Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

Zijne Majesteit Koning Willem-Alexander met koningsmantel april 2013.jpeg
Willem-Alexander in April 2013
King of the Netherlands
Reign30 April 2013 – present
Inauguration30 April 2013
Heir apparentCatharina-Amalia
Prime ministerMark Rutte
BornPrince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
(1967-04-27) 27 April 1967 (age 54)
Utrecht, Netherlands
(m. 2002)
Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand
HouseOrange-Nassau (official)
Amsberg (agnatic)
FatherClaus von Amsberg
MotherBeatrix of the Netherlands
ReligionProtestant Church in the Netherlands
SignatureWillem-Alexander's signature
Military career
Allegiance Kingdom of the Netherlands
Years of service1985–2013

Willem-Alexander (Dutch: [ˈʋɪləm aːlɛkˈsɑndər]; Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand; born 27 April 1967) is the King of the Netherlands, having acceded to the throne following his mother's abdication in 2013.

Willem-Alexander was born in Utrecht as the oldest child of Princess Beatrix and diplomat Claus van Amsberg. He became Prince of Orange as heir apparent upon his mother's accession as Queen on 30 April 1980, and succeeded her following her abdication on 30 April 2013. He went to public primary and secondary schools in the Netherlands, an international sixth-form college in Wales, 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]

Early life and education

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

Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand was born on 27 April 1967 at the Utrecht University Hospital (now known as the University Medical Center Utrecht) 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 his maternal grandfather Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, his paternal grandmother Gösta Freiin von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen, Prince 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 (1968–2013) and Prince Constantijn (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 local state primary school Nieuwe Baarnse Elementary School in Baarn from 1973 to 1979. He went to two different state secondary schools: the Baarns Lyceum in Baarn from 1979 to 1981 and the Eerste Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum in The Hague from 1981 to 1983, and the private sixth-form college United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, the 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 the NATO's integrated command structure.[5]

Willem-Alexander speaks English, Spanish, French and German (his father's language) fluently in addition to his native Dutch.[12]

Military training and career

Willem-Alexander in the navy uniform of ensign 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]

Activities and social interests

Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima meet Michelle Obama, 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]

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.[16]

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.[17] To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1928 Summer Olympics held in Amsterdam, he had expressed support to bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics.[18]

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.[19]


On 28 January 2013, Beatrix announced her intention of abdicating. On the morning of 30 April, Beatrix signed the instrument of abdication at the Moseszaal (Moses Hall) at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Later that afternoon, Willem-Alexander was inaugurated as king in front of the joint assembly of the States General in a ceremony held at the Nieuwe Kerk.

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 chairman of the Council of State, an advisory body that reviews proposed legislation. In modern practice, the monarch seldom chairs council meetings.[20]

At his accession at age 46, he was Europe's youngest monarch. On the inauguration of Spain's 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 William III in 1890. Willem-Alexander was one of four new monarchs to take the throne in 2013 along with Pope Francis, the Emir Tamim bin Hamad of Qatar, and King Philippe of Belgium.

Other activities

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

Willem-Alexander is an avid pilot and has said that if he had not been a royal, he would have liked to be an airline pilot so he could fly internationally on large-sized aircraft such as the Boeing 747.[21] During the reign of his mother, he regularly flew the Dutch royal aircraft on trips.[22] However, in May 2017, Willem-Alexander revealed that he had served as a first officer on KLM flights for 21 years, flying KLM Cityhopper's Fokker 70s twice a month, even after his accession to the throne. Following KLM's phased retirement of the Fokker 70, he began training to fly Boeing 737s. Willem-Alexander was rarely recognized while in the KLM uniform and wearing the KLM cap, though a few passengers recognized his voice, even though he never gave his name and only welcomed passengers on behalf of the captain and crew.[21][23]

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-kilometre-long (120 mi) distance ice skating tour.[24] He ran the New York City Marathon under the same pseudonym in 1992.[25] Willem-Alexander completed both events.

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. The marriage triggered significant controversy due to the role the bride's father, Jorge Zorreguieta, had in the Argentinian military dictatorship. The couple have three daughters: The Princess of Orange, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane.

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:[26]

  • 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.[27] 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 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 his family "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.[28]


Willem-Alexander and his family initially lived in Villa Eikenhorst on the De Horsten estate in Wassenaar. After his mother abdicated and became Princess Beatrix once again, she moved to the castle of Drakensteyn, after which the King and his family moved to the newly renovated monarch's palace of Huis ten Bosch in The Hague in 2019.[29]

Willem-Alexander has a villa near Kranidi, Greece. The late actor Sean Connery had his own house nearby.[30]

Villa in Manchagulo

On 10 July 2008, the Prince of Orange and Princess Maxima announced that they had invested in a development project on the Mozambican peninsula of Machangulo.[31] The development project was aimed at building an ecologically responsible vacation resort, including a hotel and several luxury holiday homes 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.[32] After contacting Mozambican President Armando Guebuza to verify that the Mozambican government had no objections, the couple decided to invest in two villas.[33] In 2009, controversy erupted in parliament and the press about the project and the prince's involvement.[33] 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.[34] In January 2012, it was confirmed that the villa had been sold.[35]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

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

Willem-Alexander is the first Dutch king since Willem III, who died in 1890. Willem-Alexander had earlier indicated that when he became king, he would take the name Willem IV,[36] but it was announced in January 2013 that his regnal name would be Willem-Alexander.[37]

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
King Willem-Alexander in uniform with the Royal insignia
Royal Netherlands Navy – Conscription
  • Nl-marine-vloot-luitenant ter zee der 3e klasse.svg Lieutenant at sea, third class (Ensign) (August 1985 – January 1987)
  • Nl-marine-vloot-luitenant ter zee der 2e klasse.svg Lieutenant at sea, second class (Sub-lieutenant) (watch officer, 1988)
Royal Netherlands Navy – Reserve
Royal Netherlands Air Force – Reserve
Royal Netherlands Army – Reserve
Royal Marechaussee – Reserve
King's Insignia, all services






Honorary appointment


Coat of arms of Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
Royal Coat of Arms of the Netherlands.svg
As Monarch, Willem-Alexander uses the Greater Coat of Arms of the Realm, (or "Grote Rijkswapen"). The components of the coats of arms were updated and further 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.
Issuing from a coronet Or, a pair of wings joined Sable each with an arched bend Argent charged with three leaves of the lime-tree stems upward Vert.
Azure and Or
Barred helmet
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 purple mantle, with golden borders and tassels, lined with Ermine. Above the mantle is a purple pavilion again topped with the royal crown.[55] (Please note: Although the official blazon states the mantle as purple it often looks like (dark) red. French and German purple contains more red and less blue than American or British purple.)
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 and Swedish King Gustav I. 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, a major-general of Mecklenburg, was recognized as noble as late as 1891, the family having adopted the "von" in 1795.[56][57]

Willem-Alexander is a descendant of King George II and, more relevant for his succession rights, of his granddaughter Princess Augusta of Great Britain. 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.[58]

Ancestors of Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
8. Wilhelm von Amsberg
4. Claus Felix von Amsberg
9. Elise von Vieregge
2. Jonkheer Claus von Amsberg
10. Baron Georg von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen
5. Baroness Gösta von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen
11. Baroness Gabriele von dem Bussche-Ippenburg
1. Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
12. Prince Bernhard of Lippe
6. Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
13. Baroness Armgard von Cramm
3. Beatrix of the Netherlands
14. Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
7. Juliana of the Netherlands
15. Wilhelmina of the Netherlands


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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


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