Willem-Alexander becomes new Dutch king

AMSTERDAM – Millions of Dutch people dressed in orange flocked to celebrations around the Netherlands Tuesday in honor of a once-in-a-generation milestone for the country’s ruling House of Orange-Nassau: after a 33-year reign, Queen Beatrix abdicated in favor of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander.

At 46, King Willem-Alexander is the youngest monarch in Europe and the first Dutch king in 123 years, since Willem III died in 1890. Like Beatrix before him, Willem-Alexander has assumed the throne at a time of social strains and economic malaise.

Although the Dutch monarchy is largely ceremonial, he immediately staked out a course to preserve its relevance in the 21st century.

“I want to establish ties, make connections and exemplify what unites us, the Dutch people,” the freshly minted king said at a nationally televised investiture ceremony in Amsterdam’s 600-year-old New Church, held before the combined houses of Dutch parliament.