Dutch Queen Beatrix announces abdication



Zeenews Bureau

The Hague: Queen Beatrix of Netherlands has decided to abdicate to make way for her son, Prince Willem-Alexander.

She has been the head of state for 33 years and it is reported that she is to abdicate on April 30.

Prince Willem-Alexander, who is her eldest son, will become the nation's first king in more than a century.

The announcement, in a nationally televised speech, signalled an end to the reign of one of Europe's longest-serving monarchs, whose time on the throne was marked by tumultuous shifts in Dutch society and, more recently, by personal tragedy.

The queen's abdication from the largely ceremonial role had been widely expected, but it is sure to bring an outpouring of sentimental and patriotic feelings among the Dutch, most of whom adore Beatrix. In everyday conversation, many of her subjects refer to her simply by the nickname "Bea."

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a staunch monarchist, paid his respects in a speech that immediately followed Beatrix on all Dutch television channels.

The timing of the announcement makes sense at multiple levels. It comes just days before Beatrix's birthday, and she is already the oldest ever Dutch monarch: the pragmatic Dutch do not see being king or queen as a job for life. The nation also celebrates the 200th anniversary of its monarchy, the House of Orange, at the end of this year, Beatrix said.

Observers believe she remained on the throne for so long in part because of unrest in Dutch society as the country struggled to assimilate more and more immigrants, mainly Muslims from North Africa, and shifted away from its traditional reputation as one of the world's most tolerant nations.

Beatrix was also thought to be giving time for her son, Willem-Alexander, to enjoy fatherhood before becoming King Willem IV: he has three young daughters with Argentine investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta.

Beatrix has frequently said that the best years of her life were her time as a young mother, before her coronation in 1980.

The abdication also comes at a time of trial for Beatrix. This time a year ago she was struck by personal tragedy when the second of her three sons, Prince Friso, was left in a coma after being engulfed by an avalanche while skiing in Austria.

And even in a job that is mostly ceremonial to begin with, the previous government stripped her of one of her few remaining powers: the ability to name a candidate to begin Cabinet formations after elections of the national parliament.

With Agency Inputs