Today we’re looking back at the accession of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, the first Dutch king in 123 years, and the first new monarch of the decade.
On 28 January 2013, Queen Beatrix appeared on television to deliver a speech. She began:
“As you all know, in a few days from now I hope to celebrate my 75th birthday. I am thankful to be able to do so in good health. At the end of this year, we will commemorate the fact that our country became a monarchy 200 years ago, an event which heralded a new era in our history.”
Then she delivered the news: “The two events together have brought me to the decision to abdicate this year. It seems to me the time is ripe to take this step, which I have been contemplating for some years now.”
In a three-minute speech, Queen Beatrix announced that she would abdicate her throne—the traditional way the crown is passed in the Netherlands—in favour of her son and heir, Prince Willem-Alexander on 30 April of that year.
“He and Princess Máxima are fully prepared for their future task. They will serve the country devotedly, keep it according to the constitution and use their many talents to make the monarchy their own.”
Queen Beatrix had reigned for 33 years, having ascended following the abdication of her own mother, Queen Juliana on 30 April 1980.
“I feel heartened in the knowledge that my abdication does not mean I will have to say goodbye to you. I hope to meet many of you again in the future. I am deeply grateful for your faith in me during the many wonderful years I have been privileged enough to be your queen.”
She also affirmed that her abdication had nothing to do with ill health, instead saying that it was the chance for the next generation to become responsible for the country and the Caribbean parts of the realm.
“I have always considered it a special privilege to have spent a large portion of my life in the service of our country and in fulfilling the task of monarch. Prince Claus, for many years, was my great support.
“This wonderful task has never given me anything but great satisfaction. It has been inspiring to have been involved with the lives of people, to share their grief and to experience moments of joy and national pride.”
On 30 April, Queen Beatrix formally abdicated her throne in a ceremony in the Mozeszaal of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, where she gave another speech and signed the Instrument of Abdication.
With her signature on this document, King Willem-Alexander was officially named monarch. He signed the Instrument of Abdication as well, as did his consort, Queen Máxima, and several government representatives who were present, including:
- The Chairman of the House of Representatives
- The Chairman of the Senate
- The Prime Minister of the Netherlands
- The Prime Ministers of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten
- The Vice President of the Council of State
- The King’s Commissioner of North Holland
- The Mayor of Amsterdam
- The King’s Cabinet Director
Then, King Willem-Alexander’s new titles were read out loud, and Queen Máxima was officially styled as the queen consort.
Following this, the now-Princess Beatrix, King Willem-Alexander, and Queen Máxima stepped onto the balcony of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam to view the gathered crowd. Princess Beatrix gave a speech announcing that her son was now the new monarch and that her daughter-in-law was now the queen consort.Embed from Getty Images
After Princess Beatrix left the balcony, the young princesses, Princess Catharina-Amalia (now the Princess of Orange and heir to the throne), Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane joined their parents and waved to the crowds.Embed from Getty Images
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima then travelled to the Nieuwe Kerk for his investiture. Dutch monarchs don’t have coronations in the style of British monarchs. Instead, the crown and state symbols were laid out on a table during the investiture. He also wasn’t anointed with a crown. He instead swore an oath while wearing an ermine robe. He swore to uphold both the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Constitution of the Netherlands.
His oath, per the Royal House website, was: “I solemnly swear (affirm) to the people of the Kingdom that I shall constantly preserve and uphold the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Constitution. I swear (affirm) that I shall defend and preserve the independence and the territory of the Kingdom to the best of my ability, that I shall protect the freedom and rights of all Dutch citizens and residents, and that I shall employ all means placed at my disposal by the law to preserve and promote prosperity, as is incumbent upon a good and faithful Sovereign. So help me God! (This I solemnly affirm!)”
Then, members of the state swore their allegiance to the new king.Embed from Getty Images
Members of the Dutch Royal Family and Royal House attended the investiture, including his daughters, brother and sister-in-law, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
Foreign royals in attendance included The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain, Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie of Luxembourg, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan, The Princess Consort of Qatar, The Princess Consort of Morocco, The Crown Prince of Thailand, The Princess Royal of Thailand, The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Brunei, The Hereditary Prince and Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein, and Prince Hassan bin Talal and Princess Sarvath al-Hassan of Jordan.Embed from Getty Images
During the investiture ceremony, King Willem-Alexander delivered a speech in praise of his mother and recognising the kind of monarch he wanted to be.
He said of Princess Beatrix:
“As Queen you were fully conscious of the responsibilities attached to your position. You were utterly dedicated to the duties of your office. But you were also a daughter, a wife, a mother and head of the family. And you have always sought to do full justice to each of those responsibilities. Sometimes you felt torn, but you combined your many duties with great inspiration. You never refused a request for help. Even in times of personal sorrow you supported us all in the most loving and dependable manner.
“With the help of my father, you developed your own style as Queen. You never chose the easy path of fleeting popularity. You navigated stormy waters, charting a sure and steady course in the knowledge that you were part of a long tradition.
“Now, I follow in your footsteps. And I have a clear picture of my duties. No one knows what the future may hold. But wherever my path leads, and however long it may be, I will always carry with me your warmth and your wisdom.”
Of his duties, he said:
“I succeed to the throne at a time when many in the Kingdom feel vulnerable and uncertain. Vulnerable in their jobs or their health. Uncertain about their income or the environment in which they live. It now seems less self-evident that the next generation will be better off than the last.
“As individuals, we seem to have little influence over the events that shape our lives. Therefore, our power lies not in isolating ourselves but in working together. As families and as friends. As residents of a street or neighbourhood. As citizens of our Kingdom. And as inhabitants of an Earth confronted with countless challenges that can only be met by working together at the international level.”
Of the kind of king he wanted to be:
“As King, I want to encourage people to make active use of their opportunities. However great our diversity, however different our beliefs or dreams, and however varied our backgrounds, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands everyone can have a voice and can contribute to society on an equal footing.
“I will take pride in representing the Kingdom, and in helping to uncover new opportunities. I want to establish ties, make connections and exemplify what unites us, the Dutch people, and not only in times of great joy or deep sorrow. Thus, as King, I can strengthen the bond of mutual trust between the people and their government, maintain our democracy and serve the public interest.
“I accept this office with gratitude. I am grateful for the upbringing my parents gave me, and for the freedom I have been given to prepare for this role. Many people have helped show me the way, both in their words and in their deeds, and I would like to thank them all.
“Successive governments, with the support of the States-General, have given me the opportunity to play a role in various fields and so to undertake many activities both in and on behalf of the Netherlands. This work has given me a sense of what I can contribute in my position. It has also allowed me to gain a deep insight into issues, such as responsible water management, which are fundamental to our country.
“My experiences at home and abroad have made me the person I am. I can say with confidence, both to myself and to the world: I accept this office with full conviction. And in doing so, I acknowledge how deeply happy I am to have the support of my wife, Máxima. She is conscious of the personal constraints her position sometimes entails. She has embraced our country and become a Dutchwoman among the Dutch people. She stands ready to apply the full range of her abilities in the service of my reign and the Kingdom at large.”
After the investiture, in the evening the new King and Queen, accompanied by their family and guests, attended a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister. They also watched the Song for the King and a water pageant.Embed from Getty Images
In the years since his accession, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima have represented the Netherlands and the Caribbean realms globally and have lent their support to causes including military, microfinance, arts, and health. Their eldest daughter, Princess Catharina-Amalia recently celebrated her 16th birthday.
King Willem-Alexander will celebrate the end of his first decade on the throne in 2023.