Willem-Alexander, from Prince Pils to Dutch king
Sandra Terpstra, left, and Linda Clewits pose with trays of cakes made for Queen's Day, a national holiday and the day of the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the crowning of the new King, at a Arnold Cornelis pastry shop in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday April 23, 2013. The shop was decorated with Dutch flags and the color of the Dutch royals, the House of Orange. Queen Beatrix has announced she will relinquish the crown on April 30, 2013, after 33 years of reign, leaving the monarchy to her son Crown Prince Willem Alexander. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
AMSTERDAM (AP) — He's evolved from a beer-loving student dubbed Prince Pils to an International Olympic Committee member and respected U.N. water expert. Now comes the ultimate transformation for Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander: He's about to become king.
Queen Beatrix's handover to her son after a 33-year reign has triggered a frenzy of orange-tinted patriotism and pride across the Netherlands, while also reigniting a debate about the monarchy's role in this egalitarian society. Willem-Alexander has been groomed for the monarchy all his life, but he has also carved out a busy career, parts of which he will now have to give up in favor of his largely ceremonial job as head of state.
In an interview aired earlier this month, Willem-Alexander, a father of three daughters who turned 46 on Saturday, seemed to have no regrets about leaving behind his old life and insisted — with a touch of good humor — that being king is a job with substance.
"Because even what is sometimes sarcastically called ribbon-cutting can be meaningful," he said.
The Netherlands' small republican movement says it will protest on Tuesday in Amsterdam and is hoping Willem-Alexander's investiture will be the country's last.
"We will have to await political developments — there is draft legislation to get him out of the government — then there is not much left apart from cutting ribbons and the question is whether his daughter will want to do that in 20 years," said Anjo Clement of the New Republican Society. "We don't think so. We think he will be the last Dutch king."
While the Dutch monarch formally is part of the country's government, his or her powers are limited. Until the last elections, Queen Beatrix helped in forming new governments after the vote by appointing an adviser to steer coalition-building negotiations. Lawmakers have now taken away that power.
"It looks like the political role the monarchy plays is more likely to decrease than to increase," said Henk de Velde, a professor of Dutch history at Leiden University.
Willem-Alexander will become king the moment his mother signs abdication papers Tuesday morning in the ornate Moses Hall of the Royal Palace on the Dam, the central square in downtown Amsterdam.
That will be followed by an investiture ceremony at the 15th-century New Church next door to the palace. There, Willem-Alexander will swear allegiance to the Dutch constitution and people in a ceremony attended by both houses of Dutch Parliament, as well as guests including royalty from around the world and commoners from across the Netherlands.
Thousands of orange-clad subjects — the Dutch royal dynasty is the House of Orange-Nassau — will cram into the square in front of the palace to cheer their departing queen and the new king as part of a day-long celebration across this country of nearly 17 million.
One notable absence will be among the family of Willem-Alexander's popular Argentine-born wife, Princess Maxima — who will soon be queen. Her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, was an agriculture minister in the military junta that ruled Argentina with an iron fist in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
His past in the brutal regime meant that he also was not invited to Willem-Alexander and Maxima's 2002 wedding.
"It was clear that if my father could not come for the wedding then it was very clear: This is a constitutional celebration so my father doesn't belong there," Maxima said in a recent interview.