The abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on Tuesday introduced a young, new monarch to the world.
At 46, King Willem-Alexander is the youngest monarch in Europe and one of the youngest in the world.
In her abdication speech, 75-year-old Queen Beatrix placed her trust and confidence in her eldest son.
With only a few official trips to Thailand over the past 20 years, Willem-Alexander is not as well known to the Thai public as Prince Charles of Britain and his two sons, or the popular King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan.
Yet Thais followed his coronation with keen interest; most newspapers placed pictures of the royal on their front pages.
Willem-Alexander has been given good training, and in Beatrix's words, is "well prepared" for his new role in the wealthy nation, best known for tulips, windmills and herrings.
Unlike his royal counterparts elsewhere, the new Dutch monarch, as well as his younger siblings, has attracted relatively little controversy. As crown prince, he was dubbed by the Western media as the "boozing casanova" or "Prince Pils". A major, yet brief, controversy was played up by the media in 2002 when he married Argentinian-born sweetheart Maxima Zorreguieta, whose father was a cabinet minister under the notorious Argentine regime of Gen Jorge Videla in the 1970s.
It was Maxima who turned things around. Opinion polls indicate Queen Maxima is more popular than other royal family members, including her husband, and even her mother-in-law.
But in general, the Dutch monarchy's place is relatively secure, with strong public support in a fast-changing world.
During my two-year stay in The Hague in the late 1990s, I witnessed joyful celebrations on Queen's Day or Koninginnedag which falls on April 30 (the birthday of the queen's mother, Juliana. Beatrix's birthday is Jan 31). The Dutch don't shy away from expressing their affection for their monarch. It's a joyful event _ most houses fly orange flags and many dress in orange clothing.
Unique to the festivities is the free market, or vrijmarkt, when many people sell second-hand items in front of their homes. Even children sell discarded toys.
The next Koninginnedag will take place on the new king's birthday next year. Of course, then it will be known as Koningsdag, or King's Day.
This does not necessarily mean there are no anti-royalists in the Netherlands. But this practical nation provides ample room for this group of people _ they don't risk being jailed or subjected to a witch-hunt for not favouring the institution.
During Tuesday's coronation, Dutch anti-royalists were allotted six locations where they were allowed to stage protests in Amsterdam.
When I was in the Netherlands, there was only one incident I can recall of "dislike" against the royal family being expressed by a member of the public.
It was about noon when a middle-aged Dutch man and I were standing at a traffic light, waiting for the green signal to cross the street. However, the light stayed red a bit longer _ perhaps an extra two minutes _ than normal. As there was no traffic, we were both curious as to why the light did not turn green.
The answer became clear when we saw the royal motorcade, a very modest one, of Prince Claus van Amsberg, consort to Queen Beatrix, passing by. Then the light turned green. With no attempt to hide his irritation, the man sighed heavily, shaking his head in disapproval.
"He just wasted my lunchtime," he murmured before quickly walking away.
Though King Willem-Alexander has ascended to the throne at a time when the royal family enjoys popular support, he and the institution will surely face many challenges ahead.
For a start, questions have emerged about his 850,000 tax-free salary, and attempts to reduce the sum as the Netherlands applies austerity measures to tackle its sluggish economy.
King Willem-Alexander appears to realise the challenges ahead of him. Shortly before his coronation, he announced that he would not be a "protocol fetishist," and that he wanted to "be a king that can bring society together, representative and encouraging in the 21st century".
Ploenpote Atthakor is Deputy Opinion Pages Editor, Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Ploenpote Atthakor
Position: Deputy Editorial Pages Editor