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Dutch Royalty visits Hamilton

Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was awarded an honourary degree from McMaster Friday. The princess was born in Ottawa during the German occupation of her country in the Second World War.
Princess Margriet of the Netherlands (centre) during McMaster University's convocation ceremony at Hamilton Place Friday. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Hamilton got a royal visit Friday afternoon when a Canadian-born princess was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from McMaster University.  

Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born in Ottawa during the Second World War in 1943, while the Germans were occupying the country.  

"But her story is about far more than her place in the royal house of the Netherlands," said McMaster President Patrick Deane.  

In a unique acknowledgement of her family's circumstances at the time, Margriet's hospital room was placed temporarily outside the jurisdiction of Canadian law so that she could be born with just Dutch citizenship.  

The Princess saw things a little differently, joking that she had been "denied Canadian citizenship" when she was born.  

"But throughout her life, Princess Margriet has been committed to fostering the close relationship between Canada and the Netherlands that was so much a part of the first two years of her life," Deane said.  

The Dutch royal family returned to the Netherlands after the country's liberation in 1945. The princess told the crowd at Hamilton Place Friday that the Netherlands still appreciates everything Canada did for her family and her country.  

"Schoolchildren tend to the graves of Canadian soldiers that paid the ultimate price to bring us freedom," Margriet said.  

Margriet was the vice president of the Dutch Red Cross from 1987 to 2011 and chaired the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent from 1995 to 2003. Her speech to McMaster students focused largely on her work with the Red Cross.  

"Health care and humanitarian issues have been my main interest for many years," Margriet said. "And I've been involved with the Red Cross for more years than I actually care to disclose here."  

The princess is currently a member of the board of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She said their goal is to bring assistance to the most vulnerable and threatened people in the world.  

"It is a tremendous honour for me to receive this doctorate for just following my passion and standing for what I believe in," she said.  

"I wish to congratulate the graduates of today. Let us hear your voices …working together for a better world."