Outwardly, the marriage of Holland's Crown Prince Willem-Alexander to the Argentinian Maxima Zorreguieta was a royal wedding by numbers.
All over Europe, royal blokes took their morning suits and musical-comedy uniforms out of mothballs, and their womenfolk dutifully broke out in a selection of goofy hats. The streets of Amsterdam were lined with thousands of cheering peasants. The bride wore an enormous Valentino frock of ivory silk. The Nieuwe Kirk, where the union was blessed after a civil ceremony (she is a Catholic, and the House of Orange is staunchly Protestant), was packed with 30,000 flowers.
The word usually bandied about at events like this is "fairytale" – and this one really was like something by the Brothers Grimm. The lovely blonde bride has won the hearts of her new nation, but she comes from a family of trolls, who could not possibly be invited to any part of the festivities.
We have all been to weddings where the most embarrassing branches of family trees (nutters, trailer-trash, convicted perverts) have been pruned off the guest list for the occasion. One seldom hears, however, of embarrassment so serious that the bride's parents have to make themselves scarce. Maxima is the daughter of Jorge Zorreguieta, a minister in the Argentinian military dictatorship of Jorge Videla, a regime that dealt with any opposition by murdering thousands upon thousands of people.
I wouldn't want any daughter of mine to marry into such a dodgy dynasty, and a proportion of the Dutch populace feel just the same about the family of their sovereign. At a gala concert on the night before the nuptials, protesters handed out photographs of the people who had been murdered by the Videla regime. "There are 30.000 flowers in the church," as one put it. "One for each of the disappeared."
The Dutch MP Jan van Walsem said: "This marriage has brought shame not only on the Dutch royal family but also on the Dutch nation. Do Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela, world symbols for human rights and democracy, know who they are really shaking hands with?"
World leaders can shake hands with Princess Maxima without catching anything nasty. This former New York banker seems like a nice girl. However, the fact remains that many potential royal brides have been rejected for far smaller blots on the escutcheon.
For royalty to survive as a concept, royal consorts must present themselves as two-dimensional characters who fit into the rest of the cartoon. And Maxima does not only not fit. She comes straight out of another much nastier cartoon, which the whole world would rather forget.
Our own Prince Charles, who represented the Windsors, must have felt several hundred geese marching over his grave. He had to attend the Royal wedding as he attends all such full-dress affairs – alone, without his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles. And this wedding must have highlighted the unfairness of his situation.
None of Camilla's relations are in the habit of "disappearing" people who disagree with them, but the Queen reportedly vetoed her because she was too common – even the Daimler-trash Spencers were preferable. Yet Willem-Alexander can behave as if the ghastliness of his wife's background is a mere detail.
It is not a detail. Nobody wants to stand in the way of true love, but when a prince marries anyone smirched by something such as the Videla regime, it gives out a message that the Dutch state does not consider such gigantic crimes important. Queen Beatrix should have cancelled the wedding, sent Maxima home and then pretended not to know what had happened to her. This, after all, is how her friends and relations have always dealt with anyone awkward.Reuse content