AMSTERDAM – Dressed in national orange, dancing to music and eating orange-frosted cakes, many Dutch celebrated King’s Day on Saturday, the birthday of their monarch, whose popularity is rising slightly according to a national poll.

As King Willem-Alexander celebrated his 57th birthday with his family in the northeastern city of Emmen, people from all over the country took part in the traditional “free markets” held on the day, selling toys, books and other second-hand items. Others cruised the historic canals of the capital, Amsterdam, as orange smoke from flares lit on a boat floated over vessels of all shapes and sizes jostling for space in a busy canal.

“Celebrating your birthday with your own family is the most beautiful thing you can experience. I’m very happy that everyone is back,” William Alexander told Dutch broadcaster NOS during a walk around Emmen, 190 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of the Dutch capital.

An annual poll released by the NOS on the occasion of King’s Day shows that William Alexander’s popularity has risen slightly since last year to 6.6 points out of 10. His wife, Argentine-born Queen Maxima, scored 7.1 points out of 10 in the survey of 1,015 people earlier this month.

The royals’ popularity took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic after William Alexander and his family went on vacation to Greece during a partial confinement. The royals cut short their vacation amid national outrage and William Alexander took the unusual step of issuing a video message to express his regret and contrition for the trip.

The king’s three daughters, Amalia, Alexia and Ariane, have recently spent time out of the country – Ariane has been studying in Italy and Alexia has taken a year’s sabbatical to travel. The eldest and heir to the Dutch throne, Amalia, also returned before the king’s birthday, after being forced to leave her student accommodation in Amsterdam and move to Madrid after receiving threats from the criminal underworld.

Amalia, 20, who is studying politics, psychology, law and economics at the University of Amsterdam, told NOS she was “extremely grateful to everyone who made it possible” for her to live in Spain, where, she said, she could enjoy more freedom than in the Netherlands.

But, she added, “I am happy to be back.”

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