Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

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King Willem-Alexander in Hamburg.jpg
Willem-Alexander in 2015
King of the Netherlands
Reign 30 April 2013 – present
Inauguration 30 April 2013
Predecessor Beatrix
Heir apparent Catharina-Amalia
Prime Minister Mark Rutte
Born (1967-04-27) 27 April 1967 (age 56)
Utrecht, Netherlands
Spouse Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti (m. 2002)
Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange
Princess Alexia
Princess Ariane
Full name
Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand
House Orange-Nassau
Father Claus van Amsberg
Mother Beatrix of the Netherlands
Religion Dutch Reformed (Protestant Church in the Netherlands)

Willem-Alexander (Dutch: [ˈʋɪləm aːlɛkˈsɑndər]; Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand; born 27 April 1967) is the King of the Netherlands.

Willem-Alexander was born in Utrecht and is the oldest child of Beatrix of the Netherlands and German diplomat Claus van Amsberg. He became Prince of Orange and heir apparent to the throne of the Netherlands on 30 April 1980, when his mother became queen regnant, and he ascended the throne on 30 April 2013 when his mother abdicated.

He went to public primary and secondary schools, served in the Royal Netherlands Navy, and studied history at Leiden University. He married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in 2002 and they have three daughters: Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange (born 2003), Princess Alexia (born 2005), and Princess Ariane (born 2007).

Willem-Alexander is interested in sports and international water management issues. Until his accession to the throne, he was a member of the International Olympic Committee (1998–2013),[1] chairman of the Advisory Committee on Water to the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment (2004–2013),[2] and chairman of the Secretary-General of the United Nations' Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (2006–2013).[3][4] At the age of forty-eight, he is currently the second youngest monarch in Europe after Felipe VI of Spain.

Early life and education

Prince Willem-Alexander (left) at age 14 and his brother Constantijn in 1982

Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand was born on 27 April 1967 in the University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands. He is the first child of Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus,[5] and the first grandchild of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard. He was the first male Dutch royal baby since the birth of Prince Alexander in 1851, and the first immediate male heir since Alexander's death in 1884.

From birth, Willem-Alexander has held the titles Prince of the Netherlands (Dutch: Prins der Nederlanden), Prince of Orange-Nassau (Dutch: Prins van Oranje-Nassau), and Jonkheer of Amsberg (Dutch: Jonkheer van Amsberg).[5] He was baptised as a member of the Dutch Reformed Church[6] on 2 September 1967[7] in Saint Jacob's Church in The Hague.[8] His godparents are Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, Gösta Freiin von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen, Ferdinand von Bismarck, former Prime Minister Jelle Zijlstra, jonkvrouw Renée Röell, and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.[7]

He had two younger brothers: Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, (1968-2013), and Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, born in 1969. He lived with his family at the castle Drakensteyn in the hamlet Lage Vuursche near Baarn from his birth until 1981, when they moved to the larger palace Huis ten Bosch in The Hague. His mother Beatrix became Queen of the Netherlands in 1980, after his grandmother Juliana abdicated. He then received the title of Prince of Orange as heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[5]

Willem-Alexander attended Nieuwe Baarnse Elementary School in Baarn from 1973 to 1979. He went to three different secondary schools: the Baarns Lyceum in Baarn from 1979 to 1981, the Eerste Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum in The Hague from 1981 to 1983, and the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, UK (1983 to 1985), from which he received his International Baccalaureate.[5][9]

After his military service from 1985 to 1987, Willem-Alexander studied history at Leiden University from 1987 onwards and received his MA degree (doctorandus) in 1993.[10][11] His final thesis was on the Dutch response to France's decision under President Charles de Gaulle to leave NATO's integrated command structure.[5]

Willem-Alexander speaks English, Spanish and German in addition to his native Dutch.[12]

Military training and career

Willem-Alexander in the navy uniform of Sub-lieutenant in 1986

Between secondary school and his university education, Willem-Alexander performed military service in the Royal Netherlands Navy from August 1985 until January 1987. He received his training at the Royal Netherlands Naval College and the frigates HNLMS Tromp and HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, where he was an ensign. In 1988 he received additional training at the ship HNLMS Van Kinsbergen and became a lieutenant (junior grade) (wachtofficier).[13]

