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Dutch Prepare to Celebrate Inauguration of Their New King

Dutch Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima
Dutch Prince Willem-Alexander, left, and Princess Maxima wave during the official start of the King's Games at the De Triangel and Het Palet primary schools in Enschede on April 26, 2013. Photographer: Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images

The Netherlands is getting ready to celebrate tomorrow’s inauguration of King Willem-Alexander, with security stepped up for an event forecast to attract at least 800,000 people to Amsterdam and millions of television viewers.

Queen Beatrix announced on Jan. 28, three days before her 75th birthday, that she will cede the Dutch throne to Willem-Alexander, her eldest son, tomorrow after exactly 33 years. The new king, who turned 46 two days ago, will be the Netherlands’ first male monarch since Willem III died in 1890.

Dutch television will be broadcasting 14 hours of live coverage of tomorrow’s events, which start when the queen signs the instrument of abdication between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. At that moment, Willem-Alexander, known until now as the Prince of Orange, officially becomes king. The old and new monarch then appear together on the palace balcony overlooking the Dam Square.

The inauguration is costing the government 5 million euros ($7.5 million), excluding security measures, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last month. The city of Amsterdam is spending another 7 million euros on the event, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan announced two weeks ago. Police will deploy 6,000 officers, 3,500 brought in from other parts of the country. The mayor has declined to comment on specific security measures following the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this month.

Nieuwe Kerk

After the abdication ceremony, the royals will cross the street in the afternoon to the Nieuwe Kerk, the 600-year-old gothic church where Dutch monarchs are traditionally sworn in. A total of 2,045 guests are invited to attend, including the entire Rutte Cabinet and all members of parliament. Also attending will be Britain’s Prince Charles and members of the royal families of Spain, Japan and Norway, among others.

In contrast to a British coronation ceremony, the Dutch monarch is never actually crowned, so the state regalia are simply displayed on a table during the ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk.

The celebrations also include a reception, a river boat tour and a state dinner in the Muziekgebouw concert hall. A tour along the city’s scenic canals won’t happen for security reasons.

Beatrix succeeded her mother, Queen Juliana, when she abdicated in 1980. Juliana’s mother, Wilhelmina, also gave up the throne in 1948. Willem-Alexander is married to Princess Maxima, a 41-year-old Argentine. The couple have three daughters.

Willem-Alexander becomes king at a time when the role of the Dutch monarch in politics has been reduced. The sovereign previously played a key part in the formation of governments. Parliament decided early last year, though, that it should oversee the process of agreeing on new coalitions without the involvement of the monarch, and the Liberal and Labor parties formed a government under the new rules after elections in September.

Queen’s Day, a national holiday traditionally held on April 30, will in future move to April 27 and be renamed King’s Day, to celebrate Willem-Alexander’s birthday.

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