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FeaturesInsightThe Netherlands

Who is King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands?

willem alexander
© RVD - Martijn Beekman

Willem–Alexander Claus George Ferdinand was born in the Utrecht at University Medical Centre on 27 April 1967. He is the oldest child of (the former Queen) Princess Beatrix and German diplomat Claus Von Amsberg. King Willem- Alexander is the first grandchild of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard. He was baptised on 2 September 1967 in St Jacob’s Church in the Hague. His godparents are Prince Bernhard of Lippe Biesterfeld, Gosta Freiin Von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen, Ferdinand Von Bismarck, former Prime Minister Jelle Zijlstra, Jonkvrouw Renee Roell, and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

King Willem–Alexander held the titles Prince of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange Nassau and Jonkheer of Amsberg before ascending to the throne. In 1981, Willem-Alexander’s family moved to a larger palace called Huis ten Bosch in The Hague. His mother Queen Beatrix ascended to the throne after his grandmother Juliana abdicated. It was then that he received the title Prince of Orange.

© RVD – Prince Claus

His Majesty attended Nieuwe Baarnse Elementary School in Baarn for six years. It is understood that Willem–Alexander attended three different secondary schools. Between 1979 and 1981, he attended Baarns Lyceum; between 1981 and 1983, he attended the Eerste Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum. Finally, between 1983 and 1985, he attended the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales in the UK from which he received his International Baccalaureate.

Between secondary and university and then after university, Willem–Alexander served in the military in the Royal Netherlands Navy. He received training at Royal Netherlands Naval College, the frigates HNLMS Tromp and HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen where he was an ensign. He received additional training at the ship HNLMS Van Kinsbergen, and he became a junior grade lieutenant. After university, in 1995 and 1997 Willem–Alexander was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and Commander respectively. In 2001 and 2005, he was promoted to Captain at sea and Commodore respectively. In the Royal Netherlands Army, Willem–Alexander was made a Major (Grenadiers’ and Rifle Guard Regiment) in 1995, then was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1997. In 2001, he became Colonel and later Brigadier General in 2005. In the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Willem–Alexander was made Squadron leader in 1995 and promoted to Air Commodore in 2005. For Royal Marechaussee, he was made Brigadier General in 2005.

His Majesty studied history at Leiden University between 1987 and 1993. He received his MA Degree in 1993. He speaks Spanish, French, English, Dutch and German.


The King has shown a considerable interest in water management and sports issues. He was an honorary member of the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century and patron of the Global Water Partnership a body established by the UN, the World Bank and the Swedish Ministry of Development. King Willem–Alexander was appointed as Chairperson of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation on 12 December 2006.

Willem–Alexander was made a member of International Olympic Committee (IOC), but he later relinquished his membership and received the Gold Olympic Order at 125th IOC Session. Before becoming a member of IOC, King Willem–Alexander was a patron of the Dutch Olympic Games Committee.

King Willem–Alexander loves flying planes and once said that if he wasn’t a royal, he would be a pilot. In 1989, he volunteered for the African Medical Research and Education Foundation (AMREF) in Kenya. In 1991, he spent a month flying for Kenya Wildlife Service. When his mother Queen Beatrix was the monarch, he regularly flew the Dutch royal aeroplane on trips.


His Majesty married Argentine-born Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Máxima worked as an investment banker in New York before marrying King Willem–Alexander. The royal couple has three children: Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange (b. 7 December 2003), Princess Alexia (b. 26 June 2005) and Princess Ariane (b. 10 April 2007).

Baptism of Princess Ariane, 20 October 2007: the Prince of Orange, Princesses Máxima, Catharina-Amalia, Ariane and Alexia, Valeria Delger, Inés Zorreguieta, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxemburg, Tijo Baron Collot d’Escury and Antoine Friling.
Image: © RVD, Jeroen van der Meyde

On 28 January 2013, King Willem-Alexander’s mother, Queen Beatrix announced her intention of abdicating and signed the instrument of abdication at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam on 30 April 2013. King Willem–Alexander was inaugurated as monarch in front of a joint assembly of the States-General held at the Nieuwe Kerk. His Majesty, President of the Council of State, meets with the Prime Minister on a weekly basis, speaks with ministers and state secretaries and signs all Acts of Parliament and Royal Decrees. The country’s constitution requires that the monarch appoint, dismiss and swear in all ministers and state secretaries.

The Royal Family in the summer of 2019. © RVD Wesley de Wit

A media code was instituted on 21 June 2005 by The Netherlands’ Government Information Service (RVD) which is used to protect the Royal Family’s privacy. The Royal Family currently lives in Villa Eikenhorst on the De Horsten estate in Wassenaar, but they will move to the palace of Huis ten Bosch in The Hague after its renovation.