There is speculation in the Dutch and Belgian media that Queen Beatrix will announce her intention to step down from the throne in favour of her son Prince Willem Alexander. I vaguely remember an earlier discussion about this, possibly when Willem Alexander married in 2002, and Queen Beatrix gave the answer that he should be allowed to enjoy his young family without the burden of state duties.
Abdication in the Dutch Royal house is the usual way of passing on the crown to the next in line, unlike the British crown where it is highly unusual having occured only twice in the history of that monarchy. So there is no constitutional crisis attached to an abdication here. In fact Prince Willem Alexander has been involved in state duties, including attending state visits on his mother’s behalf for many years. He has also been a member of the Raad van State, a constitutional advisory body to government.
There’s no official indication that this will go ahead, in fact the Queen’s diary has appointments through 2010. However there’s a certain symmetry; Queen Beatrix is now 71, the age her mother Queen Juliana was when she abdicated. At that time Queen Beatrix was 41, on Monday Prince Willem Alexander turns 42. It’s a hell of a birthday present!