King Willem-Alexander’s investiture

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King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands investiture on April 30, 2013, was a glorious day with a supporting cast of royalty from around the world in attendance. The accession of a monarch is always an historic moment for many reasons, amongst them on this occasion the notable fact that Willem-Alexander is the country’s first male monarch since King Willem III (1845-1890). He follows in the footsteps of his redoubtable mother, Queen Beatrix (1980-2013), and her predecessors, Queen Juliana (1948-1980) and Queen Wilhelmina (1890-1948). Queen Beatrix was admired for her strength of character and respected for the stability she helped bring to the nation. In his speech to the Members of the States General her successor paid tribute: “As Queen you were fully conscious of the responsibilities attached to your position. You were utterly dedicated to the duties of your office. But you were also a daughter, a wife, a mother and head of the family. And you have always sought to do full justice to each of those responsibilities. “Sometimes you felt torn, but you combined your many duties with great inspiration. You never refused a request for help. Even in times of personal sorrow you supported us all in the most loving and dependable manner. With the help of my father, you developed your own style as Queen. You never chose the easy path of fleeting popularity. You navigated stormy waters, charting a sure and steady course in the knowledge that you were part of a long tradition. “Now, I follow in your footsteps. And I have a clear picture of my duties. No one knows what the future may hold. But wherever my path leads, and however long it may be, I will always carry with me your warmth and your wisdom.”

Queen Beatrix will be a hard act to follow and King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima also face contemporary challenges which will bring change to the monarchy. The institution remains popular with approval ratings of over 70%, but in these times of austerity there are demands that the monarch’s salary be cut. Some are calling for a very large reduction from the current £715,000 to £150,000. There are also calls for a parliamentary debate, within which the role and relevance of the monarchy would inevitably be considered. In his speech King Willem-Alexander referred directly to the crises of the day: “I succeed to the throne at a time when many in the Kingdom feel vulnerable and uncertain. Vulnerable in their jobs or their health. Uncertain about their income or the environment in which they live. It now seems less self-evident that the next generation will be better off than the last. As individuals, we seem to have little influence over the events that shape our lives. Therefore our power lies not in isolating ourselves but in working together. ” The road ahead may be a difficult one but the King sees the relationship between monarchy and nation as symbiotic: “Today I stand before this joint session of Parliament to be sworn in and invested as your new King. You have gathered here in the nation’s capital for this purpose as the elected representatives of the people. This symbolizes our constitutional bonds. Over the course of two centuries, the Dutch monarchy has become inextricably linked with our parliamentary democracy. This investiture and the oath I am about to take confirm this connection, which is enshrined in the Charter for the Kingdom and the Constitution. Democracy is based on mutual trust. The people’s trust in the government – one that respects the law and offers its citizens prospects for the future. But also the government’s trust in the people – citizens who feel a shared responsibility for the public interest and are willing to stand up for one another. All holders of public office, whether they are elected, appointed or designated, must contribute to that trust. That is how democracy is maintained.”