An emotional Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands today signed over her throne to her eldest son Willem-Alexander as thousands poured on to the streets of Amsterdam to welcome their first king in more than 100 years.

The 46-year-oldgripped his mother’s hand after they both put their signatures on the abdication document at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

The much-loved Beatrix ended her 33-year-reign as thousands of orange-clad people cheered outside and millions more watched on national television

The 75-year-old looked close to tears as she then appeared on a balcony overlooking some 20,000 of her subjects.

‘I am happy and grateful to introduce to you your new king, Willem-Alexander,’ she told the cheering crowd.

Moments later, in a striking symbol of the generational shift, she left the balcony and Willem-Alexander, his wife and three daughters – the children in matching yellow dresses and headbands – waved to the crowd.

‘Dear mother, today you relinquished the throne. 33 years moving and inspiring years. We are intensely, intensely grateful to you,’ the new king said.

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End of an era: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands signs the act of abdication next to her son Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Crown Princess Maxima during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

End of an era: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands signs the act of abdication next to her son Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Crown Princess Maxima during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

 
 
 
New generation: Queen Beatrix passes the act of abdication to her son Crown Prince Willem-Alexander who smiled widely as he signed the act

New generation: Queen Beatrix passes the act of abdication to her son Crown Prince Willem-Alexander who smiled widely as he signed the act

 
 
 
Queen Maxima, right, signs the Act of Abdication
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (C) smiles at her son Prince Willem-Alexander
 

New queen: Maxima wore a pale rose-coloured dress with a shimmery skirt and enormous bow on her left shoulder. The father of three’s wife becomes Queen Maxima and their eldest daughter, Catharina-Amalia, becomes Princess Orange and first in line to the throne

 

 
 
The 46-year-old, the first Dutch king in more than 100 years, gripped his mother's hand after they both put their signatures on the abdication document at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

Support: The 46-year-old, the first Dutch king in more than 100 years, gripped his mother’s hand after they both put their signatures on the abdication document at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

Change: Beatrix signed the abdication document in front of the Dutch cabinet in an ornate room today

Change: Beatrix signed the abdication document in front of the Dutch cabinet in an ornate room today

 
 
Change: Wearing a sober purple dress, Beatrix signed the abdication document in front of the Dutch cabinet
Pondering: Princess Catharina Amalia of the Netherlands looks up wistfully during the ceremony
 

On show: Princess Beatrix wore a sober purple dress while her grandaughters’, including nine-year-old Catharina-Amalia who has become Princess of Orange and is now first in line to the throne, all wore matching yellow dresses

 

 
Meet and greet: Beatrix greets guests at her abdication ceremony in the Moseszaal of the Royal Palace

Meet and greet: Beatrix greets guests at her abdication ceremony in the Moseszaal of the Royal Palace

With her abdication, she becomes Princess Beatrix and her son ascends the throne as King Willem-Alexander.

 

The father of three’s wife becomes Queen Maxima and their eldest daughter, Catharina-Amalia, becomes Princess Orange and first in line to the throne.

Willem-Alexander, a 46-year-old water management specialist, is expected to bring a less formal touch to the monarchy together with his wife, a former investment banker from Argentina.

He has pledged to be a 21st century king, close to his nearly 17 million subjects, and not a ‘protocol fetishist’.

Wearing a sober purple dress, Beatrix signed the abdication document in front of the Dutch cabinet, Willem-Alexander and Maxima, who wore a pale rose-coloured dress with a shimmery skirt and enormous bow on her left shoulder.

‘Today, I make way for a new generation,’ said Beatrix.

April 30, or Queen’s day, is always a day for partying in the Netherlands. Many people took Monday off work and started celebrating in earnest from Monday evening with street bands and music.

 
Bittersweet: The new Dutch and his wife followed Princess Beatrix on to the balcony

Bittersweet: The new Dutch and his wife followed Princess Beatrix on to the balcony to greet the crowds

 
Handover: 'Today, I make way for a new generation,' said Beatrix, 75, who now takes the title of Princess

Handover: ‘Today, I make way for a new generation,’ said Beatrix, 75, who now takes the title of Princess

New leader:

New leader: King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his mother Princess Beatrix greet the crowd of Dam Square from the balcony of the Royal Palace Amsterdam, following the official abdication

 

 
 
 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands with King Willem Alexander
Princess Beatrix (R) of the Netherlands accompanied by her son King Willem-Alexander embraces Queen Maxima
 

