Royal Gatherings – A Royal Conference in The Hague

Royal Events

Sorry, because September and October had been so busy I hadn’t prepared any posts for the blog. And I didn’t have time in the days before leaving for Royal Gatherings 2017 in The Hague, The Netherlands (the fifth edition already), anymore either. So you had to do without my writing for a few days. But I hope you’d like to know what a royal conference is like. And yes, I did have some time for sightseeing, although I didn’t make it to the exhibitions at the Gemeentemuseum unfortunately. I hope to go some time in the coming weeks.

Friday 3 November 2017

Because the distance between Groningen and The Hague is quite big I travelled to The Hague already the day before the conference. By train it took me over 2 1/2 hours from one railway station to the other. I left after some regular early morning work and arrived in The Hague around 1pm. The distance to the Park Hotel – where also the conference was being held – is about 15 minutes so I just walked. I was halfway and photographing a funny statue when someone already approached me: are you Netty? The first conference attendant whom I had thus far not yet met in person. Even when The Hague is not that small, it is easy to bump into other people you know who attend the conference. My room was already free, so I just brought my luggage upstairs. Unfortunately not the greatest view and not the biggest room, but it was fine to me.

I paid a quick visit to the Gemeentemuseum. And as the two exhibitions I wanted to see wouldn’t be open until 4 November, I just had a look at two others about Art Deco and painters from the 1880s. Then I went back into the city centre to see the exhibition African Servants at the Hague Court at the Haags Historisch Museum. I had just bought a ticket and had a quick look in the shop, when through the window I saw another conference friend from Sweden coming who wanted to see the same exhibition. We were soon joined by a Dutch royalty friend too. We afterwards strolled through the streets, visited bookshops and had something to drink. A friend of mine, living in the area, was to come over for dinner that evening. My Swedish friend was going to join us, in the hotel others waited to go to a restaurant … so in the end we were already ten people all attending the conference. We enjoyed the pre-conference dinner.

Saturday 4 November 2017

Hotel beds never sleep as good as at home, so on Saturday morning I woke up at 6am. Far too early of course, so I took a shower, dressed, and at 8am went downstairs for breakfast. Although my room wasn’t really special, the breakfast room certainly is. A lovely view from the hotel at the gardens of Palace Noordeinde, and the breakfast itself was excellent. Again a small conference gathering already here. It took us ages to finish breakfast. At 10am the conference started in a room next to the lobby, after a short introduction. I guess we were about 40 people this time, coming from the Netherlands itself, Germany, Sweden, the UK, Canada, the USA and even Namibia. The lectures of course were being held in English, although in between you could also hear people speaking Dutch or German.

Ilana Miller paid a lovely tribute to Patricia, The Countess Mountbatten of Burma, who died earlier this year, illustrated with many great photos. After a short break Marian Bette continued with a lecture about Margaret Douglas, Tudor Princess. Marian is from the Netherlands and is a huge Tudor fan. Then it was already time for the lunch break (noon to 2pm). As I had forgotten something at home I quickly went to buy it in town, then went to the Booksellers Van Hoogstraten – bought only one book – and had a sandwich from the supermarket. I quickly went upstairs to my room to bring the new book there. And I picked up one I had taken with me to be signed. Two hours break sounds a lot, but they’re over quicker than you can imagine.

We continued at 2pm with an interesting lecture by Johan de Haan about Curating Paleis Het Loo. As you might know the Palace is closing its doors on 8 January 2018 for at least three years. I am not quite sure what to think of the plans for the future, but it will be interesting for sure to find out in a few years time. The next speaker was Edward Hanson, who spoke about his new book Hélène of France, Duchess of Aosta. I had managed to have my copy of the book signed just before the lectures started and was surprised to find out Edward Hanson actually knew who I was and is a visitor of my blog. My long-time acquaintance Bearn Bilker ended the day with a lecture about the engagement of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henrik in 1900.

If you think, that was the end of the day: wrong! Most of us went back to the bookshop and had another look at all the royalty books and buying even more. As usual “oranjebitter” was being offered. At 7pm we had a group dinner at the Indonesian restaurant Garoeda nearby. Back at the hotel some of us stayed in the lobby for a while to continue conversations and to have a drink.

Sunday 5 November 2017

It turned out I wasn’t the only person who was rather tired. It is not unusual to see several people yawning on the second day of a conference. It is rather tiring to concentrate on lectures, especially if they’re not being held in your own language. We went for an easy start: Susan Symons about her newest book “Schlosser in Bavaria”. Emerentia (Renny) van Heuven-van Nes had come to talk about the English version of her book “Darling Queen-Dear Old Bones”, about the letters Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands wrote to her governess Elizabeth Saxton Winter, until her death in 1935. The letters were all written in English and the book contains a few more than the Dutch version of the book, as some letters were only found more recently. I had my Dutch copy with me to be signed.

After the break – in which I strolled through the centre of The Hague – Edward Hanson continued with the second part of his lecture about Hélène of France, Duchess of Aosta. Kees van Leer, a renowned expert on Princess Marianne of the Netherlands, told us about her life. He told me it was his first lecture ever in English, but he did great. We ended with a lecture by Robert “Bobby” Golden about “The Wider Royal Family, some of those I have known”. Although sometimes a bit of a quick speaker, he amused us with his stories about meetings with (British) royal descendants. At the end you could once more go to the bookshop and buy more books and drink an “oranjebitter”. But for many people it was then time to go home. I walked to the railway station with Edward Hanson and a Dutchman who had attended. Edward Hanson and I could talk a bit further, but he had to leave at Schiphol Airport, while I continued my way to Groningen.

Really, I only bought four books! Two in the shop, two from Kees van Leer. And had as much signed as possible of course. If you think that is much, you shouldn’t have seen the piles of books some people took back home. It was lovely meeting old and new friends, some I hadn’t seen before or not for several years. Just such a pity there always seems to be too little time to talk to everybody.

Thanks to Annet Bakker of Booksellers Van Hoogstraten, Arturo Béeche of the European Royal History Journal for organizing this wonderful weekend again.

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