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The Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander faces tough decision on Crown Estate public opening

willem alexander
© RVD - Martijn Beekman

In 1959, the state apparatus in the Netherlands received the property of part of a royal estate from Queen Wilhelmina. The estate in question is called Het Loo and has been making headlines in the Netherlands recently because of a legal controversy involving the current members of the Royal Family, specifically King Willem-Alexander. 

To clarify, the property can be divided into two parts: the first part, consisting of Paleis Het Loo and the gardens, the Paleispark (Palace Park) and part of the Koninklijke Houtvesterij (Royal Forestry), is now entirely property of the state; the second part, consisting of the Crown Estate (meaning the majority of the Koninklijke Houtvesterij), has been included in the donation contract but had a clause stating that the right of use remained with the Crown. 

The property is open to the public from 25 December to 15 September, as Minister of Agriculture Carola Schouten clarified during a parliamentary debate. Animal rights activists and politicians have suspected for years that the closing period in the autumn is so that the Royal Family can use the property to hunt for sport. 

The noise increased around October of 2020 when it was revealed that King Willem-Alexander receives a state-issued contribution of €1880000 every two years to help with the maintenance expenses of the estate. 

In an open letter, a bipartisan group of members of Parliament has now argued that the rules for those receiving the subsidy are clear: the property can only be closed one week per year, and for the other 358 days it has to remain open from sunrise to sunset. 

As political proceedings are still ongoing, it is unclear whether members of Parliament will win the legal argument or if the rights of use clause will mean that the Crown can decide, by extension, opening terms for the entire estate. 

Also unclear is whether King Willem-Alexander would be willing to pay the hefty maintenance fees for the estate in order to avoid having to welcome members of the public in the property. If the state subsidy is waived, the estate will be effectively considered private property, and His Majesty will get to decide the terms and conditions for opening to the public.