Netherlands: new Queen Beatrix gets royal -- and unroyal -- welcome

"She'll have to prove herself," commented one Dutch woman, sympathetically. "Trix, we want a home to live in," proclaimed the jacket of one young Dutchman.

Together they summed up the pragmatic welcome the Dutch are according new Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands after 32 years of rule by their beloved Queen Juliana.

The red, white, and blue Dutch flags -- and often the House of Orange single-color streamers -- flew from houses, apartment balconies, and windmills April 30. Crowds of lace-capped Friesland women, balloon-waving children, and backpacking youths gathered around Amsterdam's Central Dam Square to watch Queen -- now Princess -- Juliana abdicate in favor of her daughter Beatrix.

But the pomp and pageantry of this festive occasion was marred throughout the city by fierce street riots. Hundreds of Amsterdam's squatters protesting housing shortages clashed with riot police. By evening, at least 130 people, including 40 policemen had been injured by demonstrators.

Still, the Haarlem tulip growers used the holiday of Princess Juliana's 71st birthday to work in their dazzling monocolor fields, breaking off the blossom petals to strengthen the bulbs.

The Dutch queen's duties are "precious but onerous," Princess Juliana told her daughter on the balcony of the Dam Square Royal Palace after her abdication.

"I can only cherish the hope that I may be given the strength to perform the duties of sovereign in a manner that accords with your wisdom and your humanity, in a manner worthy of you," Queen Beatrix replied to her mother.

Indeed, the Dutch people hope that she will do so. If 89 percent of this self-consciously liberal and progressive society still favor continuing the monarchy, as a recent poll showed, this sentiment arises largely from the example of the down-to-earth, bicycle-riding Juliana and her mother, Queen Wilhelmina.

Queen Beatrix studied law, parliamentary history, and sociology at the University of Leyden -- and needed no favoritism to get top marks, according to one of her old professors. She has done some sculpting, and she has made an effort to cultivate friends in the semi-Bohemian, mildly left circles that are so important in Dutch intellectual life.

Queen Beatrix's husband, Prince Claus, has already won a certain admiration from his wife's subjects. As a German and a man suspected of being a social climber, he met with initial hostility, and the 1966 marriage triggered emotional protests. Within six months Claus spoke accent-free Dutch, however (unlike his German father-in-law). And his concentration on third-world development aid since then seems to have convinced the Dutch that he is serious about his royal obligations.

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