Royal Succession in Amsterdam: Holland Greets Its New King and Queen

By in Amsterdam

Photo Gallery: The Coronation of Holland's King Willem-Alexander Photos
REUTERS

Following the succession of his mother Beatrix on Tuesday, Willem-Alexander became King of the Netherlands in a grand ceremony that drew royals from around the world and up to a million spectators. Most celebrated the coronation, but anti-monarchists also protested the historic day.

Breaking with tradition, the King of the Netherlands didn't bring an actual gift for his mother on Tuesday. Until then, the presentation of a gift during coronation ceremonies had been a tradition in the house of Oranje-Nassau. Queen Juliana gave her mother Wilhelmina a Military William Order, the highest honor of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And Beatrix gave her mother Koninginnedag, or Queen's Day, which has been celebrated ever since on every April 30th.

But Willem-Alexander still managed to give his mother the best possible present on Tuesday: a worthy farewell. "Dear Mother," he said in his speech. "As Queen you were fully conscious of the responsibilities attached to your position. You were utterly dedicated to the duties of your office. But you were also a daughter, a wife, a mother and head of the family. And you have always sought to do full justice to each of those responsibilities. Sometimes you felt torn, but you combined your many duties with great inspiration."

Willem-Alexander was alluding to difficult times during her reign as Queen. Street protests coincided with Queen Beatrix's coronation and many crises followed in the country. The speech also evoked memories of problems within the royal house itself, like when Willem-Alexander's father, Prince Claus, fell ill or when he himself became better known for his drinking escapades than for his competency as a prince. And it alluded to his brother Friso, who has been in a coma since a skiing accident in Austria in 2012. "Even in times of personal sorrow, you supported us all in the most loving and dependable manner," he added.

Long Applause for Beatrix

The remarks were followed by a very, very long applause, and the 75-year-old Queen had to fight to hold back tears. Both inside the Nieuwe Kerk church and outside on Dam Square, the people came to celebrate Beatrix in Amsterdam. It was a great contrast to her coronation 33 years ago when smoke bombs were thrown. But on Tuesday, the atmosphere was entirely positive inside the church. Thousands of spectators emerged on the square to watch the events, and at times the police were forced to close off the square. It was a good day to abdicate the throne and a good day to become the King of the Netherlands.

"De Koning!," "The King," the master of ceremonies said, greeting Willem-Alexander inside the church. Since 10:07 a.m., when his mother signed the Act of Abdication, the 46-year-old has been the King of the Netherlands.

The coronation ceremony was magnificent. Máxima wore royal blue and a tiara. Her cobalt dress had been specially made by Amsterdam designer Jan Taminiau, and Beatrix had provided her with the Mellorio sapphire tiara she wore, a family heirloom. King Willem II had ordered the tiara, which is encrusted with sapphires, for his wife Emma. Meanwhile, the king himself wore a tail coat and an ermine mantle, much to the chagrin of animal activists.

Beatrix also wore blue and a hat. She came across as relaxed, almost relieved, giving justice to her nickname "Princess Glimlach," or "Princess Smile". She cheerfully sat in the first row next to her granddaughters Amalia, Alexia and Ariane.

Tension could be seen in the faces of the new king and queen. Willem-Alexander was unusually serious and his wife Máxima seemed to be fighting to hold back tears. They held each others' hands very tightly.

Prince Charles and Camilla also traveled to the coronation, as well as princes and princesses from Denmark, Thailand and Qatar. Even Japan's Princess Masako, known for her public shyness, attended. However, only crown princes and princesses were invited. Protocol holds that the new king and queen must first be introduced to the other monarchs around the world before meeting other members of the royal families.

Willem-Alexander swore to protect the constitution of the Netherlands, to defend the country's independence and to promote the common good. Both the crown and the insignias remained untouched -- a custom that goes back to old times. The Netherlands had been a republic up until 1813.

Protests over Monarchy

Not everyone in Holland celebrated the country's new head of state on Tuesday. About 1.5 kilometers away from Dam Square, opponents of the monarchy protested at Waterlooplein square. A few dozen anti-royalists gathered at the site, all wearing white, the antithesis of orange, the royal color. Authorities gave no official estimates for attendance at protests in the city. City officials had made provisions to limit protests to six different sites, prompting organizers to call for individual protests. As individuals, they noted, people could not be stopped from protesting and showing their antipathy for the royals. Nevertheless, some individual protesters were pulled out of Dam Square by police in the end.

Ultimately, the royal succession cost €12 million. As king, Willem-Alexander will be paid €825,000 a year, tax-free. The protesters came armed with a number of similar figures. They claim it's undemocratic and that every person should be equal under the law.

As opponents of the monarchy handed out stickers calling for its abolishment, the royal entourage made it's way to the next event on the day's busy schedule. Tuesday evening, the new King of the Netherlands is to greet his people from onboard a ship. Then the party in Amsterdam will continue late into the night, with Dutch violinist André Rieu holding a concert together with his orchestra.

As for Princess Máxima, she will have to be a little more restrained in her role as queen and the king's wife. "She is conscious of the personal constraints her position sometimes entails," the king said in his coronation speech. "She stands ready to apply the full range of her abilities in the service of my reign and the Kingdom at large." And that, it must be said, is Máxima's gift to the new king.

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