Emotional: The 75-year-old looked close to tears as she then appeared on a balcony overlooking some 20,000 of her subjects

 
Patriotic: King Willem-Alexander, Dutch Princess Beatrix and Dutch Queen Maxima sing the national anthem on the balcony

Patriotic: King Willem-Alexander, Dutch Princess Beatrix and Dutch Queen Maxima sing the national anthem on the balcony

New beginnings: Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace with their children, from left: Catharina-Amalia, Ariane, and Alexia

New beginnings: Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace with their children, from left: Catharina-Amalia, Ariane, and Alexia

 

 
King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands appear on the balcony
King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima
 

Vision: King Willem-Alexander, a 46-year-old water management specialist, is expected to bring a less formal touch to the monarchy together with Maxima, a popular former investment banker from Argentina

 

 
King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima accompanied by their daughters Crown Princess Catharina-Amalia (L) Princess Ariane (2nd L) and Princess Alexia wave to crowd

Excitement: The family happily waved to the excited crowds before leaving the balcony

 

 

 
Official: The signed act of abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is seen after the official meeting at the Royal Palace this morning

Official: The signed act of abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is seen after the official meeting at the Royal Palace this morning

 
Strike a pose: Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima are seen in this official portrait

Ready for duty: Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima are seen in this official portrait

New King greets crowds from royal balcony

 

 

 
Jubilant: Supporters cheer as the royal family take their place on the balcony in front of a sea of orange

Jubilant: Supporters cheer as the royal family take their place on the balcony in front of a sea of orange

 
Rejoice: Thousands of orange-clad people cheered outside and millions more watched on national television

Rejoice: Thousands of orange-clad people cheered outside and millions more watched on national television

 

 

 
A general view of celebrations for the inauguration of King Willem Alexander
A woman waits for the coronation outside the Royal Palace in Amsterdam
 

The generational change in the House of Orange-Nassau gave the Netherlands a moment of celebration and pageantry as this trading nation of nearly 17 million struggles through a lengthy recession brought on by the European economic crisis

 

 
Sea of orange: The abdication followed a 33-year reign marked in recent years by unrest in Dutch society and personal tragedy

Sea of orange: The abdication followed a 33-year reign marked in recent years by unrest in Dutch society and personal tragedy

 
 

Prepared: P

Prepared: People wait for Queen Beatrix’s abdication ceremony in Amsterdam. Less than an hour before the abdication, the city was not as busy as expected, possibly an indication that many people were staying home to watch the abdication live on television

 
A woman wears a hat reading
A man wears a crown as members of the public gather in Dam Square
 

Fun day out: The square was filling up slowly early today with sightseers, many wearing inflatable orange crowns and dressing up as royalty

 
Celebrations: A couple wear hats reading 'Maxima' and 'Willem' as they gather in Dam Square

Celebrations: A couple wear hats reading ‘Maxima’ and ‘Willem’ as they gather in Dam Square

 
 
People wear inflatable crowns as they gather in an office building on Dam Square
lem Alexander
 

Els Nederstigt, 38, said she got up at 5:30 a.m. to travel to Amsterdam and sat on a camping stool close to the Royal Palace on the Dam Square wearing an orange cowboy hat and tiara

 
 
 
Proud: Two men wearing orange, the royal colour. The Netherlands is celebrating Queen's Day which also marks the abdication of Queen Beatrix

Proud: Two men wearing orange, the royal colour. The Netherlands is celebrating Queen’s Day which also marks the abdication of Queen Beatrix

 

 

 
Party mood: People dance in Amsterdam's Dam Square. King Willem-Alexander thanked mother for ;33 moving and interesting years'

Party mood: People dance in Amsterdam’s Dam Square. King Willem-Alexander thanked mother for ;33 moving and interesting years’

Last night  Prince Charles and Camilla joined members of the Dutch Royal Family for a dinner in honour of Beatrix at the world-famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which has just reopened after a lavish €375m renovation.

The generational change in the House of Orange-Nassau gave the Netherlands a moment of celebration and pageantry as this trading nation of nearly 17 million struggles through a lengthy recession brought on by the European economic crisis.

Els Nederstigt, 38, said she got up at 5:30 a.m. to travel to Amsterdam and sat on a camping stool close to the Royal Palace on the Dam Square wearing an orange cowboy hat and tiara.

