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On Monday, the Netherlands' Queen Beatrix announced that she is abdicating the throne after 33 years to her eldest son, Willem Alexander. The queen, who turned 75 on January 31st, said she will abdicate on April 30. April 30th is significant in that it coincides with Koninginnedag, or Queen's Day, a wildly popular holiday in the Netherlands that celebrates the birthday of Queen Juliana, the mother of Queen Beatrix. 2013 also begins the 200 year celebration of the formal unifying of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And finally, that same day, Beatrix's eldest son, Willem Alexander, will be appointed king at his investiture in Amsterdam. Note that word investiture. The Dutch do not crown their monarchs. Willem Alexander will become the Netherlands' first king since Willem III died in 1890.

Unlike most European monarchies, abdication within the House of Orange is common. She will be the third successive Dutch monarch to abdicate the throne, following her mother and grandmother. "Responsibility for our country must now lie in the hands of a new generation" she said in her televised announcement on Monday. You won't be hearing anything like that coming from Queen Elizabeth II anytime soon. The British monarchs hold on to the job like a pope. There is an oft repeated anecdote that when Queen Elizabeth heard that Juliana would be abdicating in favor of her daughter Beatrix, she slammed the phone down and frothed that this was "typically Dutch". It is said she stayed in a foul humour for days. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when she heard about Beatrix.

I know that as Americans we are supposed to eschew monarchies. However, I have always admired the constitutional monarchy of the Netherlands. It wields far less power and influence than the British counterpart, remaining largely a symbolic presence of Dutch unity. Although she got off to a rough start, being perceived as more distant and cold than her mother, people warmed to her own style. When I first started visiting Holland back in the late 80s, I was charmed by the almost universally high esteem the Dutch showed for their queen, if not for the person for the position. It wasn't uncommon to be at a brown bar (dubbed such for the brown tobacco stains on the walls) and witness someone raise a glass of genever to her health and everyone meeting the toast with gusto. Sure, over the years I've heard some Dutch people advocate for the dissolution of the monarchy, citing similar reasons the British usually give. However, she remains a deeply popular figure and the monarchy remains on solid footing.

Prins Willem Alexander en Prinses MaximaThat is not to say the Willem Alexander doesn't have some work to do to win over Dutch hearts and minds. He has struggled over the years to improve his popularity with the nation. The 45-year-old father of three young daughters, an International Olympic Committee member, a pilot and a water management expert, he has been noted for lacking charisma. His choice in marriage was met with fierce controversy. In February of 2002, he married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti, daughter of Jorge Zorreguieta. Zorrequieta held the position of Minister of Agriculture in the regime of General Jorge Rafael Videla, a military dictator who ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1981 and who committed horrific atrocities against his own people. The marriage went forward even though the father of the bride was barred from attending the wedding. Over the years, though, the controversy has waned and Máxima has become a much loved member of the royal family. She began learning Dutch about the same time I did. Obviously she had the best language instruction money could buy, but her quick command of the language surprised everyone and served to make me jealous. She is now such an admired figure she can only help the new king as he embarks on his reign. She will take the title of Queen Consort.

By way of this diary, I am opening a discussion with Brian about moving our planned vacation up early to include a stop in Amsterdam before we head south. I have been in Amsterdam on April 30th to celebrate Queen's Day, and I can say without reservation that it was one of the most memorable days of my life. The Dutch are at their best when they are celebrating in the streets together and they know how to give one hell of a party. Given the rare confluence of events this year, I can only imagine what an amazing celebration is about to take place. I would love to be a part of it. We shall see.

Q-day on the canals of Amsterdam

Now on to Tops!

February 3, 2013

Thanks to tonight's Top Comments contributors! Let us hear from YOU
when you find that proficient comment.

Submitted by emmasnacker:

In Anton Bursch's diary Paul Krugman Vs The Morning Joe Panel, LeftHandedMan gave us this excellent comment, which was wisely added to the body of the diary by diarist.
Submittetd by DRo:
Crashing Vor posted a statement about The Big Game today that has lots of truth and is good for a giggle. Found in Mark Sumner's Abbreviated Pundit Round-Up diary.
Submitted by indie17:
In Lefty Coaster's diary Not even a gun range had enough good guys with a gun to stop one bad guy with a gun, zenyata gave us this personal story about the use of guns.
And from your diarist, Steveningen:
Not being much of a sports fan myself, I wandered in to Barbara Morrill's front page diary Are you ready for some football Super Bowl open thread? to find this adorable comment by kamrom. Pass me over a slice of that cheesecake, dude.

February 2, 2013

(excluding Tip Jars and first comments)

Got mik!

  1) And now that Whole Foods CEO compared by Blazehawkins — 115
  2) It's brutal ... by KathleenM1 — 92
  3) Six more weeks? If only by blue aardvark — 87
  4) The trees are not the right height by ItsSimpleSimon — 82
  5) We're lucky too DS by Alabama Bill — 78
  6) Well, 'shopped or NOT, he's doing a lot RIGHT in by BlackSheep1 — 74
  7) "Hoosexual"? by angry marmot — 71
  8) Jon Stewart got it right. by Eileen B — 71
  9) Huh by Ernest T Bass — 62
10) I shoot trap and skeet by ragged but right — 61
11) Not to please them by US Blues — 61
12) Best one I saw on Twitter: by jan4insight — 60
13) Eric, I feel quite certain this one's going to by cactusgal — 59
14) Happee Caturdai! by arizonablue — 59
15) Basement cat hazzing a ruff Carturdai so far. by jwinIL14 — 57
16) Well I wonder what the conspiracy nuts will say? by dopper0189 — 56
17) Liberals shouldn't shop via Amazon. by lineatus — 56
18) Whew!  Very glad you are here! by cfk — 54
19) ohai Hai! by kishik — 54
20) I'd like to add by onceasgt — 53
21) On my visits to AZ by RoCali — 53
22) I had a rare sighting of a one-footed whale cat by Smoh — 52
23) I witnessed a shooting once by litho — 51
24) I'll bet those skeets are white! by PowWowPollock — 51
25) And this is Cicero's Caturdai plan: by Smoh — 51
26) This is really the only question that matters. by The Troubadour — 51
27) pitbull politics? by RLMiller — 51
28) I disagree about the comparison by Ozy — 50
29) Happy Hedgehog Day! by CoolOnion — 50
30) "An obvious Photoshop" by pat of butter in a sea of grits — 49
31) My local bookstores by Shippo1776 — 49
32) iz bery happee Caturdai! by KrazyKitten — 49
33) Well, because of the seizures, I have to by triciawyse — 49

February 2, 2013

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