She will be given the title of queen as an honorary gesture, as wife of the king, but Argentine banker Máxima Zorreguieta is more popular than her husband.
Máxima, the Netherlands’s future honorary queen, was born in Buenos Aires in 1971, the first child of Jorge Zorreguieta and Maria Carmen Cerruti.
She is a Roman Catholic and has both the Argentinian and Dutch nationality. After attending Northlands, a prestigious secondary school in the capital Buenos Aires, she went on to study economics at the Catholic University of Argentina.
Described by people who knew her as ambitious, the 25-year-old Máxima moved to New York where she worked for a string of banks.
It was in 1999 while attending the famous Feria de Abril in Seville that Máxima was introduced to Willem-Alexander. That same year they spent a week with Máxima’s parents in the Argentinian resort of Bariloche.
What the Zorreguietas made of him is not known but when former prime minister Ruud Lubbers asked Willem-Alexander about his mother’s reaction to his new girlfriend he was told that ‘whoever it is, she will never be satisfied.’
When news of their engagement reached the Dutch press it soon became known that Máxima’s father had been minister for agriculture under general Jorge Videla.
The then prime-minister, Wim Kok, commissioned a secret investigation which found that Zorreguieta could be assumed to have known about the atrocities committed by the regime but that it was unlikely he personally had played a role in them.
Nevertheless, Zorreguieta was not invited to the wedding in 2002 and his daughter declared that she ‘regretted that my father chose to do his best for agriculture under a regime that was wrong. His intentions were good and I believe in him.’
The union continued a tradition of controversial Dutch royal marriages: Beatrix’ husband Claus von Amsberg – German and, as it turned out, a member of the Hitlerjugend- was not a popular choice, while former queen Juliana’s German playboy husband prince Bernhard was mistrusted for his pre-war national socialist sympathies.
Bernhard always remained a controversial, if colourful, figure but Claus went on to become a respected and loved member of the royal family, as has Máxima.
Her popularity is now on a par with that of her mother-in-law and in the international princess stakes she is the uncontested number one, beating princess Letizia of Spain and Mary of Norway for the third consecutive year.
Spontaneous and ever ready to smile, Máxima is widely expected to keep the new king on an even keel: Willem-Alexander has a tendency to put his foot in it. She famously called him ‘een beetje dom’ ( a little stupid) when he called for press reticence concerning Jorge Zorreguieta and mentioned a letter written to an Argentinean newspaper which seemed to exonerate his father-in-law. The letter turned out to have been written by Videla.
Máxima herself seldom courts controversy. On one occasion she said that after seven years in the country she hadn’t found the single Dutch identity. It was deemed a political comment but Máxima, baffled by the reaction, explained she had merely wanted to compliment the Netherlands on its inclusiveness.
The couple have three daughters: Amalia (9), Alexia (7) and Ariane (6). During a television interview Máxima said they treated all three children equally and that Amalia’s future role would only become an issue when she reaches the age of eighteen and becomes a member of the Council of State.
‘She knows what her destiny is but it’s not really a topic. The investiture pops up every once in a while when they are playing but then they chat about hockey or who has made off with the lego’.
Máxima has been a UN ambassador for the promotion of accessible financial services for SMBs since 2009. She is also honorary chair of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion. In the Netherlands, she is involved in the integration into the labour market of immigrant women.
She will continue these tasks once she is queen. It won’t all be official duties and protocol, however. ‘I won’t become a different person overnight,’ she said during the television interview. ‘I love to dance and I love music and I will continue to enjoy both.’
Photos: RVD. Máxima with flowers by Erwin Olaf, double portrait by Robin Utrecht
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