Beatrix abdicates to let the 'new generation' rule in the Netherlands

  • @michael2day

The Dutch head of state, Queen Beatrix, is to abdicate in favour of her eldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander, after a 33-year reign marked by controversy and even civil disobedience.

Beatrix, who is 75 on Thursday, announced in a national television address this evening that she would step down on 30 April, enabling her son, 45, to become the first Dutch king for more than a century. She has ruled since 1980 following the abdication of her mother, Queen Juliana.

"I am not abdicating because this office is too much of a burden, but out of conviction that the responsibility for our nation should now rest in the hands of a new generation," she said. "I am deeply grateful for the great faith you have shown in me in the many years that I could be your Queen."

Unlike the reign of her widely-admired mother, Beatrix's time on the throne as the sixth monarch of the House of Orange has been marked by tragedy and scandal.

Her middle son, Prince Johan Friso, has been in coma since March last year after being caught in an avalanche while skiing in Austria. He had already been removed from the line of royal succession for marrying Mabel Wisse Smit without parliamentary permission after Dutch media published details of her relationship with a mobster.

But the greatest controversy – resulting in riots – came in 1996 when Beatrix married a German aristocrat with Nazi links; Klaus-Georg Wilhelm Otto Friedrich Gerd von Amsberg had been active in the Hitler Youth movement.

She and her family survived an assassination attempt in Apeldoorn in 2009, when a man drove a car into a street parade in which the royal family were participating. The vehicle missed the Queen and her family but hit members of the public, seven of whom died along with the attacker.

Last year she faced criticism after dismissing calls to hand back some of her annual €830,000 state allowance in a nod to the economic crisis, as Spain's King Juan Carlos had done.

Under Dutch law the monarch has few powers and the role is largely ceremonial, although Queen Beatrix has met weekly with successive prime ministers to discuss matters of government.

Beatrix, the oldest-ever Dutch monarch, is believed to have stayed in the role longer to allow time for Prince Willem-Alexander to enjoy fatherhood before becoming King: he has three young daughters with Maxima Zorreguieta, an Argentinian investment banker.