Modern Monarchs: Meet the Glamorous Dutch Royals

When Her Majesty Queen Beatrix "by the Grace of God Queen of the Netherlands" celebrated her 70th birthday earlier this year, the Dutch press was feverish with speculation about whether she would abdicate.

However, the birthday came and went and there's still no sign that the monarch is going to retire, thus giving her oldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander, and her daughter-in-law, Princess Maxima, more time to prepare for their eventual takeover of the throne.

Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima have three daughters, Princess Catharina-Amalia, 5, Princess Alexia, 3, and Princess Ariane, 1.

Their marriage in 2002 caused some controversy because of her Argentinean family connection.

Maxima's father had served as Argentina's minister of agriculture when the country was controlled by the military. During this era, known as the "dirty war," thousands of people were tortured, killed or simply made to disappear.

Concerns about her family background led to violent protests in the Netherlands, and Maxima, in a compromise, denounced the military regime and did not invite her father to the wedding.

Those bad feelings, however, have long since been overcome: many here clearly consider her their "Princess of hearts," with a recent poll showing her to be the most popular member of the royal family with 57 percent of the Dutch vote.

Marc van der Linden, who has written biographies of the queen and the princely couple, agrees with his fellow countrymen. "She's brought fresh wind and energy to the Royal House. She's the modern-day princess that everybody just loves," he said.

"She's good-looking, intelligent, she knows how to dress and she has brought some glamour to the Royal House. She made Willem-Alexander a well respected prince," van der Linden said.

"It is almost impossible to be a fairy tale princess and a modern-day woman at the same time, but she seems to be able to combine those attributes perfectly," added van der Linden, editor of monthly magazine Royalty.

Maxima – who is fluent in Dutch – has become a role model for many young women in the Netherlands, and the royal couple are widely recognized as a sympathetic, likeable young family.

They live in the 30-bedroom Villa "Eikenhorst" near Wassenaar, an affluent suburb of The Hague, about 30 miles north of Amsterdam.

Their oldest daughter, Princess Catherina-Amalia, has joined the local kindergarten there – a family tradition, according to van der Linden – and she is being treated like any other child. The little princesses are called by their first names until they are 18 years old; only then will they be addressed as Royal Highness.

Duties of the Royal Monarch

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Willem-Alexander is 41 years old and he has a busy schedule supporting Queen Beatrix and performing his many duties.

As a young man, the prince usually made headlines for his love of fast cars and attractive women. In fact, people in Holland used to call him Prinsje Pilsje [as in Pils beer] because beer was his favorite drink. Since being with Maxima though, his reputation has taken a turn for the serious.

"Maxima is wearing the pants in that house," says van der Linden. "She's made him a more royal prince."

According to royal watchers, Willem-Alexander proposed to her while they were ice-skating on a frozen lake behind the royal palace Huis ten Bosch, not too far from where they live today.

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