As a reservist for the Royal Netherlands Navy, Willem-Alexander was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1995, Commander in 1997, Captain at Sea in 2001, and Commodore in 2005. As a reservist for the Royal Netherlands Army, he was made a Major (Grenadiers' and Rifles Guard Regiment) in 1995, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1997, Colonel in 2001, and Brigadier General in 2005. As a reservist for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, he was made Squadron Leader in 1995 and promoted to Air Commodore in 2005. As a reservist for the Royal Marechaussee, he was made Brigadier General in 2005.[9]

Before his investiture as king in 2013, Willem-Alexander was honorably discharged from the armed forces. The government declared that the head of state cannot be a serving member of the armed forces, since the government itself holds supreme command over the armed forces. As king, Willem-Alexander may choose to wear a military uniform with royal insignia, but not with his former rank insignia.[14]

Royal duties and social interests

Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima meet Michelle Obama, Susan Sher, Barack Obama and Fay Hartog-Levin at the White House in 2009.

Since 1985, when he became 18 years old, Willem-Alexander has been a member of the Council of State of the Netherlands. This is the highest council of the Dutch government and is chaired by the head of state (then Queen Beatrix).[15] He attended its weekly meetings as often as possible.[16]

King Willem-Alexander is interested in water management and sports issues. He was an honorary member of the World Commission on Water for the 21st century and patron of the Global Water Partnership, a body established by the World Bank, the UN, and the Swedish Ministry of Development. He was appointed as the Chairperson of the United Nations Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation on 12 December 2006.[17]

On 10 October 2010, Willem-Alexander and Máxima went to the Netherlands Antilles' capital, Willemstad, to attend and represent his mother, the Queen, at the Antillean Dissolution ceremony.

He was a patron of the Dutch Olympic Games Committee until 1998 when he was made a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). After becoming King, he relinquished his membership and received the Gold Olympic Order at the 125th IOC Session.[18] To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1928 Summer Olympics held in Amsterdam, he has expressed support to bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics.[19]

He was a member of the supervisory board of De Nederlandsche Bank (the Dutch central bank), a member of the Advisory Council of ECP (the information society forum for government, business and civil society), patron of Veterans' Day and held several other patronages and posts.[20]


King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima on the day of the investiture in 2013

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On 28 January 2013, Queen Beatrix announced that she planned to abdicate in favour of Willem-Alexander. The official programme for the abdication and investiture took place on 30 April 2013. The Queen signed the Instrument of Abdication at the Royal Palace, Amsterdam.[21] After the abdication, Willem-Alexander was inaugurated as king on 30 April 2013. The abdication was signed at 10:07 am at the Moseszaal (Moses Hall) at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. The Royal Inauguration, together with the United Assembly of the States General, took place at 2:30 pm at the Nieuwe Kerk.[22]

As king, Willem-Alexander has weekly meetings with the prime minister and speaks regularly with ministers and state secretaries. He also signs all new Acts of Parliament and royal decrees. He represents the kingdom at home and abroad. At the State Opening of Parliament, he delivers the Speech from the Throne, which announces the plans of the government for the parliamentary year. The Constitution requires that the king appoint, dismiss and swear in all government ministers and state secretaries. As king, he is also the president of the Council of State, an advisory body that reviews proposed legislation. In modern practice, the monarch seldom chairs council meetings.[23]

At his accession at age 46, he was Europe's youngest monarch. On the inauguration of Spain's sovereign King Felipe VI on 19 June 2014 he became, and remains, Europe's second youngest monarch. He is also the first male monarch of the Netherlands since the death of his great-great-grandfather King William III in 1890. Willem-Alexander is one of the world's four new monarchs to take the throne in 2013 along with Pope Francis of the Vatican, Emir Tamim bin Hamad of Qatar, and King Philippe of Belgium.

Leisure activities

Willem-Alexander with his family at the 2012 Summer Olympics, here supporting Ellen van Dijk.

He is an aircraft pilot and sportsman. In 1989, Willem-Alexander flew as a volunteer for the African Medical Research and Education Foundation (AMREF) in Kenya, and in 1991 he spent a month flying for the Kenya Wildlife Service. To make sure he flies enough hours each year to retain his license, he occasionally flies KLM Cityhopper's Fokker 70s or the Dutch royal airplane.[24]

Using the name "W. A. van Buren", one of the least-known titles of the House of Orange-Nassau, he participated in the 1986 Frisian Elfstedentocht, a 200 kilometres (120 mi) long ice skating tour.[25] He ran the New York City Marathon under the same pseudonym in 1992.[26]

Marriage and children

Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima kiss at the balcony of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam on their wedding day in 2002.

