Being a monarch used to be a full-time job, but in these liberated democratic times in the West, a king can often time on his hands.
That’s been the case with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who became king in 2013.
The King told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he has covertly co-piloted flights on KLM twice a month as “a hobby” for over 20 years.
The BBC shed light on what people knew before the newspaper interview, and what they didn’t.
“Until now Willem-Alexander has worked behind the joystick of a Fokker and it was already known that he had appeared as a “guest pilot” before being crowned king, in order to maintain his pilot’s licence. What was not clear was that he was co-piloting passenger flights incognito, twice a month as king, often with KLM Captain Maarten Putman,” the publication said.
The Guardian said he just ended his work as a “guest pilot” and will reportedly now train to pilot Boeing 737s.
Willem-Alexander seems to have no illusions or conceit about his chosen industry. He usually addresses travelers on board “on behalf of the captain and crew,” instead of introducing himself over the loudspeaker as most pilots do.
“Then I don’t have to say my own name — but most people don’t listen in any case,” he said in the newspaper interview.
Working high above the clouds
KLM tweeted a photo of the king yesterday, smiling in the cockpit.
'This is your Royal Highness speaking' pic.twitter.com/koDBlHWqa8
— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) May 17, 2017
The king seems to enjoy the idea of leaving his worries behind on earth.
“You have a plane, passengers and crew and you are responsible for them. You can’t take your problems with you off the ground. You can completely switch off for a while and focus on something else,” he said, according to a BBC translation.
But he isn’t the only royal who’s flown planes before.
Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah flew a Boeing 747 to a meeting in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte, according to CNN Philippines. And Prince William of the United Kingdom and his brother Prince Harry, who is fourth in line for the throne, used to fly combat helicopters. Both have now quit the armed forces to focus on full-time work representing their country as royals.
The working royal
As monarchies have become less powerful over the past 100 years, more royals have jobs outside their ceremonial duties. Vogue even put together a slideshow of royal family members who’ve had jobs outside of their royal duties before in 2015.
Among them: Queen Letizia of Spain, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband, Prince William. Before becoming Princess of Spain, Letizia reportedly was a journalist and news anchor. Catherine was an accessories buyer for a department store in Britain after college. William was an air ambulance helicopter pilot.
Princess Elisabetta of Belgium, also styled Archduchess Elisabetta of Austria-Este, is also a former Bloomberg News reporter.
Rather than being eccentric, a working royal demonstrates a good work ethic — a nice example for others in the country, as monarchies are usually supported by the taxes paid by the working population.