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He is a trained pilot and expert in the quintessentially Dutch field of water management who has long been groomed for the throne, often joining Beatrix on state visits and sometimes even flying her home.

Willem-Alexander, a member of the International Olympic Committee, courted controversy with his decision to marry Maxima, whose father was an agriculture minister in the military junta that ruled Argentina with an iron fist in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

Beatrix’s choice of husband, Claus, who died in 2002, was met with resistance in 1966 because he was a German national and the Nazis’ World War II occupation of the Netherlands was still an open wound for many who lived through it. But, like Maxima, he won the hearts of his adopted nation, and there was a huge outpouring of grief at his death.

Beatrix’s reign began in difficult economic times, and there were riots in Amsterdam at her coronation, as thousands of demonstrators protesting the city’s housing shortages fought pitched battles with police just a few hundred yards from the downtown palace where she was invested.

But throughout her reign she was a calming influence on society, particularly in the aftermath of the 2002 assassination of populist politician Pim Fortuyn and the murder two years later of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist.

Although she was widely respected for her unpretentious style, it took Beatrix much of her reign to attain the admiration and popularity of her late mother, former Queen Juliana, who was more openly loving toward her people.

But in recent years, personal tragedies exposed a softer side to the queen and brought her closer to her subjects.

Claus’ death took a toll on her, and it was apparent how deep her reliance on the quiet man had been: She was filmed leaning heavily, almost hanging, on Prince Friso’s arm as they entered the church for his funeral.

In another blow, a deranged loner tried to slam a car into an open-topped bus carrying members of the royal family as they celebrated the Queen’s Day national holiday in 2010. The driver killed seven people gathered to watch the royals, and the brazen attack shocked the nation.

Then, in 2012, Prince Friso — who had been such a support after Claus’ death — was engulfed by an avalanche as he skied, plunging him into a coma from which he has yet to awake.

Beatrix went back to her busy official schedule soon after the accident, but it again spurred speculation that her reign could be nearing its end.

• Associated Press writer Toby Sterling contributed to this article from Amsterdam.