By BosNewsLife News Center
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (BosNewsLife)– Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced Monday she is abdicating in favor of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander.
Speaking on national television, Queen Beatrix said she would formally stand down on April 30, when the Dutch celebrate the annual ‘Queen’s Day’ holiday.
It will soon be known as the annual “King’s Day” and held on April 27, Dutch media reported.
The queen, who is approaching her 75th birthday, said she had been thinking about this moment for several years and that now was “the moment to lay down my crown”.
Willem-Alexander, 45, will become King of the Netherlands. She said it was time for the throne to be held by “a new generation”.
Queen Beatrix is the sixth monarch from the House of Orange-Nassau, which has ruled the Netherlands since the early 19th Century.
She became queen during a turbulent time in 1980 in the Netherlands amid economic difficulties and a lack of housing for youngsters.
While facing the crowds from the balcony of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, it was difficult for her not to note the clearly audible riots between police and thousands of squatters shouting “No home, no throne.”
One of her last state visits this month was to Asia, including Brunei, which was focused on expanding economic relations despite concerns about the reported increased persecution of minority Christians in the gas and oil rich Islamic mini-state.
Well-informed Open Doors, a Netherlands-based Christian relief group, said ahead of her visit that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced preparations for an ‘Islamic Criminal Law’ will “complicate the situation for the Christian minority further, especially those known to have converted.”
The planned legislation was not expected to receive much opposition from the rubber-stamp parliament, which the sultan reopened in 2004 some 20 years after it was suspended.
It was not clear whether the queen had talked behind the scenes about the situation of Brunei Christians, who also face reported church closures and the prohibition on Christian education.
However the queen has sometimes made indirect statements about the need for tolerance, mainly in televised Christmas speeches.
Commentators have said she remained on the throne for over three decades because of unrest in Dutch society, once a more religious Christian country, as it struggled to assimilate more immigrants, mainly Muslims from North Africa, and shifted away from its traditional reputation as one of the world’s most tolerant nations.
In her Christmas Day speech in 2010, Beatrix made a heartfelt plea for unity, saying, “with each other we all make up one society.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte paid his respects in a speech that immediately followed Beatrix on all Dutch television channels. “Since her coronation in the 1980s she’s applied herself heart and soul for Dutch society,” Rutte said.
The timing of the announcement makes sense, according to Royal watchers. At 75, she is already the oldest ever Dutch monarch and the pragmatic Dutch do not view 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.
*WATCH QUEEN BEATRIX ABDICATING AT THE AND OF THE STORY
The queen was reluctant to leave as she wanted to give time for her son to enjoy fatherhood before becoming King Willem-Alexander, Royal watchers said. He has three young daughters with Argentine investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta.
Beatrix has frequently said that the best years of her life were her time as a young mother, before her coronation in 1980.
The abdication also comes at a time of trial for Beatrix. This time a year ago she was struck by personal tragedy when the second of her three sons, Prince Friso, was left in a coma after being engulfed by an avalanche while skiing in Austria.
And even in a job that is mostly ceremonial, the previous government stripped her of one of her few remaining powers: the ability to name a candidate to begin Cabinet formations after elections of the national parliament.
King Willem-Alexander has been prepared for the job in this new era, after initial concerns about his wilder young years, amid reports of even a bar fight in Budapest.
BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos recalled the prince also as someone who wanted to be close to people when in 1993 he met him, sipping beer in Becketts Irish Bar in Budapest. “I recall him confirming flying humanitarian missions in Yugoslavia. Yet, he was also very interested in people.”
As a trained pilot, he reportedly also flew his mother during several state trips, and an expert in the quintessentially Dutch field of water management for a nation that is partly below sea level.
He is also a member of the International Olympic Committee. The king-in-waiting courted controversy with his choice to marry Maxima, whose father was an agriculture minister in the military junta that ruled Argentina with an iron fist in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Beatrix’s choice of husband, Claus, who died in 2002, was met with resistance in 1966 because he was a German national and the Nazis’ World War II occupation of the Netherlands was still an open wound for many who lived through it.
The young Klaus, like many of his generation, had been a member of the Hitlerjugend, or Hitler Youth. Yet, Like Maxima, he won the hearts of his adopted nation and there was a huge outpouring of grief at his death.
Throughout her reign she was seen as a calming influence on society, especially in the aftermath of the 2002 assassination of populist politician Pim Fortuyn and the murder two years later of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist.
Although she was widely respected for her unpretentious style, it took Beatrix much of her reign to attain the admiration and popularity of her late mother, former Queen Juliana, who was more openly loving toward her people.
But in recent years, personal tragedies exposed a softer side to the queen and brought her closer to her subjects.
Claus’s death took a toll on her, and it was apparent how deep her reliance on the quiet man had been: she was filmed leaning heavily, almost hanging on Prince Friso’s arm as they entered the church for his funeral.
In another blow, a deranged loner tried to slam a car into an open-topped bus carrying members of the royal family as they celebrated the Queens Day national holiday in 2010.
The driver killed seven people gathered to watch the royals and the brazen attack shocked the nation. Then, in 2012, Prince Friso — who had been such a support after Klaus’s death — was engulfed by an avalanche as he skied, plunging him into a coma from which he has yet to wake. (With reports from the Netherlands)