Yesterday, 11 April 2013, marked the 300th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht (Vrede van Utrecht). That was the treaty that helped end the War of Spanish Succession. I’ll let you read the Wikipedia page if you want more of the actual history. The treaty was pretty much the only thing I knew about Utrecht before making plans to move here. As a result, I was kind of excited when I learned a few years ago that the anniversary was coming up and that the city was planning some festivities to commemorate the event.
For the past few years, the city has been installing various light art installations throughout town, known as Trajectum Lumen, referring to the old Roman name for the city. The final installation was revealed last night as part of the celebrations. The final lights were installed on the Domtoren and the big news was that Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander (who will take over as king at the end of the month) and his wife Princess Maxima would all be here in Utrecht to celebrate the anniversary and officially “light” the Domtoren.
They arrived in town during the day and attended a special concert inside the cathedral. I didn’t joint the party until later in the evening. When we arrived at the Domplein, a crowd was gathering around the Academiegebouw, the Utrecht University’s historic building on the square. It seemed that the royal family would be appearing on the balcony for the lighting ceremony.
The crowd was friendly, relatively small — although it definitely grew as the evening went on — and I only saw one anti-monarchy protest sign. Even the police presence seemed relatively small, although there was definitely an officer standing near the protest sign holder.
Finally, there was a sign that the ceremony was starting. Drums began to beat and horns came from on top of the cathedral and from the Domtoren itself. Then a strange white figure began to approach.
She and her robot spotlight friends swirled around in front of the Academiegebouw, while the horns and drums continued. (To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to catch up and find out the meaning behind the performance, but it was still impressive, especially considering the stilts she was on, while moving across uneven brick.)
Then, a familiar hairdo appeared in the doorway of the balcony.
It was Queen Beatrix! I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t wearing one of her famous hats, but it was still interesting to see her and Maxima and Willem-Alexander. I’m not particularly pro-monarchy, especially when cuts are being made to people’s benefits, but if I don’t think about the silliness of having a monarchy in this day and age, I’m generally ambivalent. Having seen them on tv occasionally since moving here, particularly on Queen’s Day, it’s interesting to see them in person, in the same way it’s interesting to see anyone famous that you usually only see on screens or in print.
They were accompanied by Aleid Wolfsen, the mayor of Utrecht, who made a short speech, including a quick bit of unplanned gushing about the queen at the very end. The event is one of the last public events the queen will make before handing over the throne to Willem-Alexander on the 30th of April. It was the last official event she’ll do here in Utrecht as queen. As a bit of trivia, Willem-Alexander was actually born here in Utrecht.
And then it was time for the lighting of the Domtoren. All of the arches are now lit each evening from sundown to midnight, and on the hour, there’s a special light show that takes place. Hopefully, I’ll have more photos and video and information on that to come. For now, here’s a look at the Domtoren all lit up, looking lovely as ever.
By the way, celebrations continue tomorrow night, with a big feest (party) on the roof of the A2 tunnel in Leidsche Rijn.
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