TDH – PHILIPSBURG–From the formal inspection of the honour guard to the leisurely walk up Front Street, King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Máxima were kept busy with a packed schedule of public appearances and meetings in St Maarten on Wednesday, the first day of their first visit to the Dutch Caribbean since becoming monarchs in April.
Hundreds of spectators lined Front Street from Oranje Primary School to Cyrus Wathey Square in the afternoon to see the royal couple and try to have a close encounter. Some were lucky enough to get a handshake or even a short chat with either the king or queen.
The royals walked from the school after they were serenaded by the school choir and had a tour of the original schoolhouse, one of the main monuments in town. They were accompanied up the street by conspicuous security agents and a barrage of mostly Dutch press.
Their next stop was the Methodist Church where they toured the grounds with a stop to listen to singing by some pupils of Methodist Agogic Centre assembled in front of Prinses Beatrix Kleuterschool. The royals went into the historical church for gospel by the congregation.
From the church, the royals made their way to Courthouse where they met with judicial officials before ending their walking tour and heading back to Divi Little Bay Resort. They rested until the evening, when they attended the youth showcase in Festival Village, the last public engagement in St. Maarten. The showcase ended after 9:00pm.
The king and queen started their day at Clem Labega Square just after 9:00am for the inspection of a small contingent of Royal Dutch Marines and Voluntary Corps St. Maarten. On arrival at the square, they were greeted by Governor Eugene Holiday, his wife Marie-Louise and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams. The Dutch anthem Het Wilhelmus was played by the marines and the St. Maarten Song by a section of the Philipsburg Brass Band prior to the inspection of the troops.
President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell, the Council of Ministers and representatives of high councils of state were present on the square while members of the public watched the proceedings from the perimeter. The ceremony was brief, with the king walking along stretches of red carpet until he completed the inspection. His walk back to the podium was swift and on an uncarpeted section of the tarmac.
Queen Máxima was presented with a bouquet of flowers by the most improved pupil of Prins Willem Alexander Primary School before the royal couple headed to a meeting with Members of Parliament at Parliament House.
There, a crush of residents and island visitors poured into the narrow Wilhelminastraat for a glimpse of the king and queen. Their eagerness and the limited space threatened to block the view of elementary school pupils who had been invited especially to see and sing for the royals. This was corrected by Parliament staffers moving the children closer to the entrance of Parliament House for a better view of the royals when they exited on their way to the Government Administration Building.
The king and queen met with the Council of Ministers and later appeared on the balcony of the building with Holiday, Wescot-Williams and Dutch Minister for Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to wave to gathered schoolchildren and spectators on the square.
After a brief lunch, the royals visited Milton Peters College and Raoul Illidge Sports Complex .
St. Maarten is the base for the king and queen as they make day trips to Saba today, Thursday, and St. Eustatius on Friday. They depart for Bonaire on Saturday.
On November 14, 15 and 16 from around 8:40am, 9:00am and 8:40am respectively, the royal couple will travel from Divi Little Bay Resort to the airport, and on November 14 and 15 at 4:00pm and 4:30pm respectively, from the airport back to Divi Little Bay Resort.