The Dutch Royal Family aren’t as much in the public eye as some of their European counterparts, and Willem-Alexander’s reign is expected to continue along those lines. He takes office this 30 April as the first Dutch monarch without a formal political role.
In 1967, his birth brought the first male heir to the throne since the 19th century.
He came in for quite some attention from the media when he grew up with a liking for fast cars, enthusiastic partying and an almost patriotic appreciation for beer. This earned him the nickname ‘Prince Pils’.
He stirred controversy marrying Argentine former investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta, not because she wasn’t a royal herself but because her father was a minister in Argentina’s military dictatorship more than 30 years ago. But the couple steadily won popularity, and have three daughters. Unlike many of its European peers, the Dutch monarchy has exercised political influence, mixed with aspects of a middle-class life.
Willem-Alexander specialised in water management after earning a History degree from Leiden University.
Henk Te Velde, one of his former professors, believes the new king will bring a more hands-off style to the throne. He said: “Willem-Alexander will also have some political influence because he will be talking to the ministers on a regular basis, and the prime minister will visit him every week, probably. But people expect some changes because Queen Beatrix was very much focused on her political role and it appears that Willem-Alexander doesn’t pay so much attention to that aspect of his position.”
Tragedy struck the royal family during their ski holiday last year when Willem-Alexander’s younger brother Prince Friso suffered brain damage from being buried in an avalanche. He is still in a coma.
Willem-Alexander has defended his charity work, saying recently that even if some people scorn things like ribbon-cutting, taking part can have real substance if you take care about which ribbons to cut, at which events.
He doesn’t say a lot about his personal views, but has said he would happily accept a pay cut as ordinary Dutch people are grappling with recession and austerity.