It is now 30 April, meaning that the Netherlands has entered the final day of the 33-year-reign of Queen Beatrix, who will sign the instrument of her abdication at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam shortly after 10 a.m. Tonight the outgoing Queen hosted a dinner in the splendid setting of the National Museum in Amsterdam, which has just reopened after years of renovation.
As it is not very often that a monarch has the chance to make a farewell speech, the speech made by the Queen at the dinner is very much worth reading. Touching on the end of 123 years of female kingship, it also says something important about her own philosophy of kingship, the values she finds important to society, her confidence in her successor and her gratitude to the people who will soon no longer be her subjects, and contains a touching tribute to her late husband:
On the eve of my abdication, I would like to take this opportunity to address you all. Unity and freedom have traditionally been the driving forces shaping our country's constitutional order. In years of struggle and revolt against foreign domination, the words of the Wilhelmus were a source of hope and encouragement:
"I dedicate undying faith to this land of mine".
Since that time, the unconditional loyalty of the founding father of our country has also been demonstrated by all those who have fought for our freedom. To this day, this loyalty forms the bedrock of our country's history, which is closely connected with the House of Orange.
From 1890 onwards, our national unity was inextricably linked with four female heads of state. After Queen Regent Emma, after my grandmother Wilhelmina - so valiant in wartime - and after my mother Juliana, with her strong sense of duty, the task and privilege of being your Queen fell to me. The unifying power shown by previous generations was my inspiration. In our constitutional monarchy, with the Constitution as our foundation, the monarch stands for unity in the service of a constantly changing society.
At the investiture, in the presence of the States General, the monarch swears to uphold the Constitution and protect the rights and freedoms of all the inhabitants of the Kingdom. The converse of ministerial responsibility for the acts of the monarch is the duty of the monarch - within the government - to coordinate his actions with the ministers. Democratically enacted laws and decrees are ratified by the monarch's signature. In day-to-day life, the monarch can contribute to respect for democracy, to solidarity within society and to integration and personal development for all sections of the population. This calls for full and unconditional dedication to what - sooner or later, to a greater or lesser degree - presents itself as the common interest of our society. Neither power, nor personal will, nor a claim to inherited authority, but solely the determination to serve the community can give substance to today's monarchy.
In fulfilling this task, the monarchy aims to foster a community whose members feel solidarity with one another. Throughout the last thirty-three years I have had the privilege of meeting great numbers of my compatriots who put themselves at the service of other people, demonstrate their commitment and are willing to do their utmost for their country. I have seen what creative effort and perseverance can accomplish, in the most diverse circumstances. Over the years, my appreciation of people's impressive achievements in science, art and culture has grown immensely. Scope for self-expression and exploration of new avenues are of vital importance for us all. The way people of different beliefs or convictions seek to draw closer to one other has touched me deeply, also because it is a sign of openness and tolerance.
In all this, the great trust you placed in me was indispensable. I have shared both joy and national pride with you. And I have shared in your sorrow and anxiety. The population of the Netherlands in Europe and in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom have strengthened me with their spontaneous warmth and expressions of solidarity. Beyond our borders too, international contacts proved their worth in furthering mutual understanding. The vicissitudes of the world touch our daily lives. Countless ties bind us to people in other continents. This compels us to remain open to other ways of life and other cultures.
A divided Europe long bore the scars of a past marked by war and violence. Today, peaceful cooperation and an awareness of common interests prevail. Decisions made by the European Union determine our daily life where this is necessary or useful. Our own self-interest obliges us to contribute to the common interest and to the wider perspective of a shared responsibility in the world.
In all this, I had the great good fortune to be able to count on the support of Prince Claus. His level-headed insights and nuanced approach were of great value to me. Through his work in the fields of urban planning, the environment, development cooperation and culture, he focused attention on crucial social issues. He taught our sons, when they were still very young, to be alert to developments in society and to suffering and need in the world. In this way, he brought our House closer to modern times. History may indeed conclude that my choice of husband was the best decision I ever made.
Since I announced my intention to relinquish the throne, I have been overwhelmed by expressions of warmth and kindness, accompanied by a profound understanding of my wish to hand over my task to the Prince of Orange. He is well prepared for every aspect of his new role, through his intensive activities at national and international level and his keen interest in the developments taking place in our world today. During the ceremonial investiture in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, King Willem-Alexander will accept the imperative that is essential to the office: to act without regard to personal preference, and to stand above the interest of party or group. In fulfilling his task, he will ask for the support and trust of the Dutch people. We all feel blessed by the fact that his endearing wife Máxima, with her warm heart and clear understanding of human relations, will play a special role.
In laying down my duties as Queen, I am above all filled with a sense of deep gratitude. Without your heart-warming and encouraging expressions of regard, the burdens of office - and they have certainly made themselves felt - would have been very heavy indeed. I would like to let you know, in saying farewell, that your affection has given me the strength I needed. In the future too, your continuing closeness will remain a great support.
When tomorrow my eldest son assumes this rewarding and responsible task, it is my dearest wish that the new Royal couple will also feel supported by your loving trust. I am convinced that Willem-Alexander will devote himself, with loyalty and dedication, to discharging his duties as a good King should.