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The Netherlands

Princess Beatrix inaugurates year of the Miller celebrations

Princess Beatrix officially opened the year of the Miller, a celebration held in the Netherlands in connection with the Guild of Volunteer Millers’s 50th anniversary. 

On Saturday, 15th January, the former Dutch queen arrived at a mill in Zaanse Schans, a small village of about 40 homes northeast of Amsterdam. The community is located on the banks of the Zaan River, and in the 18th century, it was an industrial area that housed more than 700 windmills. 

During her visit, King Willem-Alexander’s mother spoke with millers and a founder of the Guild, who told her about their work and their plans for the future. 

The Netherlands currently house around 1600 millers working in around 1100 mills. The Guild of Volunteer Millers has been training young people into the profession for five decades now, and mills have seen a growth in interest from the younger generation. 

The visit was supposed to happen in a mill museum, the Zaans Museum in Zaandam, but because of health safety restrictions the event was moved outdoors in the nearby village of Zaanse Schans. 

The Year of the Miller was supposed to be inaugurated in the context of the anniversary celebrations for the Guild; however, also due to health safety concerns, the celebrations have been cancelled. 

The Guild of Volunteer Millers has been organising classes on how to safely operate a mill and work in it. The classes usually take places weekly for about a year, at the end of which students have to pass an exam. The first miller exam was held in 1972 in Zaandam. 

Princess Beatrix, however, refused to let down her people, and the event she was a part of was carried out anyway. 

Mills are a part of the collective imagery of the Netherlands, and play a crucial role in the tourism industry, which relies on museums for memories, but also on entities such as the Guild of Volunteer Millers to pass down knowledge on this important piece of Dutch culture from generation to generation.