An invite to the King’s Ball means something even to an American like me who never lived under a king till moving to Europe. As an expat in The Netherlands, though, my invitation finally arrived.
Cinderella gets made over for each generation from Disney’s animated classic to Drew Barrymore’s Ever After, to Ella Enchanted. A girl in less than enviable circumstances receives an invite to the King’s Ball, dances with Prince Charming and arrives, after various adventures, at happily ever after. Don’t most girls dream of this?
I was not dismayed to discover that various organizations in Holland host a number balls in honor of King Willem-Allexander’s birthday. Some are massive street parties, but mine was a formal event in keeping with the childhood fantasy.
“Don’t expect too much,” one past attendee warned. Held in a utilitarian headquarters building rather than a castle (though castles are available here), this location made perfect sense in a frugal Dutch way. Why pay for extravagance? Have a space? Will wine, dine, dance and toast the King. My husband and I did just that. The balloon archway might recall prom, but I enjoyed sipping my beverage from a champagne flute, mixing with good company, and dancing till I disliked my shoes.
What the movies and books tend to skip right over was one of the best parts of the evening—the food. A DJ took requests till the buffet dinner was served, and oh, my, what food. I will gladly give up the linens at a 10-person round top at any formal for the marvelous herbed shrimp, green beans with Hollandaise, white fish in sauce, tender barbeque pork, scalloped potatoes, grilled chicken with sliced watermelon, crab salad, Italian pasta salad, beef and broccoli with goulash type spices. Wonderful flavors not hurt at all by the stand-to-eat tables.
After deserts (mostly various whipped or creamed items), champagne came ’round, because it was time to toast the King. The toast to which we raised our glasses was in Dutch which I do not speak. Even so, it was hard not to moved by the robust singing that followed. Was that the national anthem? The two grand piano players with their mics, electric keyboards, and drum-set accompaniment got everyone back out on the dance floor.
The invite to the King’s Ball did not change the course of my life. After dancing much of the night away, my Prince Charming escorted me home where we checked on our four sleeping sons. A mundane end? Maybe. Perhaps your happily ever after comes again and again like ours does…in those moments when we remember to take note of the upside, see the silver lining, count our blessings and are filled with joy as we kiss a loved one goodnight.
Kristin King is an author currently living the expat life in Holland. Behind a partition beyond the toilets at the King’s Ball she found a Foosball table and had to take advantage of the opportunity to play while in formal attire.