The Netherlands The Netherlands's royal family coat of arms

The Dutch royal family

Seated, from left: Princess Maxima holds Princess Alexia, Queen Beatrix, Princess Laurentien holds Countess Eloise. Back row, from left: Prince Friso, Princess Mabel holds Countess Luana, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander holds Princess Catharina-Amalia and Prince Constantijn with Count Claus Casimir

The Netherlands only became a kingdom with its own monarch in the 19th century, but the dynasties from which Queen Beatrix descends, those of Nassau and of Orange, have ruled in the region for six centuries. The House of Orange-Nassau was created when Count Hendrik III of the Low Country province Nassau and Claudia de Chalon, a Burgundian noblewoman whose territories included Orange, married at the start of the 16th century.

In 1688 the English parliament invited the then Dutch ruler, or stadholder, William of Orange, whose wife Mary was a Stuart, to rule England. He became William III of Britain.

In 1795 the last Dutch stadholder, Prince Willem V, fled to England as his lands were invaded by the French. They remained part of the French Republic, and later the Napoleonic Empire, until 1815, when Prince Willem V's son established the new kingdom of the Netherlands, becoming King Willem I.

His grandson, William III, was the kingdom's last male ruler. When he died in 1890, his wife, Emma, became regent for nine years, until their daughter Wilhelmina was old enough to accede to the throne. Her 50-year rule saw two World Wars as well as the decolonisation of Indonesia and she was well-loved, both at home and abroad. She died in 1962.

When Wilhelmina's granddaughter, Queen Beatrix, eventually cedes the throne to her eldest son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Crown Princess Maxima, he will become the Netherlands' first male monarch for over a century. There is every indication that he will reign in the understated and populist style which has made this one of the best-loved monarchies of Northern Europe.
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