Long live their new king!

Tomorrow is a red-letter day for the people of the Netherlands

Before you leave home tomorrow, make sure to don something of an orange hue. For that's the colour of the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau, whose members will be attending the formal abdication of Queen Beatrix in the morning (3pm Tuesday, Thai time) followed by the investiture of her son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, as that country's new monarch.

Queen Beatrix makes an appearance on the balcony of one of her palaces with Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his consort, Princess Maxima.

And April 30 is a particularly suitable day for the event. It is the birthday of Queen Juliana, the Queen Mother, and has been celebrated as Queen's Day in the Netherlands since 1948.

Like most other European royal families in contemporary times, the House of Orange-Nassau is very open in its role in the Netherlands, a country which prides itself on the equality of its citizens, where royalty can interact with the common people without the need for strict protocol or formalities.

It is also one of the few countries where the reigning monarch now follows a tradition of abdicating in favour of the crown prince or princess in order to allow the next generation to carry on the duties of head of state. In 1948, Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in favour of her daughter, Queen Juliana, who in turn abdicated in 1980 at the age of 71 to be succeeded by her first-born, Queen Beatrix.

During her television broadcast to the Dutch people on Jan 28, Queen Beatrix noted that it was time that responsibility for the country was passed to a new generation.

A 2003 portrait of Queen Beatrix by Rob Ris of Max Koot Studio.

Her 33 years on the throne make her the longest-reigning monarch in the 200-year history of the current dynasty.

"Queen Beatrix is very much loved... by the people," remarked Joan Boer, Dutch ambassador to Thailand. "They are very grateful for the great work Queen Beatrix has done and what she has achieved. There is also much respect for how [she] has been focusing on state trade missions."

After her abdication, Queen Beatrix will assume the official title of Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau and Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld.

Like the King of Thailand, Queen Beatrix has provided moral guidance to the government and the people, the ambassador said. She is recognised for her righteousness, and, like His Majesty the King, Queen Beatrix is also a talented artist.

WELL PREPARED FOR THE ROLE

Despite their love of and admiration for Queen Beatrix, the people of the Netherlands are also looking forward to this new reign with much anticipation. As part of the celebrations for the investiture of the new king, a special website was set up to allow Dutch people all over the world to present their best wishes in whatever shape or form they preferred. The www.wishesworldwide.com website takes as its theme "My dream for our country; Inspiration for our King".

"Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima will be a great new king and queen for our country," added Ambassador Boer. "We are convinced that [they] are fully prepared for their future task."

On the advice of his father, Prince Claus, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander undertook studies in water management, a field which was later to prove very pertinent not only for his low-lying native country but also for the global community at large, as evidenced by the fact that when Thailand was desperately trying to cope with the great floods of 2011, the Netherlands was able to come to our assistance with technical expertise and support.

"The future King Willem-Alexander is an expert on water management," said Ambassador Boer.

Manufactured in Thailand for a Dutch firm called Faber Flags, this version of the national flag of the Netherlands was created especially for the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander; copies have been distributed to Dutch embassies worldwide.

"He is chairman of the United Nations secretary-general's advisory board on water and sanitation [UNSGAB] and an honorary member of the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century as well as patron of the Global Water Partnership."

In preparation for his accession to the throne, however, the Prince of Orange will today resign from all his official positions, including membership of the International Olympic Committee and the chairmanship of UNSGAB. He will also relinquish an active role in the Dutch armed forces.

INVESTITURE, NOT CORONATION

Unlike their counterparts in the UK or Thailand, Dutch monarchs are not crowned, but swear allegiance to the Charter for the King of the Netherlands and the constitution in a public joint session of both houses of the States General (parliament): the Senate and House of Representatives. It is a purely secular ceremony, reflecting the parallel relationship that exists between the monarch and the Dutch people, rather than a ritual with divine or religious trappings which is still favoured by more traditional royal institutions.

OFFICIAL INVESTITURE: PROGRAMME OF EVENTS

Tonight, Queen Beatrix will host a dinner for members of her family and other royal and foreign missions at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Tomorrow's events will begin at 10am with the abdication of Queen Beatrix at the Royal Palace Amsterdam, in the presence of the presidents of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Council of Ministers, members of the royal family and the governors and prime ministers of Aruba, Curacao and St Maarten (former Dutch colonies which are now regarded as autonomous countries within the Netherlands).

At 10.30am, the new monarch, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, Her Majesty Queen Ma{aac}xima and HRH Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands will appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace Amsterdam. They will be joined by the new crown princess, HRH the Princess of Orange, and her sisters, Their Royal Highnesses Princess Alexia and Princess Ariane.

The investiture of King Willem-Alexander will take place at 2pm at a joint session of the two houses of the States General in the Nieuwe Kerk (a 15th-century church in Amsterdam, located on Dam Square next to the Royal Palace), after which they will proceed to the Royal Palace for a reception.

A recently minted 2 euro coin bearing the likenesses of Queen Beatrix and her successor, soon-to-be King Willem-Alexander.

Festivities will take place throughout the evening, with the focus being on a water pageant on the IJ, a lake in the province of North Holland, in which the new king and queen will take part with their daughters.

From 9.30pm onwards, a special celebratory programme will take place, hosted by the prime minister on behalf of the Council of Ministers.

The new king and queen will eventually take up residence at Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, while Princess Beatrix will move to Drakensteyn Castle in Lage Vuursche. Noordeinde Palace will continue to be used as the monarch's place of work.

TIES BETWEEN TWO KINGDOMS

Thai-Dutch relations date back to the Ayutthaya period, some 400 years ago, and relations between the two royal families have always been close.

Travelling overseas early in their reign, Their Majesties the King and Queen paid a visit on Queen Juliana, then reigning monarch, and Prince Bernhard. That was in 1960; they returned to the Netherlands for a second visit in 1971.

At the invitation of HM the King, Queen Beatrix and Crown Prince Willem-Alexander paid a visit to Thailand in 2004 to celebrate four centuries of excellent relations between the two countries. As a token of her appreciation, Queen Beatrix made a donation to HM the King to establish the Baan Hollanda Information Centre on Thai-Dutch Relations in Ayutthaya. A museum situated near the excavated remains of a 17th-century Dutch settlement in the former capital, this facility opened to the public earlier this month; its exhibits explain how these early Dutch traders worked, lived, and interacted with Siamese society of the time.

Then, in 2006, when HM the King celebrated the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima represented the Dutch royal family at that memorable event. "Though not many people are aware [of the fact], HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has studied in the Netherlands," Ambassador Boer added.

LOCAL CELEBRATIONS

To celebrate this momentous occasion in their history, officials at the Dutch embassy here are organising a reception tomorrow to which "bilateral contacts, Thai local authorities, the diplomatic corps and Dutch nationals" have been invited.

The garden of the Dutch ambassador's residence will take on a fairy-tale atmosphere to emulate the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam where the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander is due to be held. Colourful papier-mache cows, 28 in all, have been constructed to greet arriving guests and white marquees will provide shelter from the scorching April sun. The ambassador's residence will be decorated with a copy of the 10m-long royal robe coat. A band formed from Thai nationals, all of whom once studied music in the Netherlands, will provide music for the celebration. Huge TV screens will carry a live broadcast of the day's events as they unfold.

Queen Beatrix and Crown Prince Willem-Alexander made an official state visit to Thailand in 2004; here they are seen on a trip they made to Ayutthaya accompanied by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his family pictured during a trip to Lech, Austria, this year.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor