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Charles and Camilla attend the Queen’s abdication party… but unfortunately for him it’s the Dutch one! European Royals dazzle at ball to celebrate Beatrix of Holland before she steps down today
Prince Charles could be forgiven a slight twinge of jealously as he joined European Royals at a stunning abdication party to mark the handover of the Netherland’s throne from Queen Beatrix to her son.
But while the Prince of Wales, 64, is still waiting in the wings to succeed to the British throne, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander will become his nation’s first King in more than a century today after his mother abdicated.
Queen Beatrix’s 33 years as head of state seems rather brief when compared to Queen Elizabeth II, who is already into her 61st year as British monarch.
Celebration: Prince Charles and wife Camila, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive for a banquet hosted by the Dutch Royal family at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, last night.
Queen Beatrix’s decision to step down from the largely ceremonial role had been widely expected. In her pre-recorded message Queen Beatrix, 75, said she had been thinking about the issue for some years and now was the ‘the moment to lay down my crown.
Charles and Camilla join members of the Dutch Royal Family last night for a dinner in honour of Queen Beatrix at the world-famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which has just reopened after a lavish €375m renovation.
Today, the Prince and Duchess will attend the investiture of the Crown Prince as King of the Netherlands, at Nieuwe Kirk, in Amsterdam.
He is married to Princess Maxima, a former investment banker from Argentina, and has three young children. She will now become queen consort.
Making an entrance: Crown Princess Maxima, left, and Princess Laurentien, the wife of Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, the third son of Queen Beatrix (right) arrive at the Dutch Royal Dinner at The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
Nearly a million are expected to join the street party with dancing to bands and DJs helping create a carnival atmosphere. As always, there will be people on the pavements setting up traditional makeshift bric-a-brac stalls.
Britain’s Prince Charles and Japan’s Crown Princess Masako, who is making her first foreign trip since falling ill a decade ago will be among 2,000 visitors at the official ceremony.
‘There will be tears on Tuesday,’ said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, paying tribute to ‘this formidable lady who has ruled this country for over 30 years’.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, left, and Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco, right, both wore magnificent jewelled tiaras to the event
Beatrix is to sign the papers enacting the once-in-a-generation change of royal titles Tuesday morning, the central moment in several days of festivities that are already underway.
‘Now that my oldest son is to take over this fine and responsible job tomorrow, it is my deep wish that the new royal couple will feel themselves supported by your loving trust,’ the popular monarch said in a nationally televised address.
‘I am convinced that Willem-Alexander will apply himself with true devotion for everything a good king is obliged to do.’
Earlier in the day, the streets of Amsterdam began flooding with orange in honor of the ruling House of Oranje-Nassau, as government and noble guests prepared for the ceremonies, and the people of the country got ready for a huge party.
Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and his wife Nane Lagergren arrive, left, while right, Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia, also stride along the red carpet in front of the world’s media before the gala dinner at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
Grand entrance: The popular Princess Mathilde and Prince Philippe of Belgium, left, and Prince Albert II of Monaco, right, were there to see the abdication, which will lead to the country having its first king since 1890
Princess Mathilde of Belgium (left) and Prince Philippe of Belgium (right) from the neighbouring country, were there to celebrate the change of monarchs.
In the historic city center, vendors hawked orange t-shirts, hats and feather boas. Trams flew orange flags, and Dutch flags, as did many of the boats motoring through the city’s ancient canals. Shopkeepers hung orange streamers, set out orange flower displays and rolled in countless kegs of beer.
Meanwhile, city workers finished cleaning the streets, removing unwanted bicycles and setting up temporary urinals, many of them made of bright orange plastic.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told foreign journalists from more than 60 countries Sunday evening that the week’s events involve an ‘unprecedented logistical and security operation’ that was organized in just three months. Beatrix announced her intention to abdicate in January.
Regal: Crown prince Billah and Princess Sarah of Brunei, left, and Princess Christina of the Netherlands, pictured on the left with Princess Irene of the Netherlands, arrived for the dinner on the eve of her abdication after 33 years rule. Queen Beatrix says it is time the country was led by a new generation
Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg and Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg, left, by Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, right, were among the European royals who attended. It is tradition for heads of state not to attend such occasions
oyal line-up: Glamorous-looking Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary lead the way as they enter the event
More than a million people are expected in Amsterdam Tuesday, 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 arrived in the course of the day, and city traffic was frequently interrupted by limousines with tinted windows and police escorts.
Among the many notables on hand are 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.
Masako’s father is a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It is her first official overseas trip since the couple’s 2002 visit to New Zealand and Australia.
A poll released Monday by national broadcaster NOS showed that Willem-Alexander’s popularity has swelled in the run-up to his accession, mostly due to a relaxed and confident performance in an interview that was televised nationally earlier this month.
He said he’s not a stickler for protocol, and he believes that ‘even the ultimate symbol of a ceremonial monarchy – cutting ribbons – can be very substantive.’
He explained that he will be able to indicate by his selection of which events and openings to attend the things he believes are important for the Netherlands.
He said he sees the function of the monarchy is to act as a living symbol of unity for the nation.
Beatrix succeeded her mother, Juliana, as head of state, and she won widespread acclaim and admiration from the Dutch people. Most feel she has proved a supremely competent, if occasionally aloof, head of state over her 33-year reign.
‘My mother taught me that being queen is a position that you carry around with you day and night,’ she said once. ‘You can never forget about it, not for a moment.’
Perhaps most tellingly, since she took office in 1980 the House of Orange has been almost scandal-free, a stark contrast to many other European royal families
Guests: Prince Charles and Camilla in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam for the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander.
Blue vision: Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima arrive at the Nieuwe Kerk or New Church in Amsterdam for his inauguration.
‘I am happy and grateful to introduce to you your new king, Willem-Alexander,’ she told the cheering crowd.
Moments later, in a striking symbol of the generational shift, she left the balcony and the new king, his wife and three daughters – the children in matching yellow dresses and headbands – waved to the crowd.
‘Dear mother, today you relinquished the throne. 33 years moving and inspiring years. We are intensely, intensely grateful to you,’ the new king said.
Observers believe Beatrix remained on the throne for so long in part because of unrest in Dutch society as the country 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.
In the most emotional part of her farewell Monday, she praised Claus for teaching their children to be attuned to changes in society.
‘Prince Claus brought our House closer to this time,’ she said. ‘Possibly history will show that the choice of this husband was my best decision.’
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