Monday, April 29, 2013

Queen Beatrix

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, often known as Queen Bea, is stepping down (she had said she would in January, for health reasons). Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard was born in 1938 and became queen when her mother Queen Juliana stepped down in 1980. During World War II she and her sisters sent to Canada, out of harm's way. In 1945 Princess Juliana established the custom of sending a big shipment of tulips to Canada every spring in gratitude for Canadian protection of her daughters; they are displayed each year at the Canadian Tulip Festival. Princess Beatrix eventually studied law, and received a degree from Leiden.

Queen Beatrix has been remarkable in having a long reign that has had few scandals, despite her active role in Dutch politics; she is very popular, and will no doubt be missed. Her son, Willem-Alexander, who just turned 46 a few days ago, will become king. Unlike the British, the Dutch do not have a coronation -- there is no state church, so there is no official body to crown the monarch, so the monarch just swears an oath to uphold the constitution. The Dutch parliament has slowly been stripping the monarchy of power, so he will mostly be filling a ceremonial role, although the prime minister will still have to report to him; there is also a strong movement to reduce the pay of the monarch and require him to pay taxes. (There was an amusing situation in Dutch politics a while back in which some members of parliament were making a noise about how much the Queen and the royal family were paid. The eventual agreement was the the stipends would be linked to civil servant pay. Well, anyone who has ever watched Yes, Minister knows what happened later that same year: the civil servants managed to get themselves a pay raise. It was a small pay raise, of 1%, but it meant that the result of trying to restrict the pay of the Queen and royal family led almost immediately to them getting a pay raise. Government is the same the world over.) Despite that, all the recent polls show that the Dutch in general are favorably disposed to the monarchy and like Prince Willem-Alexander personally.

After her son is invested, she will no longer be Queen Beatrix, but Princess Beatrix again.

A small bit of trivia: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom are both descended from William IV of the Netherlands, making them fifth cousins. This actually makes them relatively distantly related among European monarchs (e.g., King Harald of Norway is Queen Elizabeth's second cousin); Queen Beatrix was 807th in the British line of succession, well behind the royal families (some currently in power, some merely by line) of Norway, Russia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, etc.

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