Queen Beatrix, who has ruled the Netherlands for
nearly 33 years, said Monday she was abdicating to make way for her
eldest son, Willem-Alexander.
Her last day as head of state will be April 30, when 45-year-old Willem-Alexander will be crowned Willem IV - the first time the Netherlands will have a male monarch in more than 120 years.
It was time "to place the responsibility of the country in the hands of a new generation," Beatrix said in a television address.
Her son and his wife are well prepared for the job, she said.
Willem-Alexander is married to Argentine-born Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti and has three daughters - Amalia, 9, Alexia, 7, and Ariane, 5.
Observers of the Dutch Royal House have long anticipated the abdication of the aging monarch, who turns 75 this week.
Nevertheless, Beatrix has remained active in her role as head of state, having made visits to Singapore and Brunei in the last two weeks.
Speculation about Beatrix's future on the throne grew after Prince Friso, her 44-year-old second child, was left in a coma after a skiing accident nearly a year ago, with his bleak prognoses having deeply shaken the monarch. He remains unresponsive in a London hospital.
The royal family will come together to mark the one-year anniversary of the accident next month in Lech, in western Austria, where they have vacationed for decades and where Prince Friso was buried in an avalanche on February 17, 2012.
Another dark moment in her reign came in April 2009, when the royal family was deliberately attacked at a Queen's Day parade event in which a car ploughed into spectators, killing seven in attendance along with the driver. No member of the royal family was harmed.
Beatrix remains popular among a vast majority of citizens, according to recent polls, which also suggest that most Dutch believe Willem-Alexander to be well-prepared for his new role.
Beatrix assumed the throne on April 30, 1980, after her mother Juliana abdicated. Even though it is not Beatrix's birthday, April 30 has been celebrated as Queen's Day because the weather is more suitable for a festival than her actual birthday, January 31.
The holiday will change to Willem-Alexander's birthday April 27 starting in 2014 and become King's Day. However, because that date falls on a Sunday next year, the holiday will be marked on April 26.
In addition to princes Willem-Alexander and Friso, she has a 43-year-old son, Constantijn. Beatrix's husband, German-born Prince Claus, died in 2002.
As a student, Willem-Alexander main emphasis was water management - a fitting subject in a low-lying, coastal kingdom that for centuries has had to defend itself against the North Sea, accentuated in an era of climate change.
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