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Before they were royal: The life of Queen Máxima of the Netherlands

In the series “Before they were royal” we are taking a look at their young lives, education, and professional lives before gaining their royal title. The second edition focuses on Queen Máxima of the Netherlands or Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti as she was known before her marriage.

Born as Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti to Jorge Zorreguieta and María del Carmen Cerruti Carricart on 17 May 1971, the future queen was the daughter of the former Secretary of Agriculture (Zorreguieta) under the dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla – which would later cause issues when her engagement to the then Prince of Orange was announced. She has two brothers and a sister, Inés, who died in June 2018. Máxima also has two older half-sisters from her father’s first marriage.

© RVD

Máxima began her education at the Northlands School in nearby Olivos. This is a bilingual school for English and Spanish, which was founded in 1920 by two English women. She graduated in 1988 after passing her baccalaureate examinations. She then entered Universidad Católica Argentina (Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina) where she graduated with a degree in economics in 1995. While there, a local bishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio conducted morning mass; he would go on to become Pope Francis in March 2013. She further continued her education in the United States, receiving her master’s degree.

Multilingual, her ability to speak several languages (English, Spanish, and conversational French) was very beneficial during her career. She would go on to become fluent in Dutch after meeting Willem-Alexander. While studying at the Universidad Católica Argentina, from 1989-1990, she worked for Mercado Abierto SA. There she researched software for financial markets. By 1992, she was working in the Sales Department of Boston Securities SA in Buenos Aires. During this time, she taught English to children and adults, and also taught mathematics to secondary school children and first-year students. Her time at Mercado came to an end in 1995.

By July 1996, Máxima was working for HSBC James Capel Inc. in New York. Here she was Vice-President of Latin American Institutional Sales. She left this position in February 1998 and moved on to Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, serving as Vice-President of the Emerging Markets Division until July of 1999. After this, she began working at Deutsche Bank in New York, where again she was Vice-President of Institutional Sales. She then worked in Brussels, Belgium, at the European Union Representative Office for Deutsche from May 2000 through March 2001, when her engagement to Willem-Alexander was announced.

Máxima in 2001. © RVD – Picture Report

Máxima met then Willem-Alexander, The Prince of Orange, in April 1999 at the Seville Spring Fair in Seville, Spain. However, controversy surrounded the engagement announcement when it came to light that Máxima’s father had been the agricultural minister for the government under Jorge Videla’s military dictatorship, during the National Reorganization Process. His tenure included the beginning of a period dubbed the “Dirty War”, where between 10,000 to 30,000 people were killed or disappeared during this regime. There was an investigation by Michiel Baud, a Dutch professor in Latin American studies, at the request of the States General into Jorge’s involvement. Jorge claimed that he was a civilian, and therefore had no idea of the atrocities that had occurred while he was a cabinet minister.

Baud concluded that Jorge Zorreguieta had no direct involvement with the “Dirty War” but had to have known about it, considering his position. Many of the Dutch were concerned about the participation of Máxima’s father, but they did not believe she should be held accountable since she was just a child at the time. Jorge did not attend the wedding, and Máxima’s mother stayed behind in Argentina with her husband.

RIO DE JANEIRO: King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima at the golden race of Dorian van Rysselberghe during the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. Photo: ROYAL IMAGES ROBIN UTRECHT

Máxima and Willem-Alexander went on to marry on 2 February 2002 in both a civil and religious ceremony. They have three daughters: Princesses Amalia, Alexia and Ariane. She became Queen of the Netherlands upon the ascension of her husband, Willem-Alexander as King after the abdication of his mother, Queen Beatrix in April 2013.

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