The focus of this week’s “Who Is?” Queen Máxima of the Netherlands.
She was born Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti 17 May 1971 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Jorge Horacio Zorreguieta and Maria del Carmen Cerruti de Zorreguieta. Her Majesty has two brothers, one sister and three paternal half-sisters. She was named after her paternal great-grandmother Máxima Bonorino González. Máxima grew up in in the Recoleta neighbourhood of Buenos Aires.
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. She further continued her education in the United States, receiving her master’s degree.
While studying at the Universidad Católica Argentina, from 1989-1990, she worked for Mercado Abierto SA. There she did research into 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 met then Willem-Alexander, The Prince of Orange, in April 1999 at the Seville Spring Fair in Seville, Spain. In an interview with the couple later on, it was revealed that The Prince of Orange only introduced himself as Alexander. Máxima later admitted she soon completely forgot who he was. Later on, she thought he was joking when he admitted that he was a prince and the heir apparent to the Dutch throne. They agreed to meet in New York, where she was stationed at the time with the Deutsche Bank.
With her family curious about the man courting her, Máxima finally admitted to them who exactly he was. Not surprisingly, they were shocked, but they welcomed Willem-Alexander with open arms. Willem-Alexander’s family were just as welcoming with Máxima. The relationship was able to remain secret until they were spotting together in August 1999 on the royal yacht.
The Prince of Orange proposed in 2001 with a beautiful light orange diamond ring, to represent the national colour of the Netherlands. Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus announced on the 30 March 2001 that the heir to the throne would marry Argentine, Máxima Zorreguieta. Máxima addressed the nation during a live broadcast in Dutch, a language that, at the time, she was only conversational in. By 17 May she was granted Dutch citizenship, making her a dual citizen of the Netherlands and Argentina. On 3 July, the two houses of the Dutch parliament passed a bill consenting to the marriage.
However, controversy surrounded the engagement announcement when it came to light that Jorge Zorreguieta, 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 of time 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 in the Netherlands were concerned about the involvement of Máxima’s father, but they did not believe she should be held accountable since she was just a child at the time. Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus came forward to show support for Máxima and the marriage during this time.
It was decided that Jorge would not attend the wedding festivities to avoid more controversy. Máxima’s mother decided to stay in Argentina as well. However, Máxima’s siblings were in attendance. Máxima and Willem-Alexander were married on 2 February 2002 in a civil ceremony conducted by The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, in the Beurs van Berlage. The religious ceremony followed directly after at the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), with thousands lining the streets to celebrate the royal couple. The new Princess of Orange chose to remain a Roman Catholic after her marriage.
The couple have three daughters: Catharina-Amalia (born 7 December 2003), Alexia (born 26 June 2005), and Ariane (born 10 April 2007). Willem-Alexander remarked that they referred to their children as “The A Team” and decided to give them all names starting with an ‘a’ to keep their “triple A rating”. Catharina-Amalia simply goes by Amalia. Máxima’s parents attended their granddaughter’s christenings since they were considered a private affair, rather than a state affair.
In April 2013, Queen Beatrix abdicated in favour of Willem-Alexander. It was said that she stepped down because of tradition and the strain of her son, Prince Friso’s condition and subsequent death from a skiing accident. She reverted back to being titled, Princess Beatrix after her abdication. With Willem-Alexander being named king, Máxima was given the title of queen consort, and therefore, their oldest child, Amalia was named The Princess of Orange. The Prince/Princess of Orange is the title for the heir to the Dutch throne. Máxima is the first Dutch queen consort since 1890.
Máxima is the godmother to several children, including Prince Sverre Magnus of Norway and her niece, Countess Leonore of Orange-Nassau van Amsberg, the daughter of Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien.
According to the Dutch Monarchy’s website, she holds the following positions: Member of Council of State, Member of the Supervisory Board of the Het Loo Palace National Museum, Honorary chair of the Money Wise Platform, Member of the Committee for Enterprise and Finance, UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, Honorary chair of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, and Chair of the board of the House of Orange-Nassau Historic Collections Trust. She is also patron of the following organisations: Orange Fund, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Tropical Institute KIT, Scouting Nederland, and Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.
Her Majesty holds honours from the following foreign countries: Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Germany, and Japan.