Will Queen Beatrix’ abdication mean the demise of queens in Amsterdam?
With Queen Beatrix’ not totally unexpected announcement that she’ll abdicate the Dutch throne after a 33-year reign, the stage is set for Holland’s first king in more than a century. On 30 April 2013, amidst the mayhem of Queensday, the sixth monarch of the Huis van Oranje-Nassau (House of Orange), which has ruled the Netherlands since the early 19th century, will hand over her mostly ceremonial powers to her eldest son, 45-year-old Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand, Prince of Orange.
The popular queen, a degreed lawyer who turns 75 this week, assumed her royal duties in 1980 after her mother, Queen Juliana, abdicated on her 71st birthday following a 31-year reign. Similarly, her grandmother Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 at age 68. Beatrix was widowed more than a decade ago when Prince Claus, a former German diplomat, died after a long illness. She’s now the oldest reigning Dutch monarch and ranks among Europe’s wealthiest royals. Sadly, her middle son, Friso, lies in a coma following a 2012 skiing accident in Austria.
Despite her slim legal powers, Queen Beatrix has big interest in national politics. She’s called for increased tolerance and multiculturalism, and has chided right-wing politician Geert Wilders in speeches opposing his anti-immigrant stance. Although she’s a constitutional monarch, the queen sits on the Dutch cabinet and had a say, until last year, in who should form a government in the complicated Dutch coalition system. Last year, parliament took over that role after controversy over its lack of transparency.
When he takes the reins in Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk, the Prince of Orange will become the Netherlands’ first king since his great-great-grandfather William III died in 1890. A prodigal son-style lad known as “Alex” to friends, dubbed “Prince Pils” by the tabloids for his passion for a particular beer, the new monarch has polished his image since his wild boyhood, when he allegedly told the press to “piss off” at a royal photo session.
Willem-Alexander’s CV includes a history degree from the University of Leiden, service in the Dutch Royal Navy, completion of the 1992 New York marathon and membership on the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Since casting off his playboy ways, he’s acquired both a military and civic pilot’s license. His interest in water management yielded a 2006 appointment as chairman of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB).
In 2002, the future king took Máxima Zorrigueta, daughter of a civilian minister in Argentina’s 1976–1983 military dictatorship, as his bride. His marriage to a commoner with ties to the regime responsible for widespread human rights abuses initially raised eyebrows in the Netherlands. But the blond beauty and former investment banker wooed Dutchies with her quick fluency with their language and down-to-earth ways. She and her prince have three daughters, Princesses Catharina-Amalia, Alexia and Ariane. Catharina-Amalia is first in line to succeed her father.
So what will daddy do when he takes the throne? After quitting chairmanship of the UNSGAB and stepping down from the IOC, he’ll reign over a kingdom celebrating its 200th anniversary, with Queen Máxima by his side.
Along with millions of party-goers, he’ll observe his next birthday on Holland’s first Koningsdag (King’s Day), 26 April 2014. Henceforth, the party will be on April 27, the king’s actual birthday; the celebration is pushed forward this year, since April 27 is a Sunday.
In attendance, whenever Koningsdag is celebrated, will be boatloads of local queens—proof that Queen Beatrix’ abdication does NOT signal the demise of feminine royalty in Amsterdam!