King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands's recent state visit to Germany has been deemed unusual for a number of reasons.
The three-day visit started on an unexpected note on Monday, July 8, as the Dutch monarch himself co-piloted a state plane to arrive at Berlin Brandenburgh Airport. He was accompanied in the plane by his wife Maxima, and three government ministers: the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister for Public Health, reports Royal Central.
This is not the first time that the 54-year-old has piloted planes. It was revealed a few years ago that he has piloted several commercial flights for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. He served as a regular pilot on their Fokker 70 planes for 21 years until it was discontinued by the company, and then started training to fly Boeing 737s. However, the passengers rarely recognised him during these days because he wore the regular KLM uniform and pilot cap. Though there was one occasion, when people recognised him from his voice after he welcomed them on the plane on behalf of himself and the crew, even though he never gave his name.
The King has often expressed his love for flying, noting that he would have loved to be a commercial airline pilot if he had not been a member of the royal family. He has occasionally piloted his own plane for state duties as well, and has been photographed a number of times sitting in the cockpit in a pilot uniform with all the radio equipment still on his head while arriving at state and official visits to other countries.
He did the same for his recent visit to Germany, which was marked by another unusual affair. After attending a series of engagements during the day, the monarch couple attended a state dinner at Bellevue Palace, but did not wear their orders.
The couple don't wear the orders throughout their official visits, but it is a custom to wear them at state dinners. This might have been because their visit has been scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The trip was the Dutch royals' first state visit in 16 months, due to the social distancing guidelines amid the pandemic. However, their visit was plagued by a piece of unfortunate news from their homeland. Prominent Dutch journalist Peter R De Vries was shot and seriously wounded in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening, while he was exiting a television studio after being a guest on the live show RTL Boulevard to discuss the 2019 murder case of a hairdresser.
The journalist, who had been facing threats from criminals since the early days of his career for his work on organised crime, the Dutch underworld, and gang violence and murders, was hit by five shots fired at close range, one of which hit him in the head. He has been hospitalised in a critical condition. King Willem and Queen Maxima said they were "deeply shocked" by the attack, and that "journalists must be free to carry out their important work without threats."
Meanwhile, police arrested three suspects shortly after the attack, one of whom they released shortly afterwards.