Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands went before the American Congress yesterday in an appearance rich in ritual and history, an appearance only two other women monarchs have ever made before--both of them Dutch. One was Beatrix's mother, the other her grandmother.
But if members of the U.S. House and Senate, meeting jointly for the first address by a visiting head of state since Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was here five years ago, thought the 44-year-old queen would stick to diplomatic niceties, they were in for a surprise. She wasted no time getting down to the brass tacks of what has been bothering the Netherlands about American foreign policy lately.
"Nothing would seem to us more desirable than achieving a balanced, controlled reduction of arms on all sides, particularly a reduction in all those weapons that threaten to destroy civilization itself, indeed all life on this planet," she said in near-flawless English.
In the audience were the queen's husband, Prince Claus, members of the U.S. Cabinet, including Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, foreign ambassadors and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. presided, and seated beside him as president of the Senate was Vice President George Bush.
The queen wore a bright green silk dress with matching hat and her message sketched two centuries of Dutch-American friendship interwoven with her government's current concerns about the economy, human rights, aid to developing nations, trade and nuclear weapons.
"Concerned as we are at the worsening situation in the world," she said, "we regard it as essential that the transatlantic dialogue be intensified. You in America and we in our much more vulnerable Europe--together we must consider the questions confronting us, together seek the answers."
That meant not just a dialogue on military matters but on economic solutions to the present "serious" recession, she said.
"Personally," she said, "I am convinced that you will eventually serve your own interests best if you also heed Europe's economic requirements."
Pointing out that each of the countries is "the largest single direct investor in the other," she said prosperity in the Netherlands and other European countries depends on the United States' economic and financial policies.
She called aid to developing countries "a moral obligation," adding that adapting more generous aid to each recipient country's level of development goals eventually could broaden the entire global economy.
"One cannot regard aid to the destitute as charity and certainly not as a luxury," she said. "On the contrary, it is a human duty and discerning policy."
On human rights, the queen raised the question of double standards when "we restrict our defense of human rights to those countries which we regard as a threat to our democratic way of life, and . . . fail to protest when those very same rights were violated in other countries . . ."
Beatrix, who is limited in her public political pronouncements by the Netherlands constitution, did not write the speech. Like others she has made here this week, it was drafted by her government but represented her personal views as well, according to Dutch reporters traveling with her.
They have been reporting U.S. reaction to her remarks, which have been setting the tone for relations between the U.S. and the Netherlands. Described by one journalist as "uptight" before embarking upon her journey, Queen Beatrix was said to be concerned about how the American government was receiving the Dutch antinuclear protest movement.
The queen's speech yesterday gave Americans a first glimpse of how she and her government view her approach to the monarchy. Her mother, Queen Juliana, who addressed Congress in 1952, and her grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina, who in 1942 became the first reigning sovereign to speak before both legislative bodies, worked in a traditional framework.
"Beatrix is the first queen to be left of middle," said one journalist. "She wants to be a monarch with both feet planted firmly in the middle of reality."
She and Prince Claus were guests of honor at the Netherlands-American Bicentennial Committee reception hosted last night by the vice president. Today, they leave Washington for Philadelphia, Princeton and New York.