‘It’s a special moment. I was a very small girl when Beatrix came to the throne so this is the first change in the monarchy I can really experience,’ she said. ‘We were here when Willem-Alexander and Maxima got married and what you remember is that you were there – you forget how early you had to get up and how tired you were.’

‘He (Willem-Alexander) knows what is needed. He unites people. He has made it possible for the different generations to mingle more,’ said 40-year-old Margriet Dantuma, dressed in an orange skirt, as she joined others on the Amsterdam pavements putting out impromptu stalls of bric-a-brac for sale.

Less than an hour before the abdication, the city was not as busy as expected, possibly an indication that many people were staying home to watch the abdication live on television.

 
Change over: Dutch Queen Beatrix, centre, and Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, left, and his wife Princess Maxima arrive for the banquet

Change over: Dutch Queen Beatrix, centre, and Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, left, and his wife Princess Maxima arrive for the banquet

 
Last dinner: Queen Beatrix Of The Netherlands hosts a Gala Dinner ahead of her abdication

Last dinner: Queen Beatrix Of The Netherlands hosts a Gala Dinner ahead of her abdication last night

 

 
Celebration: Prince Charles and wife Camila, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive for a banquet hosted by the Dutch Royal family at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, last night

Celebration: Prince Charles and wife Camila, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive for a banquet hosted by the Dutch Royal family at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, last night

Celebration: Prince Charles and wife Camila, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive for a banquet hosted by the Dutch Royal family at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, last night

Celebration: The pair sported a monochrome look as they arrived at the elaborate dinner

It wasn’t all orange – one blue and white Argentine flag being held up in front of the palace was emblazoned with the Dutch language text: ‘Netherlands thanks for loving and having faith in Maxima.’

The day is expected to be a huge party culminating in a boat trip by the new king and queen around the Ij waterway, but security also was tight with 10,000 uniformed police, 3,000 plainclothes officers and an untold number of civil servants assisting in the logistics.

The airspace above Amsterdam was closed Monday for three days. Dutch police swept Dam square for bombs, with assistance from German agents with sniffer dogs.

Royal guests from 18 countries are attending, including Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and the Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako. Charles was also in attendance when Beatrix was crowned in 1980.

Observers believe Beatrix remained on the throne for so long in part because she was seen as a stabilizing factor in the country that struggled to assimilate more and more immigrants, mainly Muslims from North Africa, and shifted away from its traditional reputation as one of the world’s most tolerant nations.

Best dresses and giant smiles. Guests arrive for Dutch Royal…

 
 
Decision: Dutch Queen Beatrix, who ruled the Netherlands for 33 years, announced on 28 January 2013 her abdication from the throne

Decision: Dutch Queen Beatrix, who ruled the Netherlands for 33 years, announced on 28 January 2013 her abdication from the throne

 

 
Maxima
Princess Laurentien arrives at the Dutch Royal Dinner at The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
 

Making an entrance: Crown Princess Maxima, left, and Princess Laurentien, the wife of Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, the third son of Queen Beatrix (right) arrive at the Dutch Royal Dinner at The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

 

Royal affair: Belgium's Crown Prince Phillipe and Princess Mathilde arrive for a banquet hosted by the Dutch Royal family at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam this evening

Royal affair: Belgium’s Crown Prince Phillippe and his wife Princess Mathilde, of noble Polish ancestry, arrive for a banquet hosted by the Dutch Royal family

 
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wore a magnificent diamond tiara to the event
Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco
 

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, left, and Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco, right, both wore magnificent jewelled tiaras to the event

 

In recent years, speculation about when she might abdicate had grown, as she endured personal losses that both softened her image and increased her popularity further as the public sympathized.

Her husband Prince Claus died in 2002; and last year she was devastated when her youngest son, Prince Friso, was hit by an avalanche while skiing in Austria and suffered severe brain damage. Friso remains in a near comatose state.

In her pre-recorded message Queen Beatrix, 75, said she had been thinking about the issue for some years and now was the ‘the moment to lay down my crown’.

‘There will be tears on Tuesday,’ said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, paying tribute to ‘this formidable lady who has ruled this country for over 30 years’.

‘Now that my oldest son is to take over this fine and responsible job tomorrow, it is my deep wish that the new royal couple will feel themselves supported by your loving trust,’ the popular monarch said in a nationally televised address.

‘I am convinced that Willem-Alexander will apply himself with true devotion for everything a good king is obliged to do.’

