The autumn leaves on the Mall have got some competition for colour this weekend as the flag of the Netherlands now decks the famous road leading to Buckingham Palace. The Dutch flags are fluttering in the October breezes next to UK ones ahead of the State Visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima which gets underway in just a few days time.
The royals are due to arrive on Tuesday, October 23rd for a two-day stay designed, like all state visits, to strengthen ties between the countries involved. They will be hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace with the Earl and Countess of Wessex also playing a major role in this trip. And final preparations are well and truly underway.
As well as the flags appearing on the Mall, the army has been taking part in early morning rehearsals for their ceremonial role in the State Visit. Earlier this week, in the very small hours, practices took place in the capital with soldiers and horses out on parade in the dark and cold to make sure everything is ready for the arrival of the Dutch King and Queen.
The King’s Troop RHA used its official Twitter account to share images of soldiers practising for the gun salutes that will greet Willem-Alexander and Maxima as they arrive in the UK. The army in London’s official social media channels shared videos of the behind the scenes preparations with a focus on the precision and intense practice needed to make sure everything runs to perfection.
And while he might be best known as the illusionist who stormed to a famous win in Britain’s Got Talent back in 2016, Richard Jones remains a soldier and took to his social media accounts to show us how those early morning preparations feel. He started work one night around 11 pm and clocked off at 8.30 the following morning after intense rehearsals, but the real stars of his videos were the horses taking part in the parades who went to work on a mint or two provided by those looking after them.
The Dutch Embassy in London has been sharing details of final preparations, too. As well as lots of excitement about the flags on the Mall (well, they do look rather fabulous), they’ve been providing us with a sneak peek of the interactive artwork ‘Lightweeds’ by Simon Heijdens which will be projected on to the front of the embassy as part of the visit.
The UK Ambassador in the Netherlands and the Foreign Office have, meanwhile, been focusing on the links that already exist between the two countries which last year did trade worth £86 billion. In some rather fun videos, they have reminded us of the long ties between the two countries and their royal families, and there’s been a starring role for that Prince of Orange who became a British king, William III. The golden statue of him that sparkles in the Palace of Westminster has had plenty of attention in the run-up to the state visit – the King and Queen of the Netherlands will tour the building themselves during their stay.
This will be the third state visit by a Dutch monarch that the Queen has hosted during her long reign. She welcomed Willem-Alexander’s grandmother, Juliana, on a state visit to the UK in 1972. His mother, Beatrix, made a similar trip to the UK in 1982.
Willem-Alexander marked his fifth anniversary as King of the Netherlands earlier this year. He took the throne on April 30th 2013 following Beatrix’s abdication. This is the first state visit that he and his wife, Maxima, have made to the UK since his accession. It is also the first, and probably only, state visit the Queen will host in 2018.