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Royal Wedding Rewind: King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands

It was a wedding for the history books and thousands turned out to celebrate. When Willem-Alexander and Maxima married in 2002, the popularity that has mostly dominated their time as King and Queen of the Netherlands was on show for all to see as they were cheered throughout their special day by crowds across Amsterdam.

The road to the altar hadn’t been smooth. Willem-Alexander was the first male heir to the Dutch throne in decades but kept his royal status a secret from Maxima Zorreguieta when they met for the first time at the Seville Fair in 1999. Maxima thought he was joking when he revealed his regal destiny but their relationship flourished and on March 30th 2001, the couple’s engagement was announced.

Controversy arose over Maxima’s family. Her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, had been a member of the cabinet during the last Argenine dictatorship and a special investigation was launched into whether he had played any part in the regime’s authorities. It concluded he hadn’t but that he must have been aware of them. It was announced he wouldn’t attend the wedding which was set for February 2nd 2002.

As required by law, Willem-Alexander and Maxima first married in a civil ceremony which took place at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. The mayor, Job Cohen, officiated in front of 600 guests including dignitaries from across the Netherlands. The couple emerged to cheering crowds before making their way to the Nieuwe Kerk for their religious marriage.

Royalty from across Europe packed the pews of the famous church as the couple walked in together to the music composed for the marriage of Willem-Alexander’s parents, Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus, in 1966. The ceremony was conducted by the Reverend Carel ter Linden, Minister Emeritus of the Kloosterkerk in The Hague. Maxima was overcome by emotion during parts of the ceremony which saw the couple exchange platinum wedding bands. The new Prince and Princess of Orange walked out beneath a guard of honour and set off on a carriage ride through the streets of Amsterdam which were packed with wellwishers.

Maxima chose Valentino Couture of Rome to design her wedding dress which was made of ivory mikado silk with the full length, flared skirt featuring inset lace panels. The bodice had a cowl neckline and fitted bodice with three quarter length sleeves.

The bridal veil was made of silk tulle and covered a train measuring five metres. The new princess wore an heirloom tiara belonging to her husband’s family but with her own twist. Maxima chose a diadem usually topped by pearl buttons but for her marriage she swapped those for five diamond stars belonging to Queen Emma, the last female consort of the Netherlands in a nod to her own future role. Her bouquet includes white roses, lily of the valley and gardenias.

The couple went on to have three daughters together. On April 30th 2013, Willem-Alexander became the first King of the Netherlands in over a century when he succeeded following the abdication of his mother, Beatrix.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary in 2023.

You can read more about royal weddings in our special book, available in print and as an ebook. Royal Weddings by Royal Central is available to buy on Amazon.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.