaparochie and Sexbierum where the inhabitants were celebrating them. Dutch flags all over the place as well as tasteful decorations. I wonder if the people really have seen much of the royal couple, but it must have been something very special at the time.

My First Royal Meeting

Photos copyrighted

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw my mailbox this afternoon: King and Queen tp pay regional visit to Northwest Friesland on Monday 13 June 2016. It is the area in the Netherlands my parents originally come from, where part of my roots are. But of course they wouldn’t … but yes! Sint Annaparochie, Wier, Tzummarum, Franeker and Harlingen. Now the two latter ones are towns, and have surely seen royal visitors before. They were even part of Queen’s Days in the past. But I am not too sure if they’ve ever visited one of the three mentioned villages. And I have relatives living in all three of them. Not the most touristic area of the Netherlands perhaps, close to the Wadden Sea and pretty empty space. But a cycle tour or a tour by car along the cost can be very lovely if you climb the dikes once in a while.


Van Harenskerk

Just a pity that the royals will likely spend so little time all the way up north in the Netherlands. In Sint Annaparochie they will visit the school Campus Middelsee, where schools and companies work together to connect secondary school students to the local labor market. They will likely not have time for the Van Harenskerk , where 13 members of that family were buried long time ago. They were monarchists as far as I know, and some descendants even married into the high nobility (Hohenlohe for example). The copper doors to their grave chapel were donated by King Karl XI of Sweden. In the old church, that was previously on the same spot the world famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn married in 1634 Saskia van Uylenburgh. There is even a statue of them in front of the church.

The King and Queen will likely immediately travel on from the Campus Middelsee to the tiny village of Wier, where they will visit the tomato farm “ItWiid”. Let’s be honest, the farm is almost situated in Berlikum, but officially it is in Wier, where my mother was born. A village with hardly 200 inhabitants. But if the Royal Couple would love camping, they would find a nice place for their caravan or tent here with a view on the old 12th century church that was restored in recent years. On the wall of the church is a very special astronomical clock, a present from a grateful man who hide in the village in WWII. And I am sure they could have a nice drink or ice cream on the terrace of the camping site. The Lautawei street remembers of the Lauta State, a noble house, that until 1748 was situated on that spot. Just outside the village is an ugly grey round building – which is much more important than you’d think. It is on of the two radar stations of the Dutch Royal Air Force that protects the Dutch airspace. I am certain the royals will pass it – and the actual village of Wier – on their way to Tzummarum, where they will visit the old people’s home Nij Bethanië. Can’t remember I have ever really gone into the village, but an uncle and aunt live there.


Willem-Alexander, 26 February 1986

I am pretty sure King Willem-Alexander doesn’t really remember, but he has been in Wier before, probably the only royal that has ever been there. Ever heard of the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour), a skating tour of almost 200 kilometres leading past all eleven historical cities of the province of Friesland? And yes, somewhere just after the tenth city, Franeker, it passes Wier too. The last time it could be held was in 1997. I spent part of the tours of 1985, 1986 and 1997 in Wier with my relatives and stood near and on the ice for hours and hours. 1997 was the last time unfortunately. But it was on 26 February 1986 that I surely remember I saw a royal. 18-year-old Prince Willem-Alexander had a bet with friends that he could skate the tour and as a prince of course managed to get on the contestants list. It must be said he did finish!  He was skating under the name of W.A. van Buren, but at the time he reached Wier, it was long known that he participated and even how he was dressed – as he was very recognisable you could hardly miss him. Anyway we had seen him passing, when a friend of my mother said, he is still there on the bridge! A cousin and I went there of course, too curious to see a real Prince from nearby. Don’t blame us, we were 12 and 13. He was sitting in a car on the bridge holding either a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. He must have been exhausted and cold at that point. Just imagine us standing there for probably 15 minutes or so just looking at the car and the poor Prince. My cousin said today that we were only a metre away and that we were sent away by his bodyguards, which I can’t really remember anymore, but of course we kept on watching from a somewhat bigger distance. If he ever noticed us? We have no idea. At one point he got back on the ice, full of energy again (hopefully). Above picture was probably taken just after his stop, by a friend of my mother.

Two (Three) Happy Queens


Here the newest additions to my collection. It must at least have been a year ago that I acquired Queen Silvia of Sweden (in the middle). On Sunday a friend gave me Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain as a gift. And I decided to buy Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands myself, after I found out she is still available. My mother isn’t happy, as I always have to put them away when she comes – the waving hands (there are solar cells in their handbags) make too much noise. I honestly hardly hear it anymore myself. Silvia and Elizabeth are products by Kikkerland.com. They have several versions of the Queen, including a special 90th birthday edition. Queen Beatrix was issued in 2013 on the occasion of her abdication, and was fabricated by a Dutch company called “Buro Glimlach”. I bought mine at The Tin Star Company. If you want to have one, just search for Solar Queen and the name in a search engine, as prices can be different.