On 2 February 2002, he married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Máxima is an Argentine woman of Basque, Portuguese and Italian ancestry, who prior to their marriage worked as an investment banker in New York City. The marriage triggered significant controversy due to the role the bride's father, Jorge Zorreguieta, had in the Argentinian military dictatorship. The couple has three daughters:

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima with their daughters Princess Catharina-Amalia (left), Princess Alexia (right) and Princess Ariane (center)

Privacy and the press

In an attempt to strike a balance between privacy for the royal family and availability to the press, the Netherlands Government Information Service (RVD) instituted a media code on 21 June 2005 which essentially states that:[27]

  • Photographs of the members of the royal house while performing their duties are always permitted.
  • For other occasions (like holidays or vacations), the RVD will arrange a photo-op on condition that the press leave the family alone for the rest of the activity.

During a ski vacation in Argentina, several photographs were taken of the prince and his family during the private part of their holiday, including one by Associated Press staff photographer Natacha Pisarenko, in spite of the media code, and after a photo opportunity had been provided earlier.[28] The Associated Press decided to publish some of the photos, which were subsequently republished by several Dutch media. Willem-Alexander and the RVD jointly filed suit against the Associated Press on 5 August 2009, and the trial started on 14 August at the district court in Amsterdam. On 28 August, the district court ruled in favour of the prince and RVD, citing that the royal couple has a right to privacy; that the pictures in question add nothing to any public debate; and that they are not of any particular value to society since they are not photographs of the royals "at work". Associated Press was sentenced to stop further publication of the photographs, on pain of a €1,000 fine per violation with a €50,000 maximum.[29]


The royal family currently lives in Villa Eikenhorst on the De Horsten estate in Wassenaar. After the move of Princess Beatrix to the castle of Drakensteyn and a renovation, Willem-Alexander and his family will move to the palace of Huis ten Bosch in The Hague.[30]

Willem-Alexander has a villa in Kranidi, Greece. His neighbour is good friend and actor Sean Connery, with whom he shares a helicopter platform.[31]

The villa in Manchagulo

On 10 July 2008, the then-Prince of Orange and Princess Maxima announced that they had invested in a development project on the Mozambican peninsula of Machangulo.[32] The development project was aimed at building an ecologically responsible vacation resort, including a hotel and several luxury vacation houses for investors. The project was to invest heavily in the local economy of the peninsula (building schools and a local clinic) with an eye both towards responsible sustainability and maintaining a local staff.[33] After contacting Mozambican president Armando Guebuza to verify that the Mozambican government had no objections, the couple decided to invest in two villas.[34] In 2009, controversy erupted in parliament and the press about the project and the prince's involvement.[34] Politician Alexander Pechtold questioned the morality of building such a resort in a poor country like Mozambique. After public and parliamentary controversy the royal couple announced that they decided to sell the property in Machangulo once their house was completed.[35] In January 2012, it was confirmed that the villa had been sold.[36]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 27 April 1967 – 30 April 1980: His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
  • 30 April 1980 – 30 April 2013: His Royal Highness The Prince of Orange
  • 30 April 2013 – present: His Majesty The King of the Netherlands

His style and title, as appearing in preambles, is: Willem-Alexander, by the Grace of God, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, etc. etc. etc., by which the triple 'etc.' refers to the monarch's many dormant titles.

Willem-Alexander is the first Dutch King since King William III, who died in 1890. Prince Willem-Alexander had earlier indicated that when he would become king, he would take the name William IV,[37] but it was announced on 28 January 2013 that his regnal name would be Willem-Alexander.[38]

Military ranks

Willem-Alexander in the navy uniform of Commodore at the wedding of the Crown Princess of Sweden and Daniel Westling in June 2010
Royal Netherlands Navy – Conscription
Royal Netherlands Navy – Reserve
Royal Netherlands Air Force – Reserve
Royal Netherlands Army – Reserve
Royal Marechaussee – Reserve


See also List of honours of the Dutch Royal Family by country

Dutch orders and decorations

In his capacity as the Sovereign, Willem-Alexander is Grand Master of the Military Order of William (Militaire Willemsorde) and the other Dutch orders of merit.

