Prince to replace Queen Beatrix next week

Dutch prepare for 21st-century king

AFP-JIJI

The Netherlands’ Prince Willem-Alexander will become Europe’s youngest monarch when Queen Beatrix abdicates Tuesday as his country prepares to hail the avowedly 21st-century king with a massive orange-hued party.

Willem-Alexander, who turns 46 on Saturday, will be the first Dutch king since 1890 and the first of a new wave of European monarchs, whose aging blue blood — at an average of 71 years old — is increasingly watered down.

Amsterdam’s population is set to double with at least 800,000 visitors flooding the city’s streets and canals as Beatrix, 75, ends her 33-year reign by signing the act of abdication at the palace.

While Beatrix was known for her formal court, Willem-Alexander has already said that he and his glamorous Argentine-born queen consort, Maxima, 41, will not be “protocol fetishists.”

Parliament last year stripped his mother of her last remaining role in forming governments, and the new king has said he will accept a purely ceremonial role should Parliament so decide. The Dutch monarch’s current political role is restricted to signing laws and meeting regularly with the prime minister.

Willem-Alexander will be sworn in rather than crowned at the deconsecrated Nieuwe Kerk church, a stone’s throw from the palace, before a joint session of the two houses of Parliament.

Sixteen members of the legislature have refused to take an oath in front of the new king, saying they have already pledged allegiance to the constitution and cannot now do so to an individual. Four Socialist lawmakers are staying away, and the other 12 have been told to sit at the back of the church.

Beatrix’s enthronement in 1980 was marred by violent protests and running street battles over a housing crisis that left Amsterdam looking like a war zone.

Antiroyalists this time have been allotted six locations in the city to stage demonstrations. But as of Thursday, only one had been booked by republicans planning playful protest rallies, including by wearing white.

Preparations for the big day have been overshadowed by a rancorous debate about the event’s official song, known as the Koningslied. An online petition rejecting the tune, an unusual mix of traditional and rap music, garnered 40,000 signatures within a few days.

Composer John Ewbank withdrew the song but the enthronement organizing committee stuck with it. The nation will now sing the Koningslied as one Tuesday evening, just before the royal family heads off on a water pageant behind Amsterdam’s central train station.

The day will be tinged with sadness for the new monarch’s wife, Maxima, whose father, Jorge Zorreguieta, and mother will be notable by their absence. Zorreguieta, 85, a minister under the notorious Argentine junta of Gen. Jorge Videla in the 1970s, also had to miss his daughter’s 2002 marriage because of doubts over his role in the murderous regime.

Maxima is largely responsible for having made her husband popular after an allegedly boozy youth, which earned him the nickname “Prince Pils.” The ever-smiling Maxima has mastered Dutch and even took a charity swim in Amsterdam’s canals.

A roll call of Europe’s royal families

Paris
AFP-JIJI

Europe has a total of 10 hereditary monarchies.

NETHERLANDS: Succession: the oldest offspring. Royal family: the House of Orange-Nassau. Current sovereign: Queen Beatrix. Heir: the heir of incoming King Willem-Alexander will be his eldest daughter, Catharina-Amalia, 9.

UNITED KINGDOM: Succession: the system has been changed so that the eldest offspring of Prince William and Princess Kate will have priority, whatever its gender. Royal family: the House of Windsor. Current sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II, 87, who is also head of the Commonwealth and the Church of England. Heir: Charles, 64.

SPAIN: Succession: males have priority. Royal family: the House of Bourbon. Current sovereign: King Juan Carlos, 75. Heir: Felipe, 45.

DENMARK: Succession: the oldest male or female. Royal family: the House of Oldenburg. Current sovereign: Queen Margrethe II, 73. Heir: Frederik, 44.

SWEDEN: Succession: the oldest male or female. Royal family: the House of Bernadotte. Current sovereign: King Carl XVI Gustaf, who turns 67 on Tuesday. Heir: Victoria, 35.

NORWAY: Succession: the oldest male or female. Royal family: the House of Oldenburg. Current sovereign: King Harald V, 76. Heir: Haakon Magnus, 39.

BELGIUM: Succession: the oldest male or female. Royal family: the House of Belgium. Current sovereign: King Albert II, 78. Heir: Philippe, 53.

LUXEMBOURG: Succession: the oldest male or female. Royal family: the second House of Nassau. Current sovereign: Grand Duke Henri, 58. Heir: Guillaume, 31.

MONACO: Succession: the oldest male. Royal family: the House of Grimaldi. Current sovereign: Prince Albert II, 55. Heir: Albert’s sister, Caroline, 56.

LIECHTENSTEIN: Succession: all male descendents have priority. Royal family: the House of Liechtenstein. Current sovereign: Prince Hans-Adam II, 68. Heir: Alois, 44.