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Weekly flea market to trim collection of Dutch royalty curiosa

Private Oranje museum bursting at seams

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

BUREN, the Netherlands - An event unlike anywhere in the world has been unfolding in this historic Oranje town. Objects bearing royal portraits, coat-of-arms and other paraphernalia with tie-ins with the Dutch royal family are being sold at a specialized weekly flea market in front of the local Museum Oranje & Buren. Owner/manager Thijsen just has too much of the paraphernalia.

The flea market, because of its Royal connection, of course bears a more officious name: Oranje curiosa market. However, the items offered are typically flea market wares: teaspoons, cups and saucers, plates, glassware, mugs and tins. All decorated with some kind of royalty theme. Then there are books, magazines and commemorative issues.

Most of the items have been donated to the museum but are surplus to the collection or plainly do not meet its criteria. Jan Thijsen set up the museum in 1988 and runs it with the help of some 40 volunteers. A few years ago, the Buren museum received the entire collection of the Oranje Society in Baarn when the group shut down its own museum.

As a surname

Buren, located on one of the dike-protected early tidal flats (known as the Betuwe) between the Great Rivers, already existed in the 8th century. It has extensive ties to the Dutch House of Orange Nassau. Countess Anna of Buren married William of Orange in 1551, bringing the extensive property - and the title - into the family of the German-born nobleman. When William and Anna’s son Philip William died in 1618, Buren reverted to his halfbrother Prince Maurits. When Maurits died, another halfbrother Frederick Hendrik became Count of Buren.

The use of the title since has served some of the Dutch royals to occasionally maintain a measure of privacy when among the public. Queen Wilhelmina at times obscured her identity by travelling as the Countess of Buren. Her great-grandchild Willem-Alexander used the surname ‘Van Buren’ when he registered as a participant in mass sporting events, such as the famed Eleven Cities skating tour and the New York Marathon.

Some common folk also derive their surname from the Dutch city. Best known among them is lawyer Martin Van Buren, born in 1782 in the New York town of Kinderhook (an anglicized version of Kinderhoek or Children’s Corner), who served as the eighth president of the U.S.A. Van Buren’s ancestors hailed from the Betuwe city.