On January 29th, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced that she will abdicate this year; her eldest son and successor, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, will then become the country’s first king in more than a century.
Queen Beatrix, who turns 75 on Jan. 31, will cede the Dutch throne to Willem-Alexander on April 30, she said in a televised address to the nation from her Huis ten Bosch palace in The Hague yesterday.
Beatrix succeeded her mother Queen Juliana, when she abdicated in 1980; Juliana’s mother, Wilhelmina, also gave up the throne in 1948. The Netherlands has had female heads of state since King Willem III died in 1890.
In her speech she stated that, “I am not abdicating because this office is too much of a burden, but out of conviction that the responsibility for our nation should now rest in the hands of a new generation.”
“It is with the utmost confidence that I will hand over the kingdom to the Prince of Orange on April 30.”
Queen Beatrix “did a very good job, as she managed to reconcile the paradox of someone who needs to be warm and human while also having to keep her distance simply because she’s the queen,” Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen, historian and author of several books on the royal family, said in an interview on Dutch NOS television.
In 1966, Beatrix’s marriage to Claus von Amsberg, a former German diplomat who served in that nation’s army during World War II, drew protests that deteriorated into rioting, with smoke bombs thrown at police. That reflected continuing bitterness over Germany’s wartime occupation of the Netherlands. Prince Claus died Oct. 6, 2002, at the age of 76.
Willem-Alexander, 45, married Argentina’s Maxima Zorreguieta, 42, a former investment banker, in 2002; they have three daughters. He will be known as King Willem-Alexander, the government’s information office said, making him the first monarch to bear the name.
Willem becomes king at a time when the role of the Dutch monarch in politics has been reduced. The sovereign previously played a key part in the formation of governments.
Last year, though, Parliament decided that it should oversee the process of agreeing on new coalitions without the involvement of the monarch, and the Liberal and Labor parties formed a government under the new rules after elections in September.
Willem-Alexander, who has the title at present of Prince of Orange, studied history at Leiden University and served in the Royal Netherlands Navy. He’s a member of the International Olympic Committee. He became chairman of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation in 2006.
“I know that they will fulfill their new role in a very convincing manner,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a televised speech, referring to the future king and Princess Maxima. Beatrix is “a queen at the heart of our society,” Rutte said.