Princess Maxima’s entrance into the Dutch royal house was a sensation, and now she the queen consort of King Willem-Alexander, with the abdication of her mother-in-law Queen Beatrix on 30 April.
While her family’s links to a fallen dictatorship were scrutinized by parliament, the Argentine charmed the nation.
So how did this unconventional princess captivate a country so committed to rules and protocol?
Dutch historian Henk te Velde recalled: “The first time I met Maxima she was wearing a wetsuit, waving exuberantly as crowds strained against security cordons to capture a close-up of their most adored royal.
“The princess plunged into the canal and swam through Amsterdam: Her willingness to brave the city’s freezing waters for charity is symbolic of a character that has captured the Dutch imagination.”
“She came and she conquered,” Henk te Velde said.
He adds that her readiness to speak to the people in their own language when she married Crown Prince Willem-Alexander also went down well.
“People were struck by the fact that as soon as she came she started to learn Dutch,” he said.
“We were impressed. It showed she has respect and was willing to make an effort to understand us.
“Now she even makes jokes in Dutch.”
Maxima’s Latin American roots add to her appeal, according to Han van Bree, a historian who specializes in the Dutch royal family.
“She is exotic, she has passion and sparkle and flamboyance and she doesn’t try to be distant like Beatrix,” he says.
“We love her for that, people can feel the authenticity.”
But it would be doing Maxima a disservice to suggest her appeal lies in little more than teaching her Dutch husband how to tango.
Maxima studied economics and before meeting Prince Willem-Alexander at a party in Seville, she was working for Deutsche Bank in New York.
Maxima studied economics and before meeting Prince Willem-Alexander at a party in Seville, she was working for Deutsche Bank in New York
Her financial background helped win her the job of UN Secretary-General’s special advocate for inclusive finance.
She is involved in domestic debates on the divisive subjects of immigration and integration – something that has, in the past, put her at odds with the country’s influential right wing.
Maxima is also a prominent proponent of gay rights. One of her first appearances after becoming queen will be at a two-day international gay rights summit in The Hague.
Willem-Alexander has been aware of his “date with destiny” since he was a child. Han Van Bree believes this was not something he was looking forward to.
Since he was a boy, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander has had an awkward relationship with the press.
“He didn’t tell the media to <<go to hell>> as it was reported when he was 11, but it was something close to that,” says Han Van Bree.
During his student days in the quiet city of Leiden, there was an unfortunate photo taken of Willem-Alexander clutching a pint of beer that generated the seemingly unshakable nickname “Prince Pils”.
This apparently frustrated the future king greatly.
In an interview in 1997, he said: “My image is not something that keeps me busy every day. But I find it sad that one picture in a paper of me holding a glass has more influence on my image than… years of training.”
Prince Willem-Alexander would go on to learn many lessons on how to keep the Dutch people on his side.
“He was seen as the jet-set prince, <<chasing skirts>>. He was always a bit timid in public, a bit stiff,” says Henk te Velde, a professor of Dutch History at Leiden University.
“But now he looks more relaxed, he is being more himself and he looks ready now and Maxima has definitely helped.”
Maxima’s father did not attend her wedding and is not on the inauguration guest list either. Instead of joining the dignitaries descending on Amsterdam, Jorge Zorreguieta will watch his daughter become queen on television.
Jorge Zorreguieta was the agriculture minister during Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship, serving during the country’s infamous Dirty War. Though Maxima was a child at the time, the link initially created some controversy.
There was a campaign to have Jorge Zorreguieta arrested and put on trial for crimes against humanity if he entered the Netherlands. This has since been dismissed – but there may again be problems if charges are ever brought against him in Argentina.
The question of Maxima’s suitability was even debated in the Dutch parliament.
However, Queen Beatrix came to the rescue with a royal seal of approval.
She appeared alongside the new couple on her 63rd birthday and, during a rare public appearance to announce their engagement, the queen described her daughter-in-law as “an intelligent modern woman”.
Princess Maxima has demonstrated considerable dexterity in conforming to public protocol while maintaining private ties between her father and his so-called triple-A granddaughters – the unusual nickname given to the royal couple’s daughters Amalia, Alexia and Ariene.
“That is how I hope people will judge our family,” Prince Willem-Alexander once said.
Princess Maxima’s choice of outfit for her inauguration has been the subject of much discussion, of course. It is easy to ask why we should care what Maxima wears – but her clothes are likely to make a subtle statement.
