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King Willem-Alexander interviewed as he celebrates his 50th birthday

The Netherlands saw an unusually personal side of their King on Wednesday as he spoke openly during an interview broadcast on the eve of his 50th birthday. Almost 4,3 million people tuned in to watch the interview. King Willem-Alexander spoke of his life, his family, important events but also emotional moments, like the death of his brother Prince Friso. Prince Friso was caught in an avalanche in 2012 and died in 2013 after being in a coma.

“He was so very busy, but in the background, he was a close adviser of mine. Honest to a fault and not very diplomatic! But when you lose someone, that is when you realise how awful it is to miss someone.” King Willem-Alexander often visited Prince Friso when he was in a coma. “I always had hope that it be would okay.”

The loss of his brother helped the King comfort the families of the victims of the crash of Flight MH17. “A lot of people told me: you have also lost your brother in an accident, you know what it means.”

But as close as he might have been to the families, when the bodies began arriving in the Netherlands it caused a strange moment: “Thirty meters away were the families of the victims, but for us, it was an official moment. Suddenly, no physical contact was possible, but we had just been hugging them. I said to Máxima: let’s bow to them.

“A lot of people told me: you have also lost your brother in an accident, you know what it means.”

But as close as he might have been to the families, when the bodies began arriving in the Netherlands it caused a strange moment. “Thirty meters away were the families of the victims, but for us, it was an official moment. Suddenly, no physical contact was possible, but we had just been hugging them. I said to Máxima: let’s bow to them.”

King Willem-Alexander also spoke of his father Prince Claus, who died in 2002. Prince Claus was born in Germany and always felt German.

“He was always thinking about the Second World War. He felt responsible. Claus thought it was unacceptable to compare to Holocaust to anything at all. It could never be explained away.”

Of his youth with his two brothers, he said, “My youngest brother and I were less than 2,5 years apart in age. I learned very quickly to talk back to them. It was chop or be chopped!”

He calls his three daughters, Catherine-Amalia, Princess of Orange and Princesses Alexia and Ariane, “his radiant ladies”.

He said: “They all have mobile phones now. They were allowed one from their tenth birthday, and Ariane just turned ten. But we have final say over the phones. Or at least, we do in theory; it’s not always the case!”

The phones are old phones, which once belonged to the King and Queen. His eldest daughter will succeed his as Queen someday, and he advised her recently, “Know your limits and cross them. Make mistakes. I did, a lot.” He said he doesn’t want to know what his children are doing and asked their security detail not to tell on them. “It’s about the safety of my children, not about us knowing if they are doing something wrong.”

The most important part of his life is perhaps his wife. “We are just getting started, we’ve only been together 18 years. We can be happy together for a long time. She is critical but also caring and forgiving when I am capricious. She is a very special woman, and I am very fortunate to have met her.”

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