AMSTERDAM (AP) — Crown Prince Willem-Alexander will be inaugurated Tuesday as the Netherlands' first king since 1890 as his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicates after a 33-year reign marked in recent years by unrest in Dutch society and personal tragedy.
Willem-Alexander has pledged to be a 21st century king, close to his nearly 17 million subjects, and not a "protocol fetishist."
Around one million of the new king's subjects were expected to flock to Amsterdam to celebrate the generational change in the royal House of Orange-Nassau as the 46-year-old father of three replaces his 75-year-old mother. His Argentine-born wife Maxima will become queen and their eldest daughter, 9-year-old Catharina-Amalia, will become Princess of Orange and heir to the throne.
Els Nederstigt, 38, said she got up at 5:30 a.m. to travel to Amsterdam and sat on a camping stool close to the Royal Palace on the Dam Square wearing an orange cowboy hat and tiara.
"It's a special moment. I was a very small girl when Beatrix came to the throne so this is the first change in the monarchy I can really experience," she said. "We were here when Willem-Alexander and Maxima got married and what you remember is that you were there — you forget how early you had to get up and how tired you were."
Willem-Alexander will become king shortly after 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) when his mother signs an "act of abdication" in the Royal Palace on the Dam square in downtown Amsterdam.
The square was filling up slowly early Tuesday with sightseers, many wearing inflatable orange crowns.
Less than an hour before the abdication, the city was not as busy as expected, possibly an indication that many people were staying home to watch the abdication live on television.
It wasn't all orange — one blue and white Argentine flag being held up in front of the palace was emblazoned with the Dutch language text: "Netherlands thanks for loving and having faith in Maxima."
The day is expected to be a huge party culminating in a boat trip by the new king and queen around the Ij waterway, but security also was tight with 10,000 uniformed police, 3,000 plainclothes officers and an untold number of civil servants assisting in the logistics.
The airspace above Amsterdam was closed Monday for three days. Dutch police swept Dam square for bombs, with assistance from German agents with sniffer dogs.
Royal guests from 18 countries are attending, including Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and the Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako. Charles was also in attendance when Beatrix was crowned in 1980.
Observers believe Beatrix remained on the throne for so long in part because she was seen as a stabilizing factor in the country that struggled to assimilate more and more immigrants, mainly Muslims from North Africa, and shifted away from its traditional reputation as one of the world's most tolerant nations.
In recent years, speculation about when she might abdicate had grown, as she endured personal losses that both softened her image and increased her popularity further as the public sympathized.
Her husband Prince Claus died in 2002; and last year she was devastated when her youngest son, Prince Friso, was hit by an avalanche while skiing in Austria and suffered severe brain damage. Friso remains in a near comatose state.