Guests of Honor
This month’s princely visitor isn’t the first royal to rock the region
On Sept. 8, Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, the next in line for the Dutch throne, regales the Valley with his royal presence. The prince is scheduled to be in Albany that day for events related to NY400 Week, a regionwide celebration of American-Dutch relations taking place from Sept. 8-13. Along with his wife, Princess Maxima, he meets with Governor Paterson and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and attends a ceremony at the New York State Library.
The couple is the latest in a long line of kings, queens, princes, and princesses to visit the region. If their stay is anything like those of the following royal visitors, it should prove to be quite the memorable one.
Monarch: Prince Henry of Prussia
Place and time: Albany, 1902, for a diplomatic visit
Regal treatment: To welcome the prince, Albany plastered its downtown in the colors of the German flag. Hundreds of shovelers hustled to clear snow from the city’s streets in time for Henry’s arrival.
Culture shock: During a ceremony in the executive chamber, Governor Benjamin Odell showed the prince a sword that had belonged to George Washington, who had ordered that the weapon “not be drawn from [its] scabbard unless in the defense of the country.” Unaware of such a proclamation, the prince immediately removed the sword from its casing, unsheathing it for the first time since Washington’s death. (So much for diplomacy.)
Monarchs: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Great Britain
Place and time: Hyde Park, 1939, for a pre-World War II powwow with FDR
Regal treatment: Officials closed Route 9 to traffic from Garrison to Hyde Park because the royal couple was running late to dinner. More than 600 rifle-toting soldiers kept an eye out for the pair’s safety from the rooftops of Poughkeepsie’s Market Street.
Culture shock: Ignoring what havoc the cholesterol-choked food might wreak on their guests’ royal bloodline, the Roosevelts treated George and Elizabeth to a quintessential American delicacy — the hot dog. “How do you eat it?” inquired the queen. “Very simple,” FDR responded. “Put it in your mouth and keep pushing until it is all gone.”
Monarch: Princess Beatrix, Netherlands (Willem-Alexander’s mother)
Place and time: Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Hudson, and Albany (among other towns), 1959, for the 350th anniversary celebration of Hudson’s voyage
Regal treatment: The works: A ceremony in Kingston, parades in Albany and Hudson, and a gala ball at the Albany Armory. In the Columbia County town of Stuyvesant, a group of Boy Scouts, hoping to impress the 21-year-old princess, dressed in Indian costumes and saluted her passing yacht.
Culture shock: Beatrix and Governor Nelson Rockefeller toured Albany’s rundown streets in a limousine, a lesson in contrasts if ever there was one. Legend has it that the city’s decrepit state so embarrassed Rockefeller that afterwards he swore he’d renovate the capital — a vow that led to the construction of the Empire State Plaza.