Queen Beatrix and prince Claus at the coronation in 1980. Photo: RVD
Thirty-three years after her coronation, after 54 state visits abroad and having lived through five prime ministers, queen Beatrix is stepping down.
Queen Beatrix was born on January 31, 1938 and lived with her parents queen Juliana and prince Bernhard in the Soestdijk palace in Baarn until the family fled to Britain following the outbreak of war.
Juliana and her two daughters then moved on to Canada, returning to the Netherlands in 1945. At the age of 18, she was sworn in as a member of the Raad van State, the government’s highest advisory body.
After leaving school, the young princess went to Leiden University where she took preliminary exams in law before graduating in general studies.
In June 1965 she became engaged to Claus von Amsberg – a move which created quite a stir, not least because Claus had been a member of the Hitler Youth. When research showed he was not implicated in any war crimes, the way was cleared for the wedding.
They married on March 10, 1966. The wedding procession through Amsterdam was disturbed by a smoke bomb.
The couple went on to have three sons: Willem-Alexander, Friso and Constantijn. The family lived in the Drakensteyn castle near Hilversum.
On April 30, 1980, queen Juliana abdicated and Beatrix became queen – an event that was also marred by riots and protests.
According to Nos television, Beatrix immediately took a different approach to the monarchy than her mother, developing a more modern style of rule. ‘She showed she is a hard worker, professional, a perfectionist and punctual,’ Nos said.
The queen has not been afraid to address social issues in her annual Christmas speech and has spoken about the need for respect and solidarity.
Queen Beatrix gives her 2012 Christmas speech. Photo: RVD
The first 20 years of her reign were relatively free from scandal. Shortly before the turn of the century, the first problems arose, when her son and crown prince Willem-Alexander said he wanted to marry Máxima Zorreguieta, daughter of a former member of the Argentinian junta.
Only when it was agreed he would not attend the wedding, did parliament approve the marriage.
The queen’s second son Friso also caused problems. His chosen bride Mabel Wisse Smit was said to have connections with a mobster. Friso opted to leave the line to the throne in order to avoid having to win parliamentary approval for the wedding.
Prince Claus died in 2002, suffering from Parkinson’s disease and a lung infection. Then in 2004, both her parents died.
In 2005, Beatrix celebrated her 25th year on the throne, undertaking a tour of all the Dutch provinces and the former Caribbean colonies.
Rumours that Beatrix would abdicate have been circulating since 2009, when she turned 70. But, insiders say, she decided against it because she was still fit, and it would give Willem-Alexander more time to have a normal life with his wife and three daughters.
In 2009, there were more problems. During the Queen’s Day festivities, a young unemployed man drove his car into the crowd, killing several people in front of the royal coach. The royal family also came under fire for their high income from the state during the economic crisis. And Willem-Alexander and Máxima’s new holiday home in Mozambique also led to parliamentary questions and the intervention of the prime minister.
The Netherlands was undergoing a period of politicial instability, and some said Beatrix was exercising too much power behind the scenes. In 2012, parliament voted to remove the queen from her traditional role in forming a new government.
In February 2012, tragedy struck when Friso was hit by an avalanche while on a skiing holiday. He remains unconscious in a hospital in London. Since the accident, speculation has mounted about the abdication, which is traditional among Dutch monarchs.
Insiders expect she will return to live in Drakensteyn castle and devote herself to her grandchildren, and advising prince Willem-Alexander on his new role.