Dutch welcome Willem-Alexander's ascension to Dutch throne

A cheering public welcomed the new king, the Netherlands' first since 1890, after his mother, Beatrix, abdicated on her birthday, a national holiday.

Jeroen Van Der Meyde/RVD/Reuters/Handout
Dutch King Willem-Alexander (r.) kisses his mother Princess Beatrix of Netherlands at the balcony of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam today. Willem-Alexander became the first king of the Netherlands since 1890 on Tuesday, ascending a throne largely stripped of political power but still invested with enormous symbolic significance for the Dutch people.

After more than a century of queens at the head of the monarchy, The Netherlands once again has a king.

Beatrix stepped down as queen of the Netherlands today, after signing the act of abdication in the royal palace in Amsterdam. At seven minutes past ten local time, her oldest son, Willem-Alexander, became king of the Netherlands – the first man to hold the throne since his great great grandfather, Willem III, who died in 1890.

As Beatrix signed the document, a large, nationally televised crowd outside on the central Dam Square cheered. With her abdication, Beatrix's new title becomes princess.

Following the abdication, Beatrix, King Willem-Alexander, and his wife, Queen Máxima Zorreguieta, greeted the crowd on the palace's balcony. "Several moments ago I renounced the throne. I am happy and thankful to present to you your new king, Willem-Alexander," Beatrix said.

The new king thanked his mother for "33 eventful and inspiring years" as queen.

Although Beatrix's abdication automatically made Willem-Alexander king, an official inauguration followed later today, in De Nieuwe Kerk, a church on the Dam Square. There, Willem-Alexander took an oath that he will protect the Dutch constitution.

The city of Amsterdam today is filled with people who are celebrating Queen's Day, a national holiday taking place on the monarch's birthday. On Marie Heinekenplein, one of Amsterdam's squares, Lisa Trip stands in line for the cash machine. She is not opposed to the monarchy, as a small but growing number of Dutch are, but does think that the royal family could pay more taxes. Like many Dutch today, she is dressed today in a coat and hat in the national color, orange.

"Beatrix has done a terrific job, but she was rather formal," says her husband, Willem. He thinks Willem-Alexander is more of an everyday man. "That makes him closer to the people. I think he will modernize the royal family," he says.

Because of the abdication, this will be the last Queen's Day until Willem-Alexander is succeeded by one of his daughters. Next year, the national holiday will be King's Day instead, and will be held on Willem-Alexander's birthday, April 27.

Willem-Alexander was born in 1967, one year after his mother married Claus von Amsberg, an untitled German noble.

Willem-Alexander studied history in Leiden where he gained a somewhat jovial reputation – and the nickname "Prince Pils." However, he has since earned a more serious reputation by involving himself with promoting sports, including as a member of the International Olympic Committee. He is also an expert on water management, and currently serves as chairman of the United Nations Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

In 2002, he married Máxima Zorreguieta, an Argentinian, whose charm won over many Dutch people. In polls, she often comes out as more popular than her husband.

The royal couple has three daughters. Their oldest, Amalia, was born in 2003. She officially became heir apparent today.

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