By Meghan Morris
The king and queen of the Netherlands completed a whirlwind visit to the Windy City on Wednesday, taking on-stage selfies and tours of local educational institutions.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima arrived Tuesday night after spending time in Canada, Washington, D.C., and Grand Rapids, Mich. The couple came to the U.S. to commemorate Americans’ role in liberating the Netherlands during World War II and to solidify existing business and academic relationships.
No Dutch monarch had visited Chicago since the former queen’s visit 30 years ago, though the king spent three months in the Kellogg School of Management’s Executive Development Program in the fall of 1997 when he was a prince.
The royals kicked off their time in the Windy City at a dinner hosted by the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency for businesses with a significant presence in the Netherlands. At the dinner, both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti welcomed the couple, noting the strong economic relationship between the state and the Dutch. Sanguinetti said Illinois exports $1.1 billion annually to the Netherlands.
In a pre-dinner toast, King Willem hinted at the event’s after-party.
“When it comes to the friendship between our countries, you just can’t stop the beat,” he said. “So may I now ask you all to raise a glass with me to this wonderful city, to the music we share, and to the bonds of friendship between our countries.”
After dinner, they took the stage at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion for the last song of an electronic dance music class, a type of music the Dutch have popularized around the world. The king took a selfie with two DJs as Emanuel danced on stage.
The royal couple began Wednesday’s tour on a more serious note, visiting the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The Dutch have partnered with researchers at both institutions. At Feinberg, seven Dutch men were formally named as Northwestern adjunct professors.
The Dutch delegation then traveled to the South Side, touring the new greenhouse on top of the Method soap factory in the Pullman area. The greenhouse uses Dutch technology, including irrigation and lighting.
The royals finished their tour at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy with Emanuel, where they toured the school and played a trivia game about the Netherlands. Five students and two teachers from the school received an all-expenses-paid trip to the Netherlands.