Paint the town orange: Willem-Alexander sworn in as king of the Netherlands as one million flock to Amsterdam to celebrate

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The Dutch turn out for their first king in more than 100 years as Beatrix steps aside

Amsterdam

State-school educated water management specialist Willem-Alexander does not really care what you call him. Perhaps he would prefer people forget his one-time nickname Prince Pils, acquired owing to his youthful fondness for a few beers, but there will be none of this “Your Majesty” business as the 46-year-old settles into his new job as the first King of the Netherlands since 1890.

“People can address me however they want,” the newest head of the Royal House of Orange-Nassau said recently. “For me, it is about people feeling at ease when I'm with them.”

Being at ease did not appear too much of a problem for his subjects as they packed the streets of Amsterdam, beer cans in hand and bobbing up and down to thumping beats from speakers throughout the city. In their orange dungarees, orange wigs and inflatable orange crowns, people spilled out of windows, onto balconies, onto bridges and into the streets.

A tourist stumbling upon all could be forgiven for thinking the city was celebrating a victory on the pitch for its equally orange-clad football team, rather than marking a royal 'investiture' - nothing as ostentatious as a coronation for the egalitarian Dutch.

Their new monarch was not, however, top of everyone's minds. “I guess it means drinking a lot of alcohol,” said Noortje Van De Vooren, 25, as she dolled out mojitos to thirsty revellers and pondered the significance of the day.

While there is genuine affection for the abdicating Queen Beatrix and her first-born son, the Netherlands shows little of the extravagant pomp or fawning reverence on display in Britain for royal events. While London sent a flotilla of 1,000 vessels down the Thames in the drizzle for last year's Diamond Jubilee, Amsterdam simply rigged up sound systems and let everyone party.

Behind the doors of Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk (new church), there was no heavy crown of gold, tourmaline, sapphires and ermine placed on King Willem-Alexander's head. In the Netherlands, the crown is simply placed on a table in front of the new sovereign. And the riches of these royal jewels? Silver with gold gilt, decorated with coloured glass and beads covered in fish skin.

Watching over the austere investiture - which belies the fact that the Dutch royal family is Europe's costliest - was the world's next generation of sovereigns, including Spain's Prince Felipe, Japan's Prince Naruhito, Prince Philippe of Belgium and Princess Victoria of Sweden. One of the oldest heirs present was Prince Charles, 64, who seems unlikely to casually tell his subjects when he finally ascends to the throne to ditch the “Your Majesty” and just “call me Charlie.”

But how these younger royals react to changing times could determine their very survival, says Lars Hovbakke Sørensen, a lecturer in modern history at the University of Copenhagen.

“The new generation which comes into power in the Netherlands and which will soon come into power in other states will try and be more informal and more like ordinary people,” he said. “The important thing which will decide if a monarchy will survive in the future or not in Europe is people have to see that the monarchy has a meaningful function for the society.”

Events in Amsterdam began when - at 10am and with a simple signature on a piece of paper - 75-year-old Queen Beatrix abdicated, following the tradition of her mother and grandmother before her. She ascended the throne in 1980 and is widely seen to have been a steady hand guiding the nation. That is not to say there were not controversies and tragedies along the way. Her investiture in 1980 was marred by protests against the cost of the ceremonies. The queen's middle son, Prince Johan Friso, was left in a coma in an avalanche in Austria last year.

Beatrix's 33-year reign ended the moment the pen left the paper at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam and Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, became King of the Netherlands. His daughter, Catharina-Amalia, 9, became next in line to the throne. And with a kiss on each cheek for her son on the balcony in front of cheering crowds, a proud Beatrix presented the Netherlands with its new king.

Proceedings then moved to the 600-year-old decommissioned church, Nieuwe Kerk, where a limited number of guests and the upper and lower houses of parliament gathered for the secular investiture. After a hymn the new King - looking as if he were off to a university graduation in black tails over a white shirt and white bow tie, albeit with a red cloak draped over his shoulders - gave a speech paying tribute to his mother and his wife, Queen Maxima, an Argentine-born investment banker. He also promised to steep the country though uncertain economic times.

“I want to make connections and really represent what makes us stand out as Dutchmen,” he said, before reciting the official oath of allegiance.

And so ended the investiture of Europe's newest sovereign, clearing the way for the all-night partying on the public holiday known until now as Queen's Day. The new King and his family celebrated with his subjects at the ultra-modern EYE Film Institute - the equivalent of the Queen popping by the BFI on London's Southbank - before sailing along Amsterdam's historic waterfront like rock stars greeting fans.

Willem-Alexander's brief spell at university as the nation's Prince Pils has done him little harm in a nation were being laid back is hardly frowned upon. Modernity, however, does not necessarily equal austerity. A study last year found that the Dutch monarchy cost the tax payer more than any other royal household in Europe. And despite nationwide belt-tightening, Queen Beatrix demurred at the prospect of taking a pay cut.

All the more reason to celebrate, said one reveller. “They cost us so much money each year and there is one day you can celebrate your ass off. So why not?” said Paul, 25, hoisting his can of Heineken aloft and staggering off to find the next party.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Recruitment Genius: Application Support Engineer - Software

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A small rapidly expanding IT So...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada