There were smiles, high emotion and cheers on a day of national celebration in The Netherlands as Prince Willem-Alexander became the country's new King with his wife Princess Maxima as his Queen.Thirty-three years after she took the throne his mother Queen Beatrix gave up her role as head of the House of Orange in a solemn abdication ceremony, reverting to her original status as a Princess.
Just after 10am in Amsterdam's Royal Palace the outgoing monarch made her entry, dressed in a regal purple coat and dress, matched with a three-stand pearl necklace. She was flanked by her heir and his consort. As soon as Beatrix spoke to declare her intention of handing over to a "new generation" a roar of approval went up amid the orange-draped crowd outside, punctuating for a moment the serious atmosphere in the Moses State Room.She then signed the abdication document, before passing it to Willem-Alexander for his signature. The new sovereign, who is 46, blinked several times, almost hardly able to believe that the moment he has prepared for all his life was finally there. Maxima, beautifully chic in a dusky pink outfit featuring an outsize bow, mirrored his emotion, tears glimmering in her eyes.
Her husband's thoughts turned, no doubt, to those who have been within him on this journey but who are not there to see this day. He would have remembered his late father Prince Claus, whom Beatrix credited with modernising the monarchy and preparing their son. Another thought may well have been for his younger brother Johan Friso, who has been in a coma since a skiing accident last year.Speaking about this tragedy just before the inauguration, Willem-Alexander said: "All I can do is do my best on 30 April."Also looking on at Tuesday's proceedings were the couple's three girls, Amalia, nine, Alexia, seven and Ariane, five, in pretty matching yellow frocks and headbands.
Amalia is now the Princess of Orange and the heir to the throne. It will be many years before she truly understands the enormity of the occasion.
The throngs in the Palace square below were in no doubt of its importance, however. Around one million people had congregated in the capital, wearing inflatable orange crowns and bows in the blue, white and red of the nation's flag.In high spirits, they defied the gloomy weather to sing, weep and shout their welcome to the new King.