- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 29, 2013

AMSTERDAM (AP) - The Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix says she will abdicate her throne in April to make way for her eldest son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. Here are some questions and answers about the Netherlands’ House of Orange and how it’s a little different than, for instance, the British monarchy.

A DUTCH MONARCH CAN JUST UP AND QUIT?

Absolutely. Unlike in Britain, where Queen Elizabeth holds religious titles and seems to see it as her duty to rule until she is no longer able, the Dutch monarch is more or less a government job _ only hereditary. The queen or king is the head of state and falls under the purview of the prime minister. Queen Beatrix is turning 75, and she’s been in office for 33 years. There’s really nothing in the way of her stepping down to enjoy her immense personal wealth and her hobbies, which include skiing and horseback riding.

WILL SHE BE MISSED?


There are a few republicans who want the monarchy abolished. But the large majority of Dutch _ probably even most republicans _ like the queen and think she has handled her role with grace and dedication. She has been part of Dutch lives for a generation, through national tragedies and triumphs. In casual conversation, people refer to her simply as “Bea.” As former Prime Minister Wim Kok put it, when he heard the news she was stepping down: “I got goose bumps. You know it’s coming, but still, it’s the end of an era.” Beatrix’s abdication speech drew 7 million viewers out of a population of 16.8 million _ close to the 8 million who watched the soccer World Cup final the Dutch lost in 2010.

WHO’S THE NEW KING?

That would be the current Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand _ and those are just his first names. He’s more commonly referred to as Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. The Dutch informally call him “Wim-Lex,” which is a step up from “Prince Pilsner,” the nickname the tabloids gave him during his boozy university days.

Willem-Alexander’s image improved as he became a family man with three young daughters and developed a career as a diplomat and water management expert. The prince’s wife, Argentine investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta, is probably more popular than he is.

In line with the professional attitude of the Dutch monarchy, Willem-Alexander has served on various international water management boards, while soon-to-be Queen Maxima has been involved in promoting microfinance projects in developing countries.

WHAT’S HE GOT THAT I HAVEN’T GOT?

Apart from the wealth and titles he inherited by accident of birth, Willem-Alexander can: pilot jet planes, skate a 200-kilometer marathon along frozen canals in sub-zero weather conditions, and run the New York City marathon. The 45-year-old has chaired a U.N. advisory panel on water and sanitation, and been a member of the International Olympic Committee _ a job he regretfully quit Tuesday because it could conflict with his kingly duties.

SO WHAT ARE THE BEST DUTCH ROYAL SCANDALS? WHAT DO THE TABLOIDS SAY?

Beatrix’s father, Prince Bernhard, had his share. German-born, he served the Allies well in World War II, flying combat missions. Later in life, he had extramarital affairs and got tangled up in bribery accusations.

YOU’RE TELLING ME YOU’VE GOT NOTHING ON BEATRIX ORWILLEM-ALEXANDER?

Well, nothing directly on Beatrix. Willem-Alexander once crashed a car. And he was criticized by some for running onto the field and celebrating along with the Dutch women’s hockey team after they won the bronze medal at the Olympics in Atlanta, although others saw that as a good thing.

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