Dutch follow royalty - not policy - on Prince's Day

Dutch follow royalty - not policy - on Prince's DayThe Hague - What colour hat will Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands wear when she presents the government's budget to both houses of parliament on Tuesday?

That, rather than government policies, was the question preoccupying most Dutch on the eve of Prinsjesdag - Prince's Day - the day that government is to make known its plans.

Ever since 1848, successive Dutch governments have presented their budget proposals on the third Tuesday in September at 1 pm sharp.

As each year, Prince's Day on Tuesday was affording one of the rare opportunities for the Dutch public to get a closer view of their royalty in all their gold-laced diamond-studded splendour.

The show starts with the queen's ride through the streets in the so-called Golden Carriage.

Usually drawn by eight horses, the Dutch Renaissance-style carriage is used only for Prince's Day and for the marriages of the crown princes and princesses, such as Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander when he wedded Argentinian Maxima Zorreguieta in 2002.

Designed and built by the Spijker brothers - known from the legendary Dutch racing cars - the carriage is decorated in gold leaf. It was a gift from the citizens of Amsterdam to Queen Wilhelmina for her marriage in 1901 and has been used on Prince's Day since 1903.

Thus chauffeured, Queen Beatrix was to be passing hundreds of her cheering subjects, accompanied by scores of royal guards dressed in 19th century Dutch military apparel.

The wearing of extraordinary and extravagant hats by women has become of one of the current fashions developed for Prince's Day during the reign of Queen Beatrix - herself famous in the Netherlands for her bold and original headwear.

The flock of hats is one of the reasons why both the public as well as photo journalists line up on the square in front of parliament hours before the Golden Carriage arrives.

By the end of the day, newspapers and news channels will have published their lists of the best and worst hats of the year.

The preoccupation with fashion and spectacle would almost make people forget that Prince's Day is in fact very serious for national politics.

Once in parliament, the queen - as the official head of state - formally presents the government's ambitions for the welfare of the entire country in a document called the Speech of the Throne, written by the government.

She then returns to the palace while parliament and government convene. On Wednesday and Thursday, the government will face parliament in a debate over the budget. (dpa)