Juliana today stepped down from the throne and her daughter, Beatrix, stepped up as the new queen of The Netherlands against a mixed backdrop of courtly tradition, casual celebration and anarchist violence.
It was a day of royal pomp and typically Dutch eclectric circumstance. The occasion was marred by hundreds of rock-throwing youths who battled riot police for hours, primarily to protest the monarchy and the nation's housing problems. Police sources said about 50 policement and over 100 demonstrators were injured in the clashes.
In her inaugural message, Beatrix sought to embrace the diverse interests of the Dutch people. She called on the nation to heed traditional traits of energy, inventiveness and tolerance against an uncertain and insecure future.
For this basically republican country, today's change was more ceremonial than politically significant. But it touched deep emotions by marking the close of an especially strong romance between the sensitive Dutch people and the grandmotherly Juliana. Whether Queen Beatrixa will be able to win similar public affection is anything but certain.
The 42-year-old new monarch is not well known by her countrymen, having lived in the shadow of her popular mother and avoided publicity to the extent a royal heiress could. While widely regarded as intelligent and exceptionally capable, there is less unanimity among the Dutch about how likeable she is.
She has a charming dimpled smile, but also an aristocratic stiffness which, in contrst to her mother's lack of pretention, has put many of the Dutch off. Considered by some to be overly willful and arrogant, Beatrix' first major test as monarch will come next year following national elections when she must choose the person who will form the new government.This is essentially the only real power the Dutch monarch exercises, but forming a new government can be an extremely delicate task requiring a firm yet subtle lead at the top over a country with wide-ranging special interest groups and a parliament that currently includes 13 political parties.
While feeling somewhat ambivalent toward their new queen, a substantial majority of Netherlanders remain clearly attached to the monarchy, solidly opposed to cutting the nation's four-century old link to the House of Orange. o
Thousands crowded into Amsterdam's central, cobble-stoned Dam Square today in front of the royal palace (used now only for cermonial occasions) to cheer and sing and shower orange-colored confetti on themselves.
Downtown Amsterdam was decked in orange. Orange banners streamed down the sides of buildings, orange shades graced windows, strings of orange lights stretched across main avenues and orange flags were waved beside the official white and blue banner.
People came dressed in all sorts of garb for the occasion, some in the traditional stove-pipe and bonnet costumes of their province, others in jeans and sweatshirts. The mood around the palace was royally festive.
Elsewhere, though, it was bitter and angry. Protesters fought with police well into the night even as holiday fireworks exploded over the city. Other demonstrations occurred in the cities of Rotterdam and Utrecht. The protests were aimed not only at demonstrating opposition to the monarchy but also at calling attention to Amsterdam's chronic housing shortage.
In recent weeks protesters have clashed with police who have been trying to force "squatters" out of neighborhoods they have illegally occupied.
Government officials acknowledge there is a severe housing problem (the city's list of people seeking new housing contains 53,000 names). Much of the existing housing is old and obsolete, and though new units are under construction, the process is slow and often ill-conceived.
Dutch authorities had expected trouble and sealed the downtown off like a closed fortress for today's celebration. The cermonies took place undisturbed. But because of security concerns, the queen did not take her traditional inaugural ride through the streets in the royal family's all-gold carriage.
Beatrix' contact with the crowd was limited to a balcony appearance in the morning after the signing of the Act of Abdication and a short walk of 100 yards in the afternoon under a blue-and white canopy from the palace to the more than 500-year-old New Church where she took the oath of obedience to the constitution and where members of both houses of parliament pledged allegiance.
The attendance here of other European royalty, the presence of the palace military corps, the formal procession and the wording of the requisite oaths all lent a strong medieval flavor to the occasion. The ceremony itself was conducted largely unchanged from the investiture in 1813 of Holland's first monarch, William I. The affection of the Dutch people for the House of Orange dates beyond that to 1568 when Prince William of Orange led a cluster of northern European provinces in revolt against Spain's King Philip II.
Since the Dutch monarchy is guaranteed by the national constitution, there was no formal coronation or crowning of Beatrix. The symbols of the monarchy -- the crown, orb and scepter -- were in the church today, but stayed in the center on a ceremonial table displayed around a copy of the 1848 Dutch constitution.
At the morning abdication ceremony in the royal palace, Juliana, who turned 71 years old today, showed considerable emotion in leaving the throne after 32 years. She had announced abruptly in January her decision to step down for what she said were reasons of age.
Preparing to sign the act that automatically made her eldest child queen, Juliana took a pronounced deep breath, hunched her shoulders and, with a seemingly nervous hand, had a bit of difficulty flattening the page in front of her before completing the signature.
Beatrix then signed the act with a determined and confident stroke, and while their two husbands also signed, mother and daughter warmly clutched hands.