Dutch Crown Princess Maxima waved as she left the Royal Palace before the ceremony

Dutch Crown Princess Maxima waved as she left the Royal Palace before the ceremony. She wore a variety of stunning jewels for the occasion, which will see her husband take the throne and make her queen consort

 
 
 
Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, left, and his wife Nane Lagergren, right, arrive for a dinner
Spanish Crown Prince Felipe, right, and his wife Princess Letizia arrive at a gala dinner at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
 

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and his wife Nane Lagergren arrive, left, while right, Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia, also stride along the red carpet in front of the world’s media before the gala dinner at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

 
Princess Mathilde and Prince Philippe of Belgium
Prince Albert II of Monaco
 

Grand entrance: The popular Princess Mathilde and Prince Philippe of Belgium, left, and Prince Albert II of Monaco, right, were there to see the abdication, which will lead to the country having its first king since 1890

 
Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway

Heir: Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, with his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit is the heir apparent to his country’s throne. The pair have two children together, and the princess has another child from a previous relationship

 

 
 
Princess Mathilde of Belgium (left) and Prince Philippe of Belgium (right) from the neighbouring country, were there to celebrate the change of monarchs

Princess Mathilde of Belgium (left) and Prince Philippe of Belgium (right) from the neighbouring country, were there to celebrate the change of monarchs

 
 
Crown prince Billah and Princess Sarah of Brunei arrive for the dinner at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam hosted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on the eve of her abdication
Princess Christina of the Netherlands, left, and Princess Irene
 

Regal: Crown prince Billah and Princess Sarah of Brunei, left, and Princess Christina of the Netherlands, pictured on the left with Princess Irene of the Netherlands, arrived for the dinner on the eve of her abdication after 33 years rule. Queen Beatrix says it is time the country was led by a new generation

 

 

A poll released Monday by national broadcaster NOS showed that Willem-Alexander’s popularity has swelled in the run-up to his accession, mostly due to a relaxed and confident performance in an interview that was televised nationally earlier this month.

He said he’s not a stickler for protocol, and he believes that ‘even the ultimate symbol of a ceremonial monarchy – cutting ribbons – can be very substantive.’

He explained that he will be able to indicate by his selection of which events and openings to attend the things he believes are important for the Netherlands.

He said he sees the function of the monarchy is to act as a living symbol of unity for the nation.

Beatrix succeeded her mother, Juliana, as head of state, and she won widespread acclaim and admiration from the Dutch people. Most feel she has proved a supremely competent, if occasionally aloof, head of state over her 33-year reign.

‘My mother taught me that being queen is a position that you carry around with you day and night,’ she said once. ‘You can never forget about it, not for a moment.’

Perhaps most tellingly, since she took office in 1980 the House of Orange has been almost scandal-free, a stark contrast to many other European royal families

Prince Daniel of Sweden, left, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, centre, and Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan arrive

Royal flush: Prince Daniel of Sweden, left, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, centre, and Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan were there to see the abdication, which has been emotionally celebrated across the country

 
Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg, left, and Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg arrive for a dinner at the occasion of the abdication of Dutch Queen Beatrix and the investiture of Prince Willem Alexander as King
Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik, right, and Crown Princess Mary attend a dinner at the National Museum (Rijksmuseum) in Amsterdam hosted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on the eve of her abdication
 

Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg and Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg, left, by Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, right, were among the European royals who attended. It is tradition for heads of state not to attend such occasions

 
Royal line-up: Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary lead the way as they enter the event

Royal line-up: Glamorous-looking Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary lead the way as they enter the event

 

 
Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, his wife Princess Laurentien, right, and Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau

Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, his wife Princess Laurentien, right, and Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau, , the wife of Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau (second son of Queen Beatrix)

 
Princess Mabel, wife of Prince Friso, links arms with Queen Beatrix's youngest son, Prince Constantijn,

Princess Mabel, (left) wife of Prince Friso, links arms with Queen Beatrix’s youngest son, Prince Constantijn, who was joined by his Princess Laurentien, (right) who he married in 2001

Exquisite: The stunning view of the dinner hosted by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which recently opened after a ¿375m renovation

Exquisite: The stunning view shows the opulent surroundings that he dignitaries dined in, as outside civilians took to the streets to welcome their new king

 
Fit for a King and Queen: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, centre, hosts a dinner on April 29, 2013 at the National Museum

Fit for a King and Queen: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was surrounded by Royal figures, including Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who can be seen in sparkling white

 
Princess Stephanie, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (second left) mingled with other guests

Princess Stephanie, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (second left) mingled with other guests before the candle-lit dinner, which was served in the beautiful museum

 
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