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Here is one of those peculiar stories about a crown which exemplifies why crowns are interesting in the first place.  Back in 1998, Sirak Asfaw, a Dutch civil servant (who was born in Ethiopia but fled to the Netherlands in the 1970s) was hosting a houseguest from Ethiopia.  The mysterious guest had an even more mysterious case which seemed to contain a shimmering gold object.  In accordance with fairy tale rules, Asfaw opened up the case and discovered a glittering golden crown inside.

Well…actually the crown was made of some lesser metal covered with gilding.  Asfaw cast the houseguest out of his home and has been hiding the stolen crown there for the past 21 years.  Based on the crown’s shape and on the saints and religious figures which adorn it, the piece is a liturgical crown used in Orthodox Christian ceremonies. A Dutch investigator found a picture of the crown (below) being worn by a prelate back in 1993. Apparently the headress originated the village of Cheleqot, 75 miles from the border with Eritrea, but was stolen in the mid to late nineties.

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Now that the crown has resurfaced, it is heading back to Ethiopia, but it is unclear if it will go the national museum or to a private owner.

The Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has the 16th highest nominal gross domestic product in the world. This becomes more impressive when one realizes the Dutch have the 61st largest population.  Holland’s long history of trade and empire has combined with its own native tradition of artistic excellence to leave the country littered with all manner of treasures and masterpieces.  The country is a parliamentary democracy ruled by a beloved sovereign, Queen Beatrix.  If you say anything censorious about the reigning monarch to a Dutch subject, you are likely to get a scowl and some harsh words (or possibly a fist).  At times, the personal net worth of Queen Beatrix has been reckoned to surpass that of the Queen of England (depending on the art and financial markets).

So what is the crown of the Queen of the Netherlands like? Actually the crown, which symbolizes the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (which presently consists of the Netherlands in Western Europe and two overseas territories in the Caribbean: the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba) and represents the dignity of the sovereign as head of state, is of comparatively recent construction.  It was made in 1840, upon the abdication of King William I, and it differs substantially from the heraldic crown of the house of Orange (which–being heraldic–exists only in depictions).   The actual crown is very small.  It appears to be gold but it is actually constructed of silver covered with thin gilding.  The crown has no actual jewels but is ornamented with colored glass, foil, and artificial pearls.  These “pearls” which are the chief feature of the royal headdress are constructed from paste covered with fish skin.

For some reason the Dutch kings and queens have never chosen to wear the crown during coronations, but the object has always been present on a special table.  The crown has only appeared in public during coronations (in 1898, 1948, and 1980), during a royal funeral in 1934, and at an exhibition in 1990.  Below is the largest picture I could find.

Um...the Royal Crown of the Kingdom of the Netherlands!

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