THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - Queen Beatrix announced Monday that she is ending her reign after 33 years and passing the crown to her oldest son, who has long been groomed to be king but who will have to work hard to match his mother's popularity.
The widely expected abdication comes at a time of debate over the future of the largely ceremonial Dutch monarchy, but also as calm has descended upon the Netherlands after a decade of turmoil that saw Beatrix act as the glue that held together an increasingly divided society.
"Responsibility for our country must now lie in the hands of a new generation," Beatrix, one of Europe's longest-serving monarchs, said in her televised speech.
The queen, who turns 75 in just a few days, said she will step down from the throne on April 30. That same day, her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, will be appointed king at an inauguration in Amsterdam. He will be the Netherlands' first king since Willem III died in 1890.
Willem-Alexander, 45, is the father of three young daughters, an International Olympic Committee member, a pilot and a water management expert. He has struggled to win the affection of this nation of 16 million, but his immensely popular wife, the Argentine-born Maxima, has helped him gain more acceptance ever since their wedding in 2002.
They are a hard-working couple: Willem-Alexander regularly gives speeches at water conferences, while Maxima, a former investment banker, is a microfinance expert.
In her brief speech, Beatrix said she was, "deeply grateful for the great faith you have shown in me."