28 January 2013

Royal Splendor 101: Queen Beatrix to Abdicate

I hadn't planned on posting again until Thursday, but a rare news update from me is clearly in order for some HUGE royal news: Queen Beatrix has announced that she will abdicate in favor of her son, Willem-Alexander.

Video: The abdication announcement (with English subtitles)
I wrote about her own accession, and a bit about Dutch practices in general, last year, but I'll renew some of it here. First, for those that don't know already, it's important to note that this is standard practice for the Dutch royal family. Beatrix's mother and grandmother both abdicated. In some countries abdication is a sign of failure, but in others it is a way to make a transition when the time is right for both parties instead of during a time of mourning. In her speech, Beatrix stated in part that she has chosen to abdicate because it is time for a new generation. Abdication speculation has been brewing for several years now, so this isn't a surprise. And it's been a particularly tough year for Beatrix, following her son Prince Friso's tragic avalanche accident in February 2012 which left him in a coma. Friso is in a London hospital, and it's been said that the Queen travels back and forth quite a bit. On April 30, 2013, Willem-Alexander will become the first Dutch king since 1890. April 30th is Koninginnedag, or Queen's Day. It was Queen Juliana's birthday, and the very day on which she abdicated in favor of her daughter Beatrix in 1980. Though many had guessed he might reign as King Willem IV, he will be known as King Willem-Alexander. Máxima will become Queen Máxima, following discussions in the past over whether or not that title would apply to her. Beatrix will be Princess Beatrix once again, and Catharina-Amalia will become Princess of Orange at just 9 years old.
Video: The abdication of Queen Juliana
Details will continue to emerge regarding the celebrations that will take place on April 30, but we can look back to Beatrix's own accession in 1980 for a glimpse of what's to come. The official abdication ceremony was held in the morning, followed by a balcony appearance.
Video: On the balcony, following Juliana's abdication
This is followed by the inauguration ceremony - not a coronation. (The British coronations are what many of us know best, but the sort of elaborate ceremony we saw in 1953 is not replicated in most other countries.) Beatrix's ceremony featured the new queen in a tiara (the Pearl Button Tiara) and ermine robe, while female guests primarily wore long dresses and hats, and the gentlemen wore a mix of things from suits up to uniforms and white tie. Though the crown and regalia are displayed during the ceremony, there is no actual crowning.
Video: Queen Beatrix's inauguration
We'll have to wait and see how closely Willem-Alexander's inauguration will resemble past examples (excepting things that are required to be the same), and for details on things like extra events or foreign royal guests. With such ceremonies, you typically see heirs or other representatives sent instead of monarchs, though there are always exceptions. Who will not be in attendance: Máxima's parents, due to her father's controversial past.
Video: Queen Juliana's inauguration, 1948
It's sad to see Beatrix go, but on the whole I think there's a lot to be said for this abdication thing - a new reign can be celebrated with a full celebration, both of the new monarch and of the old. And Beatrix will still be around to make us smile. (So yes, I think that means you are allowed to be pumped about the prospects of Queen Máx and what she might do with full rein of the family jewel vault. Did someone say Stuart Tiara?)

UPDATE: The Royal House has already released some information, with more details to come. The investiture will be held at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam following the balcony appearance, as expected. The King will wear white tie under his mantle (robe). Foreign royalty will be invited, but not reigning heads of state. Within a year, the new King and Queen will visit all Dutch provinces and Caribbean parts of the kingdom. Click here to read the official details.

And with that, I really will be back on Thursday with business as usual. Until then - don't forget to vote for your favorite fringe tiara!