The first spectators turned out early Tuesday, hoping to catch a glimpse of Dutch royals as the king traveled from his palace in The Hague to a nearby theater to give his annual address to the nation, reviving the pomp-filled public event after two years of pandemic restrictions.

Accompanied by royal horses and crowds in elaborate headgear, King Willem-Alexander _ just back from the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London _ crosses town to give his yearly “speech from the throne” Tuesday afternoon, after which the government will present its yearly budget plan.

The regal display and budget presentation come amid a cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy prices in the Netherlands and around Europe. But spectators seemed eager to take part in this special day.

“I haven’t been for two years,” said Kees van der Wal, who arrived on the royal route before the sun to get a good spot. The previous two editions were scaled back to comply with COVID-19 regulations and didn’t include the traditional horse-drawn carriage ride for members of the royal family.

The city also saw a widespread police presence, with barricaded streets and drones monitoring the crowd. Police confiscated several tractors from angry farmers who wanted to drive their vehicles into the city as a protest. Dutch farmers protested for weeks over the summer over environmental regulations forcing them to reduce their operations.

Bold hats could be seen around the city as part of the annual “hoedjesparade,” a tradition where women wear striking headgear to the event. Some attendees have their hats custom-made, and politicians have used the occasion to send a message with their head coverings. In 2016, member of parliament Carla Dik-Faber wore a hat made of fish skins to promote sustainable fish practices.

The horses appearing in the festivities were put to the test in front of a crowd on a nearby beach in September to ensure they wouldn’t react to any commotion on the big day. Over the weekend, they conducted a trial run with the Glass Coach, a royal carriage made in 1826.


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