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New Dutch king takes the throne

April 30, 2013

King Willem-Alexander has officially ascended the Dutch throne. In his speech, he vowed to serve the Netherlands following his mother's example. Queen Beatrix officially ended her 33-year-reign the same day.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima walk after attending a religious ceremony at the Nieuwe Kerk church in Amsterdam April 30, 2013. The Netherlands is celebrating Queen's Day on Tuesday, which also marks the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the investiture of her eldest son Willem-Alexander. REUTERS/Jasper Juinen/Pool (NETHERLANDS - Tags: ROYALS POLITICS ENTERTAINMENT)
Image: Reuters

More than 2,000 guests filled Amsterdam's de Nieuwe Kerk (The New Church) Tuesday afternoon for the royal inauguration ceremony. Before swearing to uphold the Constitution of the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander gave a brief speech praising his mother's reign and outlined his obligations as the country's new king.

"You kept to a stable and pure course because you knew you were part of a long tradition," King Willem-Alexander said to his mother, Queen Beatrix. "I will continue to take on that task."

The long-time queen ended her reign earlier on Tuesday in a formal ceremony at Amsterdam's Royal Palace. During his speech, the new king described his mother as a woman dedicated to both her public and private duties who was "a big strength to us all."

Beatrix hands Netherlands crown to son

"Thank you for the many beautiful years you have given us as queen of the Netherlands," he said.

Royalty from 18 countries made the trip, including Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla. Charles also attended Beatrix's coronation in 1980. The Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako were also in attendance.

Thousands dressed in orange filled the streets in central Amsterdam to watch the ceremony on a big-screen television.

King Willem-Alexander is the first Dutch king since 1890. With his ascension to the throne, his Argentine-born wife, Maxima, becomes queen and his eldest daughter, 9-year-old Catharina-Amalia, becomes the Princess of Orange and heir to the throne.

New king vows to uphold Constitution

King Willem-Alexander, 46, has inherited the throne at a time of widespread discontent in the Netherlands. Austerity measures to stave off repercussions of the financial crisis have gutted parts of the public sector. Compounded with rising unemployment and falling housing prices, consumer confidence is weak.

The new monarch spoke to these worries, saying many felt "vulnerable," but called on his subjects to persevere.

"Our strength is not in working in isolation, but in working together as family, as friends," said King Willem-Alexander.

He then swore "to preserve the independence and territory of the kingdom" before the houses of parliament who were in attendance.

In accordance with the Netherlands' tradition, the Dutch monarch is sworn in before a joint session of parliament in de Nieuwe Kerk - which has been deconsecrated - and does not receive a crown.

Queen Beatrix steps down

Queen Beatrix signed away her position on Tuesday, which coincided with the nation's annual holiday, Queen's Day. Expressing her confidence in her son's abilities, she pledged to support his monarchy.

"It is my deep wish that the new royal couple will feel themselves supported by your loving trust," Queen Beatrix said on Monday. "I am convinced that Willem-Alexander will apply himself with true devotion to everything a good king is obliged to do."

The 75-year-old queen announced her intention to abdicate in January after 33 years on the throne. She succeeded her mother, Juliana, in 1980.

The day was expected to be huge party, culminating in a boat trip by the royal couple around the Ij waterway.

Security was also tighter, with 10,000 uniformed police, 3,000 plainclothes officers and an untold number of civil servants assisting in the logistics.

On Monday, officials closed the airspace above Amsterdam for three days, and Dutch police, German agents and sniffer dogs swept Dam square for bombs.

kms/hc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)