The country is celebrating the birthday of Queen Beatrix with an extra touch of glitter this year THE QUEEN BEATRIX story began with her birth on January 31, 1938, but she was obliged to wait 42 years before destiny and the constitution delivered her the role she had dutifully prepared for over decades. On April 30, 1980, Queen Juliana signed the Act of Abdication, and Princess Beatrix succeeded her as Queen of the Netherlands. Her investiture took place on the same day, in the New Church in Amsterdam. Since then, the Queen's birthday has been officially celebrated on April 30. The popularity of Queen Beatrix ensures that celebrations will be warm and heartfelt. What is more, this year is special. The investiture took place exactly 25 years ago, making today Queen Beatrix's silver jubilee. Grander than usual nationwide celebrations began yesterday with street parades and will continue through the weekend. This is a nation that is fond of its monarchy. By world standards, the Dutch royal family is low key and Queen Beatrix stays close to her subjects. She is one of Europe's 'cycling monarchs', and although she is rarely seen on two wheels these days, the image of unpretentiousness endures. The monarchy is based on the constitution and the monarch's position is regulated by the constitution, certain Acts of Parliament and unwritten constitutional law. The queen closely follows affairs of government and maintains regular contact with ministers, state secretaries, the vice-president of the Council of State, the queen's commissioners in the provinces and Dutch ambassadors, among others. Much of the queen's work consists of studying and signing state documents. She meets the prime minister every Monday, and regularly receives members of parliament to discuss social issues. In the Netherlands, a distinction is made between the royal house and the royal family. Not every member of the Orange-Nassau family is a member of the royal house. Membership of the royal house is restricted by an Act of Parliament to the head of state, the former head of state, those members of the royal family who are in line for the throne, and their spouses. The monarch is head of the royal house. The name Orange-Nassau has its origin in the country's complex regal history. In 1403, the German Count Engelbrecht I of Nassau married Johanna van Polanen, a wealthy Dutch heiress. The Nassaus settled in Breda and soon became one of the leading noble families in the Low Countries. When Count Hendrik III of Nassau (1483-1538) married Claudia de Chalon, lands in the east and south of France were added to the Nassau family fortune. These included the sovereign principality of Orange, which carried the hereditary title of Prince of Orange. When Hendrik's son Rene de Chalon died childless in 1544, his eldest cousin William of Nassau (1533-1584) inherited the property and the title Prince of Orange. This William of Nassau, known as William of Orange or William the Silent, is regarded as the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau. Interestingly, the first king of the Netherlands was French. Napoleon I installed his brother Louis Napoleon as king from 1806 to 1810 over what was then known as the Kingdom of Holland, a state over which France had a strong influence. The present monarchy was established in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna as part of the rearrangement of a war-shattered Europe, following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. The House of Orange-Nassau was given the modern-day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg to rule, which came to be known as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The first king of the constitutional monarchy of the Netherlands was William I. Queen Wilhelmina came to the throne in 1890 at age 10, and her long reign was overshadowed by the two world wars, the second of which saw the occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany. Wilhelmina and her husband Henrik had one daughter, Juliana, who came to the throne in 1948. Juliana reigned from 1948 until 1980. While the strong and tenacious Wilhelmina was something of a general-like sovereign, Juliana cut a more motherly figure during her reign. She also oversaw a key post-war development when she signed the treaty of independence of the former Dutch colony of Indonesia. She married a German of noble descent, Prince Bernard von Lippe-Biesterfeld, and together they had four daughters - Beatrix, Irene, Margriet and Christina. Juliana and Bernard both passed away last year. In 1965, Princess Beatrix married the German diplomat Claus von Amsberg, who received the title of Prince of the Netherlands. Their three sons are Prince Willem-Alexander, born in 1967, Prince Friso (1968), and Prince Constantijn (1969). Prince Claus passed away on October 6, 2002. Prince Willem-Alexander married Maxima Zorreguieta of Argentina on February 2, 2002. They had a daughter, Princess Catharina-Amalia, on December 7, 2003. Prince Johan Friso married Mabel Misse Smit on April 24 last year, and their baby daughter, Luana, was born in March this year.