She is renowned for her flamboyant style, mixing elegant gowns and bold, block colors. From a canary yellow tunic trouser suit during a state visit to Brunei to a cascading champagne gown at the 2011 state opening of parliament.
Princess Maxima is fluent in fashion and knows how to utilize its power of expression. Her extravagant ivory Mikado silk wedding gown was by Italian designer Valentino. More recently Maxima has shopped locally, showcasing stunning creations by a small Amsterdam-based atelier, Jan Taminiau.
For the royal couple’s only televised interview prior to the abdication – watched by 4.6 million viewers, roughly a quarter of the population – Maxima’s regal blue dress matched her husband’s tie.
Han Van Bree, who has met Maxima, interpreted this as a deliberate effort not to outshine Willem-Alexander.
He says: “She was not like herself – very reserved, very quiet… Normally she is electrifying with so much to say, but it was maybe only 20% Maxima and the rest was Willem-Alexander. It is his big day and I think she is making a conscious effort not to attract so much attention to herself.”
She has learnt from past mistakes, he adds.
“It’s important she shows that she knows her place – by the king’s side and not queen in her own right.”
As a result, Maxima may opt to leave her jewel-encrusted tiaras at home on abdication day.
But it will be hard for a woman who revels in refined glamour to rein in her exuberant style. With an audience of 1.6 million expected to congregate in orange attire in the capital, might Maxima join her subjects in adopting the colors of the House of Orange to celebrate the start of her husband’s reign?
As one royal magazine put it, her outfit must convey “hope and renewal” for the next generation.
She may be playing a supporting role, but it is a vital one.
In Henk te Velde’s words, Maxima is becoming the Dutch king’s “most important adviser” and what she wears matters.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has abdicated and handed the throne to her son Prince Willem-Alexander.
Queen Beatrix, 75, signed the instrument of abdication in Amsterdam after 33 years on the throne.
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander has now become the country’s first king since 1890.
Huge crowds of orange-clad partygoers are in Amsterdam to pay tribute to the popular queen, who maintained a recent Dutch tradition to hand over to a new generation.
Queen Beatrix announced her intention to stand down in January, saying her son was ready to reign and that it was time for the throne to be held by “a new generation”.
The Queen formally relinquished throne at a short ceremony in the Royal Palace on Tuesday, signing a statement which read: “I now withdraw from my office of Queen of the Netherlands, and the monarchy will now be transferred to my eldest son, Willem-Alexander.”
There were huge cheers from the crowds outside, watching on giant screens in Dam Square, as Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima signed the deed.
Shortly after, the three royals emerged on a balcony above Dam Square.
Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima signed the deed
King Willem-Alexander thanked his mother for “33 moving and interesting years”, saying he and the Dutch public and people in Dutch overseas territories were “intensely grateful” to her.
The three then held hands on the balcony as the national anthem was played, before the new king and queen’s three young daughters were brought out to wave at the crowds.
Willem-Alexander will later be officially sworn at the Nieuwe Kerk, before a joint session of the Dutch parliament.
His wife Maxima, a 41-year-old Argentine-born investment banker, will become queen consort.
In the evening, the royal family will take part in a water pageant.
The ceremonies will be attended by other invited royals and high-ranking dignitaries, including Britain’s Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain and Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and his wife.
About a million visitors were set to pour into Amsterdam, and street parties are taking place across the nation.
On Monday, Queen Beatrix thanked the nation, saying the people’s devotion had given her the strength to carry on during her 33-year reign.
“Without your heart-warming and encouraging displays of affection, the burdens, which certainly have existed, would have weighed heavily,” she said.
Paying tribute to her late husband Prince Claus, who died in 2002, she said he had helped modernize the House of Orange.
“Perhaps history will bear out that the choice of my partner was my best decision,” said the monarch, who is known affectionately as Queen Bea.
She said hereditary authority of itself did not give substance to a contemporary monarchy; rather this was earned through “the will to serve the country”.
Willem-Alexander is well-prepared for the task ahead of him and will stand above party and group interests, she said.
Prince Willem-Alexander has already said he wants to “be a king that can bring society together, representative and encouraging in the 21st Century”.
“People can address me as they wish because then they can feel comfortable.”
Queen Beatrix is the sixth monarch from the House of Orange-Nassau, which has ruled the Netherlands since the early 19th Century.
Correspondents say she is extremely popular with most Dutch people, but her abdication was widely expected and will not provoke a constitutional crisis.
