Monarchy of the Netherlands

Queen of the Netherlands
Coat of arms of the Netherlands.svg
Royal Coat of Arms of the Netherlands

Style: Her Majesty
Heir apparent: Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange
First monarch: William I
Formation: 16 March 1815

The Netherlands has been an independent monarchy since 16 March 1815, and has been governed by members of the House of Orange-Nassau since.


The first king of the Netherlands, from 1806 until 1810, was French. Napoleon installed his brother Louis Bonaparte as king over what was then called the Kingdom of Holland, a puppet state.

The present monarchy was originally founded in 1813 when the French were driven out and the then Prince of Orange was proclaimed as Sovereign Prince of The United Netherlands (comprising certain northern provinces). The new monarchy was confirmed in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna as part of the re-arrangement of Europe after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, and its status as kingdom was also confirmed. The House of Orange-Nassau were given the modern day Netherlands and also Belgium to rule as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. In addition, the King of the Netherlands became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

Prior to the Napoleonic wars, most of the semi-independent provinces of the Netherlands had been led by stadtholders from the House of Orange-Nassau. The state remained, formally, a confederated republic, even when in 1747 the office of stadtholder was centralized (one stadtholder for all provinces) and became hereditary for the House of Orange-Nassau.

The first king of the constitutional monarchy of the Netherlands, William I, was a direct male line descendant of John VI, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, a younger brother of William of Orange (also known as William the Silent) who, from 1568 on, had led the Dutch in their eighty-year struggle for independence from Spain. His family had a considerable influence on Dutch politics. They came from Dillenburg, Germany, home of the Nassau family. Willem's title 'Prince of Orange' was acquired through his inheritance of the principality of Orange, located south of Valence in France, in 1544.

Abdication of the throne has become a de facto tradition in Dutch Monarchy. Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Juliana both abdicated in favour of their daughters and William I abdicated in favour of his eldest son.

The present monarch, Queen Beatrix, has stated she will not abdicate in the near future, to allow Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Máxima to spend time with their family.

Monarchs of the Netherlands

Royal Standard

Wilhelmina (1890–1948)

When Wilhelmina came to the throne in 1890 at age 10 (her mother, Queen Emma, second wife of the then deceased William III, acted as regent until Wilhelmina reached the age of 18). Luxembourg, also a former member of the erstwhile German Confederation, was not willing to accept a (female) Grand Duchess under Salic law. Instead a family member, Adolf, former Duke of Nassau, became Grand Duke of Luxembourg, ending the personal union between the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The 58-year reign of Queen Wilhelmina was dominated by the two World Wars. She married a German prince, Heinrich von Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who unfortunately was not happy with his unrewarding role of husband-to-the-queen. Wilhelmina's strong personality and unrelenting passion to fulfill her inherited task overpowered many men in position of authority, including ministers, prime-ministers and her own husband. She is mostly remembered for her role during World War II. The initial disappointment of many Dutch people because of her quick withdrawal to London faded (though it was never forgotten and by some was never forgiven) when she proved to be of great moral support to the people and the resistance in her occupied country. Hendrik and Wilhelmina had one daughter, Juliana, who came to the throne in 1948. They lived in The Hague and in Palace 't Loo (Paleis 't Loo) in Apeldoorn. She died in 1962. For her early reign and character, the letters of Queen Victoria give a good perspective.

Juliana (1948–1980)

Juliana reigned from 1948 until 1980, and whereas Wilhelmina reigned like a general, Juliana expressed a more motherly character. One of her first official acts was to sign the treaty of independence of the Dutch colony Indonesia. She became involved in two major crises: the Greet Hofmans affair and the Lockheed bribery scandals, both of which directly threatened the credibility of the throne. She married a German of noble descent, Prince Bernard von Lippe-Biesterfeld. Together they had four daughters, Beatrix, Irene, Margriet and Christina. After their return from Ottawa, Canada in 1945 (where Margriet was born), they lived in the Soestdijk Palace (Paleis Soestdijk) in Soestdijk, about 20 km north-east of Utrecht. She died on 20 March 2004. Her husband Bernhard died on 1 December 2004.

Beatrix (1980–present)

The Dutch royal family today is much larger than it has ever been. Queen Beatrix and her husband, the late Prince Claus, have three sons, Willem-Alexander (married to Princess Máxima), Friso (married to Princess Mabel) and Constantijn (married to Princess Laurentien). Her sister Margriet and her spouse Pieter van Vollenhoven have four sons: Maurits, Bernhard, Pieter-Christiaan and Floris. Four of these seven princes as well as Margriet, are all (potentially) legal heirs to the throne, although the first right goes to the Crown Prince, and after him his daughters Catharina-Amalia, Alexia, Ariane, and then his brother Constantijn. Prince Friso lost his right to the throne because his marriage to Mabel Wisse Smit was not approved by the Staten-Generaal. The two other sisters of Beatrix, Irene and Christina, have lost their rights to the throne because their marriages were not approved by the Staten-Generaal. They both married Roman Catholics and Irene herself converted to Roman Catholicism, which at that time (the 1960s) was still politically problematic for an heir to the throne.

Traditionally, Dutch monarchs have always been members of the Dutch Reformed Church although this was never constitutionally required. This tradition is embedded in the history of the Netherlands. An additional complication which the government wanted to avoid, was that Irene's husband, Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma, (whom she later divorced) was a Spanish member of a noble family that claimed their alleged rights to the Spanish throne.


The heir apparent to the Dutch throne is Prince Willem-Alexander (born 1967), the Prince of Orange since 1980. He studied history at the University of Leiden and became actively involved in water management. His wife is Princess Máxima (née Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti), an economy major, whose father was a minister of agriculture in the dictatorial regime under General Videla in Argentina. Because of that, their relationship was accompanied by fierce public debate, and only officially sanctioned after quiet diplomacy, resulting in Máxima's father agreeing not to be present on their wedding day (2 February 2002). Former minister Max van der Stoel and prime minister Wim Kok seem to have played a crucial role in this process.

On 7 December 2003 Princess Máxima gave birth to a daughter: Princess Catharina-Amalia. On 26 June 2005 another daughter was born: Princess Alexia. On 10 April 2007, a third daughter was born, Princess Ariane. After Willem-Alexander they are second, third, and fourth in line to the Dutch throne.

Full title

All members of the Dutch Royal Family, in addition to other titles hold (or held) the princely title Prince of Orange-Nassau. In addition to the titles King/Prince of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange-Nassau, descendants of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld hold another princely title - Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld. The children of Queen Beatrix and her husband Claus van Amsberg and their descendants also carry the appellative Honourable (Jonkheer) in combination with the name Van Amsberg.

Queen Juliana, the only descendant of Queen Wilhelmina and Duke Hendrik of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was also Duchess Juliana of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Since the title can pass only through the male line, Queen Juliana's descendants do not carry the title of Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

The title Prince of the Netherlands is the prerogative of the members of the Royal House of Orange-Nassau, which is smaller than the Royal Family. Members of the Royal House can lose their membership when they enter into marriage without asking (and receiving) consent from Parliament.

Attempted attack on the family

On April 30, 2009, a car rammed through two police barriers in an attempt to ram the open-top bus carrying the Royal Family, including Queen Beatrix, killing six bystanders and injuring eleven. Before losing consciousness, the 38-year-old driver apparently admitted to police that this was an intentional attempt to harm the family. Later in the day, Queen Beatrix made a rare televised address offering her sympathies to the victims and their families. The driver, named as Karst Tates, later died of his injuries.

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