THE HAGUE: Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander became Europe’s youngest monarch on Tuesday after his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated and his country hailed the avowedly 21st-century king with a massive, orange-hued party.
“I Queen Beatrix… abdicate in favor of my son Willem-Alexander,” the act said, as read out before the signing that was broadcast live from the Amsterdam palace.
The queen shed a tear on arrival, and the act was then witnessed by Willem-Alexander, his Argentine-born Queen Maxima and members of the government.
A cry went up from the 25,000 crowd in the Dam, the main square opposite the palace where the signing was shown on giant screens.
“Thank you Bea”, they shouted using her affectionate nickname.
The king and queen’s three daughters, including their eldest, now Princess of Orange Catharina-Amalia, 9, attended the ceremony, wearing identical yellow and white dresses.
Willem-Alexander, 46, is the first Dutch king since 1890 and the first of a new wave of relatively youthful European monarchs, with future kings and queens, including Britain’s Prince Charles, attending.
Amsterdam’s population is set to double with at least 800,000 visitors flooding the city’s streets and canals as Beatrix, 75, ended her 33-year reign.
Willem-Alexander will now be sworn in rather than crowned at deconsecrated church Nieuwe Kerk, a stone’s throw from the palace, before a joint session of the houses of parliament.
A who’s who of royals-in-waiting, including Britain’s Prince Charles, Spain’s Prince Felipe and Japan’s Prince Naruhito and his wife, Crown Princess Masako, are attending the ceremony.
Princess Masako is on her first trip abroad in nearly seven years, while Prince Charles also attended Beatrix’s enthronement in 1980.
Dam Square, which lies opposite the palace and can hold 25,000 people, was packed with wellwishers early in the day, all hoping to catch a glimpse of King Willem-Alexander and his glamorous Argentine-born Queen Maxima, 41.
Some people spent the night on Amsterdam’s main square to ensure having a good view of the royal balcony, while partygoers from across the Netherlands descended on the capital, many carrying Dutch flags.
Beatrix, 75, bade farewell to the nation in her role as queen in a televised address to the nation late Monday, before becoming a mere princess again.
“Not power, nor personal will, nor hereditary authority, but only the will to serve the community can give substance to a contemporary monarchy,” said an emotional Beatrix.
Willem-Alexander is well-prepared for the task ahead of him and will stand above party and group interests, she said.
The monarchy is popular in the Netherlands, but some question the cost of the royal household and republicans are seeking to get the king’s 825,000 euro (million-dollar) tax-free salary reduced.
Speaking ahead of the enthronement, Willem-Alexander said that “people can address me as they wish because then they can feel comfortable.”
He stressed he wanted to “be a king that can bring society together, representative and encouraging in the 21st century.”