The Netherlands without Beatrix? For many Dutch people, this is almost as unimaginable as spring without tulips or fries without mayo. Generations have grown up with her. She was Queen of the Netherlands for 33 years. On January 31 Beatrix will be 85 years old.
She abdicated a decade ago and now goes back to the title of princess. She is now second in line to her son, King Willem-Alexander. But she certainly doesn't sit "behind the geraniums," as the Dutch call a peaceful retirement life. She made 40 official appearances last year and is therefore an important support for her son and his wife Máxima.
She is still in service for the Netherlands
For Beatrix this is more than a duty. "I've always considered it a privilege to devote a large part of my life to the service of our country," she said in 2013 when announcing her retirement. And that still applies.
Beatrix has become more fragile, but otherwise vital and happy. The teased hair helmet is unchanged. Still no cheeky hair sticks out. And of course - the bright smile. The Dutch used to call her "Princess Glimlach" as a young girl, "Princess Smile".
Today, Beatrix is one of the most popular Oranjes among her compatriots, significantly more popular than her son. That was not always so. The young queen had to work hard to earn the respect of her people.
Beatrix only got to know her homeland at the age of seven, after returning with her family from exile in Canada in 1945. She prepared herself very conscientiously for her future role as queen, for example in the Council of State or while studying law and constitutional law in Leiden. Yes, she even went through the Red Light District of Amsterdam with the Salvation Army - masked with glasses and a headscarf.
Marriage to the German Prince Claus von Amsberg
Smoke bombs were thrown at their wedding in 1966. Beatrix had fallen in love with a German of all people, but many had not forgotten the suffering under the German occupation in World War II. However, Prince Claus von Amsberg quickly won the hearts of his new compatriots. Beatrix herself called marriage to him "the best decision of my life".
When she ascended the throne on April 30, 1980, the country and the monarchy were in a deep crisis. Squatters engaged in street battles with the police in Amsterdam. The battle cry "No apartment, no coronation" is still symbolic of the Queen's tough beginnings.
She ran the "Netherlands GmbH" like a CEO, as many politicians recalled - some with a sigh. Because she didn't make it easy for anyone. The queen had high standards, she was considered a "control freak". Hardly anyone dared to come to a meeting unprepared - or even too late. A justice minister once confessed that he had floored the accelerator on the Autobahn despite the 100 km/h speed limit in order not to be late at the palace.
Beatrix liked to get involved, and that was not always met with approval. She once complained about allegedly false reports in the media about the royal family: "Lies rule." But she also advocated tolerance and warned of the power of the internet. And when the right-wing populists emerged, they broke a lance for the coexistence of cultures.
Respect for the monarch turned into affection
The Dutch respected this "absolute power woman", as historian Geert Mak calls her. And almost unnoticed, that turned into affection. Beatrix became the "mother of the fatherland", as the media noted. "Bea thanks, Bea thanks!" cried tens of thousands in Amsterdam as they bid farewell to the throne. A thank you for standing by her people in difficult times. Deeply horrified at the crash site of an airplane in Amsterdam in 1992. With rubber boots in the floods of 1995 or after the attack on the royal family in Apeldoorn in 2009.
Eventually, people experienced their queen as a grieving wife and mother. Her husband, Prince Claus, died in 2002, and in 2013 her second son, Prince Friso, died after an avalanche accident and a long coma. He was buried very close to Drakensteyn Castle near Utrecht, where she lives today.
Beatrix is now enjoying her royal retirement life there. She has time for her passion, sculpture. And of course the eight grandchildren. She even follows their lives on social media. "She's really a modern grandma," praised granddaughter Eloise (20), a popular influencer. "She's doing really well." And you can also see that it moves with the times. The stiff queen's robes and large hats were mothballed. Beatrix is now wearing smart pantsuits.