I'm not a protocol fetishist, says Dutch Crown Prince

Dutch crown prince says he's also prepared to accept a ceremonial role

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 4:10am

Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander has vowed to be an approachable, 21st century monarch, insisting less than two weeks before becoming king that he is not a "protocol fetishist".

Currently known as the Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander, 45, will be enthroned on April 30 as the first Dutch king in more than a century. He succeeds his mother, Queen Beatrix, 75.

In a prime-time interview televised nationally on Wednesday, he said he would uphold the 200-year-old Dutch monarchy but would be prepared to accept a ceremonial role, if that is what parliament decided.

"I will first and foremost be a traditional king, building on the tradition of my ancestors, who stand for continuity and for stability in the nation," Willem-Alexander said.

He stressed he wanted to "be a king that can bring society together, representative and encouraging in the 21st century".

But the monarchy must bend to society's will, he said, and he would accept any role parliament decided to give him, amid controversy over his €850,000 (HK$8.66 million) salary. "If the legal process is followed democratically and according to the constitutional rules, I'll accept everything. I have absolutely no problem with that. That's why I'm king. And if my signature is needed on it, then I'll sign," he said.

The future king admitted that he made mistakes, including the building of a sumptuous beach villa on the Mozambican coast in 2007, which he and his wife were forced to sell two years later amid a storm of public criticism.

"But OK, we are people. People make mistakes. I will make mistakes in the future. It's not that bad," Willem-Alexander said, flanked by his popular Argentinian wife Maxima, who is to become queen.

"If you make mistakes you must learn from them and you have to ensure that they don't happen again," he said. Willem-Alexander defended his mother, who was known to want people to call her "majesty", but said that his reign would nevertheless be different.

"I'm no protocol fetishist. People can address me as they wish because then they can feel comfortable," he said.

The subject of Maxima's controversial father was broached. Jorge Zorreguieta was a junior agriculture minister under the notorious Argentine regime of general Jorge Videla in the 1970s.

Amid popular outcry in Holland, Videla was told he could not attend his daughter's wedding in Amsterdam in 2002, and her mother also stayed away out of solidarity.

Maxima said her family had also decided that her father would not attend the ceremony that will inaugurate Willem-Alexander as king. "We decided together ... my father doesn't belong there."