Foreign honours


Honorary appointment


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Arms of Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
Royal coat of arms of the Netherlands.svg
As the Monarch, Willem-Alexander uses the Greater Coat of Arms of the Realm, (or "Grote Rijkswapen"). The components of the coats of arms were regulated by Queen Wilhelmina in a royal decree of 10 July 1907 and were affirmed by Queen Juliana in a royal decree of 23 April 1980.
Between two trunks Azure billetty Or a sitting lion Or
Azure, billetty Or a lion with a coronet Or armed and langued Gules holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted Or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and bound together Or.
Two lions rampant Or armed and langued Gules
French: I will maintain (in Dutch: Ik zal handhaven)
Other elements
The monarch places this coat of arms on a mantle Gules lined with Ermine. Above the mantle is a pavilion Gules again topped with the royal crown.[63]
Royal Standard of the Netherlands.svg Upon his succession to the throne, Willem-Alexander adopted the (partly modified) Royal Standard of the Netherlands, which is a square orange flag, divided in four-quarters by a nassau-blue cross. All quarters show a white and blue bugle-horn, taken from the coat of arms of the Principality of Orange. In the centre of the flag is the (small) coat of arms of the Kingdom, which originates from the arms of the House of Nassau, surmounted by a royal crown and surrounded by the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Military William Order.
The seven arrows stand for the seven provinces of the Union of Utrecht.
Previous versions
Arms of the children of Beatrix of the Netherlands.svg
Quarterly, 1 and 3, Azure, billetty or a lion with a coronet or armed and langued Gules holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and bound together or (royal arms of the Netherlands, i.e. that of his mother, Queen Beatrix), 2 and 4, Or, and a bugle-horn azure, langued gules (arms of the former Principality of Orange), on an inescutcheon vert, a castle proper, on a mount of the last (arms of the House of Amsberg, i.e. that of his late father, Prince Claus).


Through his father, a member of the House of Amsberg, he is descended from families of the lower German nobility, and through his mother, from several royal German/Dutch families such as the House of Lippe, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the House of Orange-Nassau, Waldeck and Pyrmont, and the House of Hohenzollern. He is descended from the first King of the Netherlands, William I of the Netherlands, who was also a ruler in Luxembourg and several German states, and all subsequent Dutch monarchs. By his mother, Willem-Alexander also descended from Paul I of Russia and thus from German princess Catherine the Great. Through his father, he is also descended from several Dutch/Flemish families who left the Low Countries during Spanish rule, such as the Berenbergs. His paternal great-great-grandfather Gabriel von Amsberg (1822–1895), a Major-General of Mecklenburg, was recognized as noble as late as 1891, the family having adopted the "von" in 1795.[64][65]

King Willem-Alexander is a descendant of King George II and more relevant for his succession rights of King George III. Under the British Act of Settlement, King Willem-Alexander temporarily forfeited his (distant) succession rights to the throne of the United Kingdom by marrying a Roman Catholic. This right has since been restored in 2015 under the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.[66]

Family of Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
16. Gabriel von Amsberg
8. Wilhelm von Amsberg
17. Marie von Passow
4. Claus Felix von Amsberg
18. Leopold von Vieregge
9. Elise von Vieregge
19. Baroness Agnes von Gutschmid
2. Jonkheer Claus von Amsberg
20. Baron Julius von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen
10. Baron Georg von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen
21. Juliane Mathilde von Salviati
5. Baroness Gösta von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen
22. Baron Eberhard von dem Bussche-Ippenburg
11. Baroness Gabriele Marie von dem Bussche-Ippenburg
23. Barbara Warinka von Chelius
1. Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
24. Ernest II, Count of Lippe-Biesterfeld
12. Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
25. Countess Karoline of Wartensleben
6. Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
26. Baron Aschwin of Sierstorpff-Cramm
13. Baroness Armgard of Sierstorpff-Cramm
27. Baroness Hedwig of Sierstorpff-Driburg
3. Beatrix of the Netherlands
28. Frederick Francis II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
14. Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
29. Princess Marie of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt
7. Juliana of the Netherlands
30. William III of the Netherlands
15. Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
31. Princess Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont


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  37. Interview with Paul Witteman, September 1997, Racchvs
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  39. Belga Pictures, group photo
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External links

Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
Born: 27 April 1967
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of the Netherlands
Heir apparent:
Dutch royalty
Title last held by
Prince of Orange
Succeeded by