Wednesday, September 21, 2022

When Heidi met Queen Maxima: A Guest Post

Embed from Getty Images

 Following the lives of modern-day European royals is not easy from California. Royal weddings (and other milestones) aren’t broadcast live and on the rare occasions that royals come for public visits to the U.S., they are almost always to the East Coast— Washington D.C for a state visit or New York City for a U.N. event.  With this in mind, when it was announced on Monday that Queen Maxima of The Netherlands would be in California for the following two days, I knew it was very likely a “now or never” chance to meet her in person. 

If you’re reading this, you don’t need me to tell you why Queen Maxima is worthy of the admiration she receives from the global public.  Intelligent, articulate, poised, and jaw-droppingly beautiful, she is the model of everything a Queen consort should be, with the additional challenge of doing it in and for a country on a different continent and of a different language than her birth. She is the Queeniest Queen of them all, a worthy role model, and very much worth the effort to meet.

Embed from Getty Images 

 Her first day, Tuesday would be spent in San Francisco, a city that is not easy to navigate quickly, so I knew that I would need to focus on Wednesday, especially since I still had to get from my home in Southern California up to the Bay Area— either a 90-minute flight or a 7–8-hour drive.  Tuesday morning, I needed to take care of a few things at the office before I went on the internet to see what I could drum up for a flight either later that day or early Wednesday. It’s an understatement to say I was shocked to see prices of $750-1000 each way. Historically, it’s an easy flight route flown by many airlines several times daily and it’s not unusual to find fares between $50-80 each way, but the triple whammy of fuel prices, inflation, and airline staffing have erased those prices for now.  So, I hurried home, packed my weekender bag, and was on the road by noon for the long drive north.

Queen Maxima’s itinerary for Wednesday was to begin at UC Berkeley, then onto Google headquarters, followed by Stanford University before heading to the airport for the flight to Texas. I knew accessing her at the Google campus wouldn’t be possible, and Berkeley is an additional hour north of Stanford, so Stanford was the best option for success.  Additionally, it is familiar ground, with many family connections to the school and I have been there several times, most recently just last summer. (It’s very visitor-friendly and worth the visit if you are ever in the area).  The drive took two hours longer than it should have, thanks to lane closures in the Tejon Pass on Interstate 5, leaving Los Angeles northward, but by 9:00 p.m. I happily settled in my room at the Sheraton across the street from campus.

Thankfully, since I was waiting for her to arrive at Stanford in the afternoon, I had time in the morning to meet our aunt for coffee and a chat while I waited for the local florist to open.  Mills Florist of Palo Alto whipped together a lovely little posey of blue and white flowers with a bright orange ribbon.

I headed to campus at lunchtime as it is expansive and even with good parking there would be a good deal of walking required, and I needed time to scout locations.  The press release mentioned three points; arriving for a walking tour, the Graduate School of Business, and the Investors Common.  I assumed she would arrive by the famed Palm Drive so was very surprised to find much of the grand campus entrance under construction with visible heavy equipment that would feature prominently in any photo.  I saw no signs of preparation for her arrival or any arrangement for a public gathering, so decided this wasn’t my best option and drove on to find parking near the Graduate School of Business.  Exploring the courtyard and the full exterior of the large building again showed no signs of expecting her arrival and in fact, was full of people hanging around and eating with clearly no clue, and certainly no care, that a Queen was on her way.

With one location left, I walked to the Investor’s Common, and *bingo*, this was definitely my target location.  Already buzzing with people in business attire wearing prominent security passes on bright orange lanyards, the courtyard was clearly set for a special event, full of blue cocktail tables with 4-ft tall orange letters and Dutch spoken everywhere. After the rest of campus seemed oblivious, it was refreshing to see so many smartly-dressed, highly professional-looking people full of excitement and anticipation for her arrival.  Out front, there were many people with a display booth and a vehicle made of recycled materials along with several officials making sure everything and everyone was where they should be.  The security chased off several people who were trying to just pass through but I was gladly not one of them, as I had taken care with dressing, hair, and makeup enough to believably “belong” to a daytime event, while still being comfortable walking around campus on a hot day, and my flowers fortuitously matched the event decor. So now it was only for me to wait.

While waiting, I tried several ways to hold flowers, be ready for a handshake, and get a photo/video at the same time, but it was clear I could choose two of the three, but not all. So, I chose to sacrifice getting any photos or videos of my own in favor of being prepared for personal interaction. And I’m glad I did.

It was wonderful to see how truly thrilled everyone was to have her there as the air became electric with whispers and maneuvering as her motorcade approached, and she commanded the crowd with her smile and her warmth immediately upon exiting the large black SUV. After chatting and posing for pictures with the recycled vehicle group for a few minutes, her PPOs surrounded her for the walk into the courtyard event.  On her walk, I stepped forward and made eye contact, holding my flowers out. Exactly as I hoped, she smiled and veered to her left towards me.  She took the flowers from my hands and said with her famously broad smile, “How kind of you! Thank you.  Thank you so much.” 

Embed from Getty Images 

 Sadly, I have not been able to locate any press photos or videos that captured the moment for me, so my written memory and the images in my mind will have to suffice.  But even if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

By Heidi Counsell-Schmidt

[Getty did not have any photographers present when the Queen visited Stanford]

1 comment:

Christina O. said...

Marlene, Thank you for this Guest Post, fantastic!

And, to Heidi Counsell-Schmidt, your experience with Q. Maxima is inspiring to me and shows the effort and planning it will take to make dreams come true. I was born and raised in S. California so can empathize with your challenges. WELL DONE.