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Netherlands' Queen Beatrix to hand throne to eldest son

Beatrix, who turns 75 this week, will step down in April – on the same date that her mother stood down in 1980.

Beatrix is the third Dutch monarch in a row to abdicate in favour of their child.
Beatrix is the third Dutch monarch in a row to abdicate in favour of their child.
Image: Peter Dejong/AP

THE QUEEN of the Netherlands, Beatrix, has announced her plans to abdicate the throne later this year and hand power to her eldest son.

Beatrix, who turns 75 on Thursday, will step down on April 30 – the same date on which she took the throne in 1980 when her own mother abdicated.

“It is with the greatest of confidence, that I will hand over the throne on April 30 to my son, Willem Alexander, Prince of Orange,” she said in an announcement on state television.

Despite the Dutch throne following the same British model of male-preference cognatic primogeniture until 1983 – three months into the current Queen’s reign – Beatrix was the Netherlands’ third female monarch in a row – following her mother Juliana and grandmother Wilhelmina to the throne.

The date of the abdication is meaningful for the other reasons – Beatrix’s mother Juliana was born on that date in 1909, and herself abdicated on her 71st birthday. The date is celebrated as a public holiday, ‘Koninginnedag’ (‘Queen’s Day’).

Abdication is not uncommon in modern Dutch history: since the Kingdom of the Netherlands took its current form in 1839, three of the five previous monarchs have stepped down before their death in order to enjoy a few years of retirement.

Willem-Alexander, the heir presumptive, will have turned 45 three days before he takes the throne. He is the eldest of Beatrix’s three children, all of whom are sons.

The middle son, Friso, is ineligible for the throne because he married without parliamentary approval – another relatively common act nowadays. Two of the Queen’s own sisters did likewise, as did two of her other sister’s four sons.

Willem-Alexander’s coronation will be tinged with some sadness; Friso has been in a coma since last February when he was buried under an avalanche following a skiing accident in Austria.

The Netherlands’ prime minister Mark Rutte spoke on national TV immediately following the Queen’s announcement, saying Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima were “fully prepared for the task”.

The announcement was “totally unexpected,” royal expert Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen told public broadcaster NOS. “An abdication takes a lot of organisation.”

Beatrix is noted for her more active style of rule – she has shunned low-profile events and changed the formal style of address from ‘madam’ to ‘majesty’ during her reign. Last September’s election marked the first time in her reign that she had not appointed a ‘formateur’ to hold talks on forming a government.

The Queen chose to turn her palace into a “palace of work” in The Hague, the seat of government of the country with a strong work ethic.

But when renovations were announced at Beatrix’s distinctive octagonal-shaped Drankensteyn castle in 2006, some saw a herald of her abdication.

Additional reporting by AFP

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Gavan Reilly

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