Under Dutch law, the monarch has few powers and the role is considered ceremonial.
In recent decades it has become the tradition for the monarch to abdicate.
Queen Beatrix’s mother Juliana resigned the throne in 1980 on her 71st birthday, and her grandmother Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 at the age of 68.
Queen Beatrix has remained active in recent years, but her reign has also seen traumatic events.
In 2009 a would-be attacker killed eight people when he drove his car into crowds watching the queen and other members of the royal family in a national holiday parade.
In February last year her second son, Prince Friso, was struck by an avalanche in Austria and remains in a coma.
Abdication day in the Netherlands
10:00 local time – Queen Beatrix signs the act of abdication at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam
10:30 – the former queen, now Princess Beatrix, and the new King Willem-Alexander appear on the palace balcony, with new Queen Maxima
14:00 – King Willem-Alexander to be sworn in at the Nieuwe Kerk
19:30 – performance of The Song for the King followed by a water pageant
Future King of The Netherlands Willem-Alexander gave his final interview as a Crown Prince joined by his wife Princess Máxima on national Dutch TV channels NOS and RTL on Wednesday.
In his last major interview before he becomes King Willem-Alexander later this month has said that his subjects will not have to address him as “Your Majesty”.
On January 28 this year current Queen Beatrix announced that her abdication and that the Prince of Orange Willem-Alexander, her eldest son, would succeed her.
The abdication and the investiture of the new King, at that time Prince Willem-Alexander will be 46 years old, will take place in Amsterdam on April 30.
He will reign under the name King Willem-Alexander.
In the interview, the couple spoke about their lives, about Willem-Alexander becoming king and about the way forward for the Dutch monarchy.
The interview took place at the Huis ten Bosch palace, Queen Beatrix’ formal offices, and, say commentators, the couple came over as self-assured and relaxed.
Future King of The Netherlands Willem-Alexander gave his final interview as a Crown Prince joined by his wife Princess Máxima
Prince Willem-Alexander said he had no problem if the Netherlands moved towards a purely ceremonial monarchy.
The future king’s role is continuing to build on the tradition of his predecessors.
“It is a tradition which represents the continuity of this country and its stability. But I also want to be a king who can unite people in the 21st century,” he said.
If people wanted to move away from this, Prince Willem-Alexander said he accepted everything, as long as it was a democratic decision in accordance with the constitution.
“That is what I am king for and if something has to be signed, I will do it,” the prince said.
The previous government reduced the role of the monarch in forming a new government and there had been speculation the prince wanted a more active role as head of state.
Asked why he did not want to be named king Willem IV, the prince laughed and said he did not want to be a number.
“Willem 4 is in a field, next to Bertha 38,” he said, referring to the way cows are named and registered.
Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima said they had been aware of the queen’s abdication plans for a year and watched her broadcast to the nation together with their three daughters.
“It was a very emotional moment, as it probably was for everyone,” Princess Máxima said.
The couple’s oldest daughter, and future queen, Amalia, is well aware of her future role.
Prince Willem-Alexander said: “She has already asked how many years I plan to do it… I can probably put a date in my diary now.”
Some 4.6 million of the Dutch population of nearly 17 million watched last night’s televised interview with Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima, according to audience research figures.
A viewers’ panel after the broadcast was positive about the role of the future king and queen.
Nine out of ten said they think Prince Willem-Alexander will make a good king, and 30% think he will do a better job than his mother. And 93% expect Princess Máxima will be a good queen. Her title is a courtesy one as wife of the king.
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, the heir to the Dutch throne, made a media splash by hurling a toilet for fun in a contest recently – but has now spoken of his shame.
Prince Willem-Alexander said the event on Queen’s Day last month was “a laugh”, but he also felt “shame at the thought of some 2.6 billion people around the world” who lack toilets.
He won a cup with a little toilet on top as a prize.
The 30 April festivities were held in the eastern village of Rhenen.
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, the heir to the Dutch throne, made a media splash by hurling a toilet for fun in a contest recently
The crown prince’s younger brother Prince Constantijn also hurled a toilet in the contest, but not as far.
The annual festival marks the birthday of Queen Beatrix’s late mother Queen Juliana.
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander is also chairman of the UN’s water and sanitation advisory board (UNSGAB) and the Dutch government’s information service later insisted that he was not ashamed of his involvement in the contest.
He had taken part because the toilets were destined for a project in Gambia, it said.