Dutch Queen Beatrix announced Monday that she will abdicate on April 30 after 33 years as head of state, clearing the way for her eldest son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, to become the nation’s first king in more than a century.
The announcement, in a nationally broadcasted speech, signaled an end to the reign of one of Europe’s longest-serving monarchs, whose time on the throne was marked by tumultuous shifts in Dutch society and, more recently, by personal tragedy.
“Responsibility for our country must now lie in the hands of a new generation,” Beatrix said in the speech delivered from her Huis ten Bosch palace just days before she was to turn 75.
“I am deeply grateful for the great faith you have shown in me in the many years that I could be your Queen,” she added.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a staunch monarchist, paid his respects in a speech that immediately followed Beatrix on all Dutch media channels.
The timing of the announcement makes sense at multiple levels. It comes just days before Beatrix’s birthday, and she is already the oldest ever Dutch monarch: the pragmatic Dutch do not see being king or queen as a job for life. The nation also celebrates the 200th anniversary of its monarchy, the House of Orange, at the end of this year, Beatrix said.
Meanwhile Willem-Alexander, 45, is prepared to assume the job.
He is a trained pilot and expert in the quintessentially Dutch field of water management who has long been groomed for the throne, often joining Beatrix on state visits and sometimes even flying her home.