King Willem-Alexander became the first Dutch male monarch in more than a century Tuesday as his mother Beatrix abdicated to end a 33-year reign. His popular Argentine born wife became Queen Maxima.
The generational change in the House of Orange-Nassau gave the Netherlands a moment of celebration and pageantry as this trading nation of nearly 17 million struggles through a lengthy recession brought on by the European economic crisis.
Visibly emotional, the much-loved Beatrix ended her reign in a nationally televised signing ceremony as thousands of orange-clad people cheered outside. Millions more were expected to watch on television.
Willem-Alexander gripped his mother’s hand and looked briefly into her eyes after they both signed the abdication document in the Royal Palace on downtown Amsterdam’s Dam Square.
Beatrix looked close to tears as she then appeared on a balcony overlooking some 20,000 of her subjects.
“I am happy and grateful to introduce to you your new king, Willem-Alexander,” she told the cheering crowd.
Moments later, in a striking symbol of the generational shift, she left the balcony and Willem-Alexander, his wife and three daughters — the children in matching yellow dresses and headbands — waved to the crowd.
The former queen becomes Princess Beatrix and her son becomes the first Dutch king since Willem III died in 1890.
The eldest daughter of Willem-Alexander and Maxima Catharina-Amalia, who attended the ceremony wearing a yellow dress, became Princess of Orange and first in line to the throne.
Maxima has been married to the heir to the Dutch throne for 11 years. Her freshness, true love story and spontaneity made her way into the royal family and citizens’ hearts. She was born on May 17, 1971 in Buenos Aires. She is the fourth daughter of Jorge Zorreguieta and the eldest child of Maria del Carmen Cerruti. Maxima has three brothers: Martin, 40; Juan 30; and Ines, 28; in addition to three stepsisters: Maria, 56; Angeles, 54; and Dolores, 47.
Maxima lived out her childhood in an apartment in the North District of Buenos Aires and studied in the exclusive Northlands School, a bilingual academy. She studied Economy in the Universidad Catolica Argentina, where she got her bachelor degree in 1995. Maxima Zorreguieta is an independent woman who likes to work. She worked first in Argentina and soon moved to New York to work in an executive position for the HSBC Bank. When she was 28 years old she met Prince Willem-Alexander in Seville in 1999. In May 2000 she moved to Brussels to work in the Deutsche Bank and to be near her prince. The rest of the love story is history.
They got married on February 2, 2002, in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) of Amsterdam under the Protestant Rite, although Maxima continued professing the Catholic faith, a decision that was welcomed by the Church.
Maxima spontaneity and her South American exotic touch despite her perfect adaptation to the Dutch identity opened the hearts of her people in the Netherlands. Maxima is the most popular member of the Royal Family of the Netherlands, according to several surveys.