What you should know about the Dutch royal family

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The Dutch royal family, or Het Koninklijk Huis van Oranje Nassau, is one of the oldest still-active monarchies in Europe. It was created in 1815 when the Kingdom of the Netherlands gained independence from France.

The House of Orange-Nassau has several patrilineal descendants through its female line. The most senior of these is Andrew, Duke of York, who is the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and thus currently sixth in line to succeed her. Only he and his sister, Princess Beatrice of York are ahead of him in succession to the British throne; their father Prince Andrew is next ahead in line after his mother. The senior ancestor among them is William IV, who became king on 9 September 1831. Because he was not sovereign for very long (he reigned for only ten years), all subsequent monarchs were direct descendants. He was also the ancestor of Queen Wilhelmina, whose father was exiled after William IV died leaving no legitimate children. Queen Juliana was the only one since William III to be both daughter and mother of monarchs.

The title of Prince/Princess of Orange-Nassau is currently held by all members of the Dutch Royal Family who do not automatically have or use another title (such as Count/Countess). Members of this family, ranked after royalty, who stand in line to become monarch are titled Princes/Princesse van Oranje-Nassau. This family includes the siblings of the current Queen and their spouses. The title is a rather recent one. Before the age of the “princes” and “princesses” in 1815, there were several different female lines, including a greater number of princesses who were not royal princesses.

The monarchy’s many members are referred to as Princes and Princesses Oranje Nassau. The royal house also includes a sister branch, called House of Orange-Nassau, which is headed by HRH Queen Beatrix.

The present royal house is a constitutional monarchy. Until the Dutch constitution came into force in 1815, the House of Orange-Nassau was the only royal house that had any legal standing in the Netherlands. There are two monarchs who are members of the House of Orange-Nassau.

The present Queen, Máxima Zorreguieta-Dolatshina , is the former queen consort of Leopold II, Prince of Belgium. She became Queen consort on 13 July 1984 after her husband’s death. She gave up her titles when she married Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange on 30 April 2002. The queen then assumed the title of Princess of Orange-Nassau.

The Dutch royal family consists of a king or queen , a prince or princess, and their spouse. With some exceptions, the current members of the House of Orange-Nassau are not eligible to succeed to the throne on their own. In line with male-preference primogeniture, women cannot reign as sovereigns if they have no male blood descendants (in other words, if they were never married, nor did they produce children). The constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands provides that Princesses and Princes Oranje-Nassau may only become monarchs if they are married to someone with royal lineage.

The marriage of King Willem-Alexander’s father, Prince Claus, to the commoner Máxima Zorreguieta met with some resistance within the Dutch parliament. The government was forced to liberalize the constitution, a procedure called ‘modernization’, which was supported by a majority of two-thirds in both houses of parliament on 14 April 2001. In November 2002, a bill to amend the house law was approved by both houses of parliament and on 8 February 2003 it was signed into law by Queen Beatrix. The Princess of Orange-Nassau is now allowed to inherit the throne, unless she marries someone with hereditary royal rights.

Prince Friso, who was born on 22 January 1967, was the first child of Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus. He died from a drug overdose in Sydney on 30 January 2001, aged 28. Before he died he had become engaged to marry another Australian aristocrat, Sarah Ferguson (widow of the former British prime minister Tony Blair). Máxima Zorreguieta and Friso had been cousins; they were both great-grandchildren of Queen Wilhelmina.

After Friso’s death, Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus asked the Government for permission to go on an official visit to the Dutch Antilles (the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles). They were allowed to do so by law on 10 April 2001. This was the first time that the incumbent Queen visited her kingdom since she became queen in 1980. The couple visited all five islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, and Sint Eustatius.

On 1 December 2005, Queen Beatrix announced that she would abdicate in favor of her eldest son King Willem-Alexander who became king on 30 April 2013 at exactly midnight. He is married to HRH Princess Máxima of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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