AMSTERDAM – Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands said on Monday she would abdicate after 33 years on the throne, to be succeeded in the largely ceremonial role by her eldest son, 45-year-old Willem-Alexander.
The queen, who turns 75 this week, announced her abdication in a prerecorded televised address. The coincidence of her birthday and the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was the reason for her decision, she said.
“It seems like a good point in time to take this step, which I’ve been thinking about for several years,” the queen said. “The coincidence of these two special events has been the occasion for me to decide to step down from my position.”
The investiture will take place in Amsterdam on April 30, when the Dutch celebrate Queen’s Day. The date marks the birthday of Queen Beatrix’s mother, Queen Juliana, who was queen from 1948 until April 1980.
In 1966, Beatrix married Claus von Amsberg, who died in 2002. They had three sons, Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince Friso and Prince Constantijn. The eldest, Willem-Alexander, has been prince of Orange—the title of the Dutch heir apparent—since the queen’s investiture in 1980.
“It is with the greatest confidence that I will pass on the throne on April 30 to my son, prince of Orange,” the queen said. “He and Princess Máxima are fully prepared to take on their future task,” she said.
Unlike in the U.K., where 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 60th anniversary on the throne last year and has given no sign she intends to abdicate, Dutch monarchs have a tradition of abdication. Queen Beatrix’s mother Juliana abdicated at age 70 after 32 years on the throne, and her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, in 1948 after reigning for 50 years.
Willem-Alexander married Princess Máxima, who was born and grew up in Argentina and was formerly an emerging-market equity-sales executive based in New York, in 2002. They have three daughters, Princess Catharina-Amalia, Princess Alexia and Princess Ariane. Catharina-Amalia will be first in line to succeed Willem-Alexander.
The marriage between Willem-Alexander and Máxima caused controversy in the Netherlands. Her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, was a minister in Argentina during the military regime of Jorge Videla from 1976 to 1981, which was responsible for widespread human-rights abuses.
A Dutch government spokesman said Princess Máxima has told Prime Minister Mark Rutte that her family won’t attend the investiture.
Queen Beatrix’s second son, Friso, has been in a coma since a skiing accident last year. Constantijn, the youngest, is currently deputy head of cabinet for Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, who is responsible for the commission’s digital agenda within the European Union.
The queen, who holds a law degree, returned last week from an official visit to Brunei and Singapore, where she was accompanied by her eldest son and his wife.
In recent years, controversy over the lack of transparency of her role in the formation of governments resulted in a change in the procedure. For the first time after elections this year, the negotiators who head the talks to form a government were no longer appointed by the queen, as head of state, but instead were appointed by a majority in parliament. And ministers are now sworn in by the queen during a public ceremony, rather than behind closed doors, as was previously the custom.
Willem-Alexander completed his military service in 1987. His education included a degree in history from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, and attendance at an advanced development program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois.
Princess Máxima’s career included spells at HSBC James Capel Inc., Dresdner Kleinwort Benson and Deutsche Bank in New York. From May 2000 to March 2001, she worked at Deutsche Bank’s EU representative office in Brussels.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which also comprises the Caribbean island countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint-Maarten, and three special municipalities—Bonaire, Sint-Eustatius and Saba—which are small islands in the Caribbean.