Dutch crown prince hints at informal monarchy

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander set the tone Wednesday for what could be a relatively laid-back monarchy, saying in his last major interview before he becomes king that his subjects don’t have to address him as your majesty.

The prince’s comments, in a pre-recorded television interview, are an indication that he could be an informal monarch more in the style of his grandmother, Queen Juliana — known for her folksy style and riding her bicycle in public — than his more formal mother, Queen Beatrix.

The 45-year-old prince and his Argentine-born wife, Princess Maxima, will become king and queen when Beatrix, abdicates April 30 after 33 years on the throne.

“I’m not a protocol fetishist. People can address me however they want,” Willem-Alexander said.

“For me, it is about people feeling at ease when I’m with them.”

He also said he has no problem with protests during celebrations in Amsterdam to mark his ascent to the throne. Protests also broke out during his mother’s investiture in 1980.

“I’m convinced we are going to have a magnificent investiture day … in Amsterdam, in which there will be opportunities for protest, and that is as it should be,” he said.

Looking relaxed sitting next to Maxima for the nearly hour-long interview, Willem-Alexander touched briefly on a family tragedy that will hang over celebrations surrounding his investiture — his brother Prince Johan Friso has been in a coma for more than a year since being caught in an avalanche while skiing in Austria.

“For the family, it is a very difficult moment,” he said.

Also absent on the day will be Maxima’s father, Jorge Zorreguieta, who was an agriculture minister in the military junta that ruled Argentina with an iron fist in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

His role in the brutal regime meant he was not invited to Willem-Alexander and Maxima’s wedding and he will not be in Amsterdam on April 30 either.

“It was clear that if my father could not come for the wedding then it was very clear: This is a constitutional celebration so my father doesn’t belong there,” Maxima said.

Willem-Alexander said that after being groomed for years he is now confident he’s ready to replace his mother.

He said that while he wants to keep up the tradition of the 200-year-old Dutch monarchy, he also wants to be “a king who in the 21st century can unite, represent and encourage society.”

He also said he would consent to any move by lawmakers to make the monarchy purely ceremonial. At the moment, Queen Beatrix still swears in new Cabinet ministers after elections and delivers a speech each year at the opening of parliament, but some lawmakers favor reining in even those limited powers.

“If the lawmaking process is democratic and constitutional, I will accept everything,” he said.

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