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  • Dutch King Willem-Alexander becomes Europe’s youngest monarch

    Published on May 2, 2013

    dutchWillem-Alexander was installed as the Netherlands first king since 1890 after the abdication of his mother, Queen Beatrix, amid celebrations in Amsterdam.

    The 75-year-old monarch signed the instrument of abdication this morning after 33 years on the throne in the Royal Palace on the city’s Dam Square, which was filled with as many as 25,000 people wearing orange, the Dutch national color.

    Willem- Alexander, 46, became king immediately. A few minutes later, Beatrix, Willem-Alexander and his wife,Maxima, appeared on the palace balcony to greet the crowds.

    The royals later crossed the street to the Nieuwe Kerk, a 600-year-old gothic church, where Willem-Alexander was sworn in as king. The city authorities were expecting at least 800,000 visitors for today’s events. The celebrations on Queen’s Day, a national holiday, were being mirrored across the country with concerts and fairs. Dutch NOS TV was broadcasting 14 hours of live programming.

    Beatrix “gave her trust for 33 years and she did not betray that trust. That is the basis of her authority,” Willem- Alexander said of his mother in his speech before being sworn in. “I know that I express the feelings of many people in the Netherlands and the Caribbean parts of our kingdom. Thank you for the many beautiful years during which you were our queen.”

    His comments drew lengthy applause in the church, including from the new king’s three daughters, who were sitting alongside Beatrix.

    Economic Woes

    For the Dutch, Tuesday provided a chance to set aside concerns about the economy amid a third recession since 2009 and after unemployment almost doubled to 8.1 percent over the past four years. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has postponed 4.3 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in budget cuts for next year and urged consumers to stop being gloomy and start spending. Even so, the austerity measures may be reinstated if the economy doesn’t grow strongly enough in the coming months.

    “I take the throne at a time when many people in the kingdom feel vulnerable and insecure,” Willem-Alexander said in his speech in the Nieuwe Kerk before swearing his oath of office. “Vulnerable in their jobs or their health. Insecure about their income or their living environment. That children will have a better future than their parents seems less obvious than in the past.”

    Beatrix announced her intention to abdicate in January, following the example of her mother, Queen Juliana, who stepped down from the throne early in 1980.

    Social Cohesion

    “The inauguration in Amsterdam today is of national importance,” Petra Hulst, 35, a designer at Royal Philips Electronics NV who was among those on the city’s streets today, said in an interview.

    “It’s good for Amsterdam and good for social cohesion in the Netherlands.” “As king, I want to encourage people to make active use of their abilities,” Willem-Alexander said. “However great our diversity, however different our convictions and dreams may be, wherever our cradle stood, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, everyone may voice his opinion and help to build on the basis of equality.”

    After Tuesday morning’s abdication ceremony, the old and new monarchs and Maxima joined in singing the national anthem on the palace balcony. Beatrix then withdrew to be replaced by the daughters of Willem-Alexander and his 41-year-old Argentinian- born wife. The eldest, 9-year-old Princess Amalia, is the new heir to the throne.

    National Unity

    “What’s so special about a monarchy is that you feel the country’s unity more when there are great festive moments, but certainly also during moments of sadness,” Rutte said in an interview with NOS, recalling incidents including the 1992 plane crash in the Amsterdam neighborhood of Bijlmermeer and the 2009 attack on the royal family in the city of Apeldoorn.

    “The moment that Queen Beatrix put her signature” to the act of abdication was most special, because it was then that the throne constitutionally passed to her son, Rutte said.

    The new king is the first monarch to bear the name Willem- Alexander and the first male to reign since Willem III died in 1890. Juliana’s mother, Wilhelmina, who succeeded Willem III, also gave up the throne in 1948.