AMSTERDAM -- Millions of Dutch people dressed in orange flocked to celebrations around the Netherlands yesterday 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 staked out a course to preserve its relevance.
"I want to establish ties, make connections and exemplify what unites us, the Dutch people," Willem-Alexander said at a ceremony in Amsterdam's 600-year-old New Church.
For most of the 2000s, the country was locked in an intense debate over the perceived failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate. In response, politicians curtailed many of the famed Dutch tolerance policies.