AMSTERDAM (AFP) – The Netherlands’ Willem-Alexander became Europe’s youngest monarch on Tuesday after his mother, queen Beatrix, abdicated and his country greeted their first king in 120 years with a massive orange-hued party.
Beatrix, 75, shed a tear before signing the act of abdication at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, witnessed by Willem-Alexander, 46, his Argentine-born Queen Maxima, 41, and members of the government.
A cry went up from the 25,000-strong crowd in the Dam, the main square opposite the palace where the signing was shown on giant screens.
Willem-Alexander, Maxima and Beatrix appeared in front of the crowds on the palace balcony, bedecked with roses and oranges — the symbol of the royal house — before heading for the enthronement ceremony in the neighboring Nieuwe Kerk (New Church).
Beatrix accompanied the king and queen’s three daughters to the church, including their eldest, now Princess of Orange Catharina-Amalia, only nine years old.
The Dutch monarch is sworn in before a joint session of the houses of parliament in the deconsecrated church, rather than crowned, because church and royalty are separated in The Netherlands.
Before taking his oath, the king thanked his “dear mother” for the “many beautiful years during which she was our queen”.
“I’m treading in your footsteps. I have a clear vision of my office. But no one knows what the future brings,” he said.”Wherever that path leads and however far it goes, I will carry your wisdom and warmth with me,”.
Willem-Alexander is the first Dutch king since 1890 and the first of a new wave of relatively youthful European monarchs.
While Beatrix was known for her formal court, Willem-Alexander has already said that he will not be a “protocol fetishist”.
A star-studded rendition of the Koningslied was broadcast live from Rotterdam and watched by the royal family on the banks of the Ij river, behind Amsterdam’s train station, just before sunset.
The royal family then took part in a water pageant on the Ij river, accompanied by a flotilla of 250 boats, with Dutch sports, music and ballet stars performing as they sailed by.