The Netherlands will have a King

Queen Beatrix is to stand down on April 30.  I have been thinking about it for some time, the Queen said.  I am not standing down because the role is too heavy for me, but in the conviction that responsibility for our country should now lie with a new generation.

Questions:

1. Was the abdication expected or did it come as surprise? Do you think Queen’s age was the only reason for her abdication?

2. Do you expect the transition to be seamless or do you thing the style will change significantly under the new King?

3. If you had to characterize the reign of Beatrix briefly, what would you say about it?

Answers:

Paul Nieuwenburg, Senior Lecturer of Political Philosophy, Department of Political Science, Leiden University

1. The abdication itself did not come as a surprise: the timing did. Speculations about abdications have been around for some years, but the moment of announcing it took everybody (except a few initiates) by surprise.

2. I do not believe the new King will give a new definition to the monarchy. He is, of course, a different kind of person: but the margins of change are very small. Even a king with a strong characer (as Beatrix is) can only go so far as constitutional limits allow. There might be some change of style in the way we celebrate the national anniversary (and in fact, it has been announced that from next year onward, King’s day will no longer be on 30 April (the birthday, not of Beatrix, but her mother, Juliana), but 27 April (Willem-Alexander’s proper birthday). But these are trivial matters.

3. At the end of the day, it was a prosperous reign, with few constitutional and national crises. She took over in 1980, during the economic crisis, and things only went better, at least up to, let’s say, 2008. However, even though the economy is not well, Holland is still doing better than most countries. Personally, however, she suffered great losses in the passing way of her husband, Claus, and the skiing accident of her middle son, Friso. Last year what is generally taken as the last bulwark of political influence of the monarch was taken: the Queen/King no longer appoints those who are to form a new cabinet. That has been taken over by Parliament. But formally, the Netherlands still is a constitutional monarchy.

Andy LangenkampGlobal Political Analyst, ECR Research Pte Ltd, Independent Financial Research

1. The abdication was expected by insiders, but they didn’t expect it to come so soon in the beginning of 2013. Some thought that she would abdicate in November when the monarchy will celebrate its 200th birthday

Her age didn’t play a big role in her decision. She explicitly said that she could still handle the job. But she thought it was time for a new generation to take the reigns. She had been thinking about abdicating for the last couple of years.

2. It most likely will be a seamless transition. Willem-Alexander isn’t as loved by the Dutch as his mother, but his wife, Princess Maxima, is very popular and together they will probably do a good job. But most not forget that we have a constitutional monarchy; the role of the monarch is largely ceremonial. Last year one of the last responsibilities of the monarch – helping in the formation of a new government – was taken over by parliament.

3. She did was she intended to do: don’t get involved in scandals, but don’t be boring or bland either. She was known for having a strong opinion, but she also knew that she was bounded by the constitution to play a largely ceremonial role. Some say she was icy, but she showed a lot of compassion after national shocks, like with the airplane that crashed in the Bijlmer in Amsterdam in 1992 and with the 2009 attack on the Dutch Royal Family that resulted in eight deaths and ten injuries (no one of the Royal family).

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