New king of Netherlands will reign with clipped wings

Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:41am EDT
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By Thomas Escritt

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch will have their first king in more than 120 years when Willem-Alexander succeeds his mother Queen Beatrix this month, bringing a more hands-off style to the throne at a time when the royal family's political powers are already in decline.

April 30, or Queen's Day, is a popular celebration of the House of Orange when the Dutch dress up in the royal color and party on the streets from dawn until late at night.

This year, it will mark the abdication after 33 years of Queen Beatrix, 75, and the investiture of her eldest son Willem-Alexander, who turns 46 on April 27 and takes office as the first modern Dutch monarch without a formal political role.

Unlike many of their European peers, Dutch royals have combined their influence and wealth with real political power, while appearing to lead an almost middle-class lifestyle.

But last year, for the first time, Queen Beatrix did not appoint the mediator who conducts exploratory talks to lay the ground for the coalitions so typical of Dutch politics, after parliament voted to take that power away.

The new king will still be influential, meeting the prime minister regularly, but in future parties will form coalitions on their own, meaning the king's personal preferences will make far less of a mark.

Hague insiders say that Beatrix once excluded a politician whose views she disliked from the process, something Willem-Alexander does not expect to be able to do.

"You can have a meaningful kingship without a formal role in the formation" of governments, Willem-Alexander said in a television interview he gave jointly with his wife Maxima, a former Argentine investment banker. "Time has moved on."   Continued...

Netherlands' Queen Beatrix (R) and her son Crown Prince Willem-Alexander wave to well-wishers from the balcony of the Royal Noordeinde Palace after opening the new parliamentary year in The Hague in this September 21, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen/Files