In his farewell as team-mate to King Willem-Alexander, Bert Wassenaar chose five great moments from 25 years of service. And what does the Swede actually do?
No goodbye with great military ceremonies, horses and carriages. Instead, Prinsjesdag’s last event with the royal party, in four cars and some escorts for a short drive to Grote Kerk in The Hague. There is not much to arrange. As a reward to King Willem-Alexander, Bert Wasner has been the captain of the royal procession on the third Tuesday of September for more than 25 years, in all its pomp and circumstance, but in the year of his retirement, sobriety was the norm.
Without the coronavirus pandemic, Wasner was riding Mitch Gray again on Tuesday, the horse who will also retire after ten years of loyal service. He distinguishes himself from motorists in blue, with his instantly recognizable red court skirt and white trousers, with a stab on his head. Walk near the Glass Carriage during the driving tour. But just like last year, The Hague Mayor Jan van Zaanen decided that a public event like Prinsjesdag – with visitors from all over the Netherlands – was still too risky.
Of course Wassenaar thinks this is unfortunate, in fact very unfortunate, but fortunately he had many highlights. Members of the court do not conduct interviews unless upon request de Volkskrant Wassenaar names five great moments from his long career. Noting that he could easily have named ten.
Upcoming state visits, for example, such as the visit of South African President Mandela in 1999. Or the visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito, a year later, where everything was heard due to sensitivity. The four summer openings of the Royal Stables in the years before Corona. Recently, on King’s Day, The Streamers party was held in the private courtyard. Too many to name them all.
Wassenaar (64 years old) is a Frisian. He grew up in Noordwolde and Leeuwarden. He studied at the Pedagogical Academy and the Royal Military Academy, rose to the rank of colonel in the Military Police of the Armed Forces. But he was always a horse. He joined the court in early 1996, as one of eight lieutenants, with the intention of becoming a knight later that year. This is exactly how it went.
The stable section, located in a 19th-century complex behind the Nur al-Din Palace, has two sections: the carriage and driving stable and the transport department, where everything related to cars, planes, train and bus is arranged. It’s a transport company that switches between traditional and modern, with leather polished in the belt room and Volvo standing sparkling after washing a little further away.
The riding stable contains 22 carriages of horses and nine riding horses, including a mojito, Princess Amalia’s horse. Like her grandmother Princess Beatrix, she loves to ride horses. They also participate in competitions. The former Queen also drives at Lage Vuursche or on the beach between Wassenaar and Katwijk. The cavalry often comes.
Wagons and stadium cars
The stable section includes seventy chariots, of which twenty are in The Hague. The rest is at Het Loo in Apeldoorn. The Glass Coach, which has been in use on Budget Day since 2016, is of course there, as are the ceremonial sedans being used on Wednesdays when ambassadors at Noordeinde Palace present their credentials. There are also sport utility vehicles such as the cream and blue caliche in The Hague.
The garage runs thirty compact cars of all shapes and sizes. After the war, he led the Royal House Ford. Mr. Frick Bischoff van Heemskerk had a clear philosophy that the good car was American – even though Mercedes was not outright banned. When the Ford Scorpio disappeared, Volvo and later Audi became mainstream. The royal bus is parked at Noordwijk, near Beuk, and the train – actually a wagon – at Amersfoort.
A total of 45 people work in the stables, as mechanics, drivers, buses, in maintenance jobs or in the office. In the coming weeks, Wassenaar will train his successor, Colonel Hans Veenhuizen. He maintains that he remains active in his side jobs, such as riding horses for people with disabilities.
Five important moments in the career of employees
1. 25 times a day prince
Horseback riding in Prinsjesdag, there is no better for the stable master. In addition to the two editions that occurred due to Corona, there was also an amendment of Prinsjesdag in those twenty-five years: in 2001, a week after the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Miniature ceremonial parade without military music. Abolition was not an option, because democracy does not give way to terrorism. The golden coach stopped by the US Embassy as a tribute. A touching moment.
2. Marriage 02-02-02
Actually it happened for three days: “10 thousand piece puzzle”, with a lot of moves. On Fridays with guests to the Concertgebouw and Arena, on Saturdays to the Palace on Dam Square, Beurs van Berlage and De Nieuwe Kerk, and on Sundays departures in stages. That’s in the middle of winter. A week ago there were consultations with the Amsterdam municipality where the salt dispensers would be placed, but it was a bright day with a clear blue sky.
3 funerals in 2002 and 2004
Prince Claus died in 2002. Organizing a royal funeral for the first time since 1962 – when Queen Wilhelmina died – was “a challenge from a transport point of view”. The entire route has been used, from Noordeinde Palace in The Hague to Nieuwe Kerk in Delft. To prevent too many spectators from gathering in the narrow streets of Delft. In 2004, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernard died respectively. The prince does not want to ride in the cabin, but in a military chariot. and the fly past Since the horses were on the market in Delft, the F16 was practiced at Valkenburg Airport.
4 Opening in 2013
Also a large logistics operation, with many international guests. Part of the program was in the hands of Parliament. The challenge here was that the Queen’s Day celebration in the center of Amsterdam went on as usual, so many roads were unusable. While the guests had to be at De Nieuwe Kerk on time. “It was a minute’s work.” A lovely moment in the evening was the boat trip on Het IJ, where the royal family disembarked to greet DJ Armin van Buuren and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
5 special restorations
Preserving cultural heritage that shows ingenuity from the past: this was the idea behind the restoration of the Glass Coach and the Golden Coach. But also private cars, like Prince Hendrik’s Minerva Landaulet limousine or Princess Juliana’s Mercedes Corona and Ford Limited. During the restoration, you can see how at the time was thought about the use of high-quality materials, which is the experience of the stable master. The possibility to show this also thanks to museums, such as the Golden Coach at the Amsterdam Museum, is “a pleasure”.