Parents of the bride will be conspicuous by their absence at fairytale royal wedding

European times: the Netherlands
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The Independent Online

When a glamorous Argentine bride steps from a horse-drawn carriage and heads up the aisle to marry the Dutch Crown Prince, the scene will be set for a fairytale wedding.

But even princesses can have embarrassing relatives and, when the vows are exchanged, the parents of Maxima Zorreguieta will be kept well out of camera shot. At the behest of the Dutch government, the father of the bride has been excluded from the ceremony in Amsterdam, while his wife has decided to stay away.

The wedding will bring to an end a year of controversy that nearly sent the Netherlands' staid, bicycling monarchy careering off the road.

Ms Zorreguieta is the fourth daughter of Jorge Horacio Zorreguieta, who was a member of the Argentine junta of the 1970s. Although he served only as Agriculture Minister, his association with the brutal Videla regime, under which as many as 30,000 people may have disappeared, nearly scuppered Maxima's big day.

For foreigners the row may seem obscure. But in the 1970s the Netherlands had extensive trade links with Argentina and the issued touched a nerve, particularly with socialist politicians who remembered the campaigns of the Seventies.

As the political left erupted over the junta link, there were suggestions Prince Willem-Alexander might have to choose between his girlfriend and the succession, while speculation focused on the private life of Prince Johan Friso, the second in line, who stunned the media by issuing a formal statement denying that he was gay.

Only yesterday, the bride-to-be was subpoenaed in a civil suit against her for a car accident. None of this can have been foreseen by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander when he began the romance. The fair-haired 34-year-old is a model of clean-cut European royalty who served in the navy, wrote a dissertation on Nato and became an expert on water management. He runs marathons, wins skating contests, drives fast cars and flies aeroplanes. Ms Zorreguieta seemed a perfect choice. Aged 30, she had enjoyed a successful career in Wall Street before working for Deutsche Bank in Brussels.

As the furore over her father's past mounted, the couple's chance of gaining the necessary parliamentary approval for the wedding started to look shaky. But Maxima shone by speaking excellent Dutch when she appeared at a press conference to announce the engagement. The betrothed then embarked on a tour of the 12 provinces where, as one politician put it, "they watched clog-dancing, admired local handicrafts and professed huge interest in the recipe for old-style waffles".

The required approval for the wedding was duly granted. Maxima was naturalised and won a dispensation from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rotterdam to marry in a Protestant church (she has not converted but has agreed that any children will be brought up in the Dutch Reformed Church). The only remaining problem was over the guestlist. Maxima hinted that she wanted her father to walk her down the aisle but the authorities finally made clear that neither parent would be in the country tomorrow.

Historians note that the dispute is not without precedent because Willem-Alexander's mother, when Crown Princess, married a German, Claus von Amsberg, who had been a member of the Hitler Youth. With memories fresh in post-war Holland, that wedding provoked riots on the streets.

There will be a "white scarf" demonstration in memory of the junta's victims but the 6,000 police on duty will have more problems dealing with about 80,000 well-wishers.

As Lousewies van der Laan, a republican Dutch liberal MEP, said: "It's been played very cleverly and the nation has embraced Maxima. This is definitely not going to help us get rid of the monarchy."