Accidentally two of these Queens were in the news this week. Queen Silvia of Sweden became a grandmother for the fifth time. A baby boy was born to Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia at Danderyds Hospital on 19 April at 6.25 (statement)/6.28 (Carl Philip). The gender wasn’t immediately announced, but was announced by the happy father during a short press conference later in the evening. Mother and child are doing fine and left hospital already the next day. The only picture we got to see thus far is the one of the parents leaving the hospital with their newborn son. Not much to see tough. The name and title were announced in a Council of State on 21 April at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. He will be known as His Royal Higness Prince Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil of Sweden, Duke of Södermanland. A Te Deum will be held in the palace church in Stockholm on 22 April. I am sure a photo will follow somewhere in the coming days.

Anyway the most important birthday girl of the week was of course Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, who today, 21 April, turned 90 years old. Can you imagine? You really wouldn’t say if you’d see her. She still looks so good and healthy, the same can be said of her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who will even turn 95 on 10 June (although his skin clearly shows he is old). And they’re still have more than enough engagements. Yesterday and today they (especially the Queen of course) were celebrated in Windsor, where they’re staying these days. A private party with the family seems to take place this evening. Big celebrations – going on for days – will take place in May and June. I hope to see as much of it as possible on television. Long live the Queen (and the Duke)!

By the way, also Queen Beatrix, at 78, is still going strong. She today attended the Four Freedom Awards.

Royal and Noble Clothes on the Catwalk

I must admit, I hadn’t been at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for probably 20 years, and couldn’t even remember anymore what it looked like. After the renovation that was finished three years ago it was really about time to visit again. I didn’t find the time a few weeks ago, but an old friend of mine from the USA was in Amsterdam last week, and she luckily agreed we could go to the museum. Apart from some important paintings by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, a few less interesting Van Goghs, etc. there also was the “Catwalk” exhibition, which I really wanted to see. It is open from 20 February to 16 May 2016. Already the start of it was spectacular.

Six galleries of the Philips Wing have been dedicated to Dutch fashion from 1625 to 1960. I clearly hadn’t really read much about the exhibition, as I immediately noticed the first part of the exhibition showed garments worn by members of the Frisian branche of the House of Nassau in the 17th and 18th century. Amazingly items with bullet holes – the Stadtholders Ernst Casimir I and Hendrik Casimir died on the battlefield – are still being kept.

The exhibition was designed by Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, who could choose from the fashion collection of the Rijksmuseum, which contains some 10.000 items including attire for men, women and children. Surprisingly some dresses look almost like new and we really loved having a look at the wonderful details like beads, embroidery, lace, silver thread … The newer dresses were nice, but the more historical ones were really amazing. The most impressive piece is without doubt the Mantua dress with train that was worn by Helena Slicher in 1759 when she married Baron Aelbrecht van Slingelandt. This is according to the museum the widest dress – over two metres – in the Netherlands. The pale blue dress was embroidered with flowers, which was apparently considered old-fashioned already at the time, and had modern sleeves with three ruffles. In case you wonder, the ladies who wore such dresses went through a door sideways. Poor men, standing so far away from your wife while you get married.

Just not too many books …

I have never counted them, but I must have hundreds of books, mainly about royalty. From simple booklets, picture books, biographies, autobiographies and genealogical works. Books about endless topics like cooking, fashion, animals, special occasions, jewelry, yearbooks, families, people and of course castles and churches. As you have seen in my previous post my bookshelves needed a reorganisation. Not quite sure when I did that for the last time, must be one or two years ago. Unfortunately I have even more books now, and hardly have any space left for more. I might well have to get rid of some of them next time. But for now … just have a look at the result. Looks quite fabulous, doesn’t it?

Hohenzollern Funeral Service

Photos: copyright Gabi P

The funeral of Prince Johann Georg von Hohenzollern, who died in München, Germany, on 2 March 2016, was rather a private one. On 12 March the funeral service took place in the Hedinger Church in Sigmaringen, however the streets around the church were closed. Even only very few guests were allowed to drive all the way down to the church, and had to walk the last part. Of course the closest family didn’t have to and was driven straight to the church. After the service there was a reception at Sigmaringen Castle. Many German royals and nobles came to Sigmaringen to say goodbye.

Johann Georg Carl Leopold Eitel-Friedrich Meinrad Maria Hubertus Michael, Prince von Hohenzollern – called Hansi by friends and family – was born at Sigmaringen Castle on 31 July 1932 as sixth of the seven children of Fürst Friedrich von Hohenzollern an Princess Margarete of Saxony. In December 1960 his engagement to Princess Birgitta of Sweden was announced and they got married in May 1961. They separated in 1990, but remained legally married. They had issue: Carl Christian (* 1962), Désirée (* 1963) and Hubertus (* 1966). Johann Georg leaves a widow, his three children, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law and a former son-in-law, four grandchildren and a foster-grandchild. Prince Johann Georg was a fine art expert. He was the director of the Bavarian National Museum 1986-1991, director general of the Bavarian State Picture Collection 1991-1998, and director of the Hypo-Kunsthalle 1998-2006.