Queen Beatrix, who has ruled over the Netherlands for nearly 33 years, has said she will abdicate on April 30 to make way for her eldest son, Willem-Alexander.
Queen Beatrix made the announcement in a nationally televised speech on Monday, paving the way for 45-year-old Crown Prince Willem-Alexander to become the first male monarch in the Netherlands in more than a century.
It was time “to place the responsibility of the country in the hands of a new generation,” Beatrix said in the address to the country.
“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 television channels.
“Since her coronation in 1980s she’s applied herself heart and soul for Dutch society,” Rutte said.
Observers of the Dutch Royal House have long anticipated the abdication of the aging monarch, who will turn 75 this week.
Nevertheless, Beatrix has remained active in her role as head of state, having made visits to Singapore and Brunei in the last two weeks.
Speculation about Beatrix’s future on the throne grew after Prince Friso, her 44-year-old second child, suffered a coma after a skiing accident in Austria on February 17, with his bleak prognoses having deeply shaken the monarch. He remains unresponsive in a London hospital.
Another dark moment in her reign came in April 2009, when the royal family was deliberately attacked at a Queen’s Day parade event in which a car ploughed into spectators, killing seven in attendance along with the driver. No member of the royal family was harmed.
Beatrix assumed the throne on April 30, 1980, after her mother Juliana also abdicated.
In addition to princes Willem-Alexander and Friso, she has a 43-year-old son, Constantijn. Her husband, German-born Prince Claus, died in 2002.
Beatrix remains popular among a vast majority of citizens, according to recent polls, which also suggest that most Dutch believe Willem-Alexander to be well-prepared for his new role.
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.
Willem-Alexander, a member of the International Olympic Committee, 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.