Netherlands Welcomes First New King In Over A Century

The Netherlands has a new king today — Willem-Alexander. He follows his mother Beatrix who abdicated on Tuesday and is the first male monarch in the country in more than a century.

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The Netherlands has a new king today, its first since 1890. King Willem-Alexander replaced his mother, Queen Beatrix, who formally abdicated after 33 years on the throne. Beatrix is now called princess. She says it was time for a new generation to take over. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, some in the Netherlands are asking whether it's time for the entire monarchy to go.

PRINCESS BEATRIX WILHELMINA ARMGARD: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The former queen introduced her son as the new king to well-wishers outside the royal palace in Amsterdam. She and King Willem-Alexander shared a tender moment, holding hands as he planted a kiss on her cheek. He lavished her with praise on the palace balcony...

KING WILLEM-ALEXANDER: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: ...where he called her dear mother and said he was intensely, intensely grateful for her time as queen. Many onlookers in Dam Square wore orange hats and shirts to symbolize the House of Orange-Nassau, which has ruled the country since the 19th century. Tim de Wit is a correspondent for Dutch NOS radio. We reached him by phone.

TIM DE WIT: What you see is that a big majority of the Dutch people still really believe in Holland as a monarchy, and that people really feel their orange hearts beat and hope that it will be ticking for a long time, I guess.

NELSON: But not everyone in Holland is convinced the monarchy should continue. Critics complain about the tens of millions of dollars the Dutch government spends on the royal family each year. Journalist de Wit says it also doesn't help that the new king had a reputation as a partier during his college years.

WIT: His nickname was Prince Pils, which is like Prince Beer. Now, we are far ahead, of course. I mean, that's about 20 years ago, and people really take him serious now.

NELSON: King Willem-Alexander promises he will be more accessible than past monarchs. He adds people can decide whether to address him as your majesty or something more informal. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

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