AMSTERDAM // Willem-Alexander became the first Dutch king in 123 years yesterday as his mother, Beatrix, abdicated after 33 years as queen.
The generational change in the House of Orange-Nassau gave the Netherlands a moment of celebration, pageantry and brief respite as the nation of about 17 million struggled through a lengthy recession brought on by the European economic crisis.
Visibly emotional, the much-loved Beatrix ended her reign in a nationally televised signing ceremony as thousands of orange-clad people cheered outside. Millions more had watched on television.
King Willem-Alexander, 46, beccomes the youngest monarch in Europe. He and his mother both signed the abdication document in the Royal Palace on Amsterdam's Dam Square.
Beatrix looked close to tears as she then appeared on a balcony, before about 20,000 people.
"I am happy and grateful to introduce to you your new king," she told the cheering crowd.
Moments later, in a striking symbol of the generational shift, she left the balcony and King Willem-Alexander, his wife and three daughters waved to the crowd.
"We are intensely, intensely grateful to you," the new king said of his mother. He became the first Dutch king since Willem III died in 1890.
The king's Argentinian-born wife was now Queen Maxima and their eldest daughter, Catharina-Amalia, became Princess of Orange and first in line to the throne.
Beatrix had been hit by personal tragedy. Her husband Prince Claus died in 2002 and last year her youngest son, Prince Friso, suffered severe brain damage in an avalanche while skiing in Austria.
* Associated Press