Caitlin McBride: 'How Dutch Queen Máxima raised the bar for every incoming royal state visit'
Now that we're halfway through 2019, we're officially at peak royal state visits.
Over the last months, Ireland has hosted Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Sweden's Queen Silvia and King Gustaf, echoing the immense interest when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made the trip here just weeks after their wedding last year. But it was down to Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, joined by her husband King Willem-Alexander, who upped the ante with a flawless parade of ensembles over the course of three days.
Amid the anticipation of the aftermath of Brexit on the rest of Europe, Ireland has become a new area of focus by incoming dignitaries, and I'd put my money on at least one more visit before the year is out. Not to mention that hosting guests and showcasing Ireland's finest characteristics is one of President Michael D. Higgins' undeniable strengths.
Máxima, a 48-year-old former finance director with educational and professional credentials as long as your arm, made her first official visit with her husband here during their six year reign. On her arrival at Áras an Uachtaráin, she set the tone in an experimental Claes Iversen ensemble, inspired by African tribalwear. Iversen is a favourite with European royalty, in particular Máxima and Denmark's Crown Princess Mary.
For a state dinner, she paid homage in an all green ensemble, championing Dutch designer Jan Taminiau and a dazzling emerald tiara, with diamond and emerald earrings and necklace, both dating back more than 100 years.
Day two's agenda was the perfect backdrop to two noteworthy outfit changes: for an afternoon visiting the Botanical Gardens and a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Máxima opted for her signature oversized headwear in the form of a wide brim Fabienne Delvigne hat and an understated burnt orange boat neck top, tweed skirt and black patent heels.
It made her quick change for an evening at the Bord Gáis Energy theatre, a red fit and flare dress by Red Natan she first wore in 2016, all the more striking. Versatility is key for any style icon and Máxima proved her credentials in spades.
For their last engagement in three days, she returned to the muted palette in which she arrived, wrapping up in a tan trenchcoat, a pair of nude heels and the same turban-style hat by Jos van Dijc she has in a number of different colours.
These high profile visits are an opportunity to showcase the best of both countries and for most female royals, this means either a commitment to wearing your respective country's finest designers or embracing a local designer. To my great frustration, Máxima missed a trick in her decision not to wear anything Irish and it's an easy tactic to further boost relations; but unlike Meghan Markle's commitment to couture, each ensemble was put together so carefully and showcasing a wealth of fashion talent in The Netherlands, her sins are forgiven.
She treated the trip as seriously as any other and while it was filled with typical photo opportunities and schmoozing, the positive publicity and face time with our leaders is an essential step in moving in a more cohesive direction.
I should have known a woman with such an extensive hat collection was going to bring her A-game.