With a tear in her eye but a brave smile on her face, the Queen of the Netherlands abdicated at 10:30am this morning in favour of her son, the new King Willem-Alexander.
Queen Beatrix, 75, winked at her son, Willem-Alexander, as the official Abdication Act was put in front of her for her last signature as monarch.
All 17 members of the House of Orange-Nassau were seated around a large table covered with a red cloth in the Moses Room of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam for this morning’s simple ceremony.
Tens of thousands of fiercely loyal Dutch citizens thronged the streets of Amsterdam as Queen Beatrix handed over the title of monarch to her son. The crowds in Dam Square, dressed in patriotic orange, cheered as giant TV screens transmitted pictures of the Queen, the new king and his wife signing the official document, which read, "I Queen Beatrix abdicate in favour of my son Willem-Alexander."
To rapturous applause at 10.30 am, Princess Beatrix as she will now be known, appeared on the palace balcony with King Willem-Alexander and his wife, Queen Maxima.
"I am happy and grateful to introduce to you your new king, Willem-Alexander," she said.
To more cheers, King Willem Alexander then turned to his mother, saying, "Dear mother, you have given the kingdom 33 moving and inspired years, which we are intensely grateful for," he said.
Facing back to the crowds, he shouted "Thank you".
King Willem-Alexander is the first Dutch king for 123 years and, at 46, the youngest crowned head in Europe.
Last night, a pre-recorded speech was broadcast in which Beatrix said: "Since I announced my intenton to retire, I have been struck by overwhelming expressions of warm sympathy. It is my sincere wish that the new royal couple will feel, through your behaviour, loving trust. I am convinced that Willem-Alexander will be committed to doing everything a good king should."
There was a grand ball at the Rijksmuseum last night which was attended by over 2,000 guests, including Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
Later, Charles and Camilla were present for the official investiture of the Crown Prince as King of the Netherlands, at Nieuwe Kirk, in Amsterdam.
King Willem-Alexander said in a speech at the investiture:
"Wherever the path leads, your wisdom and your warmth I carry with me. Thank you for the many wonderful years in which we were allowed to have you as our queen."
"You stood for the values anchored in the constitution. Dear mother, you were queen in full knowledge of the duties you had you were also a wife and mother, and you were fully aware of your duties there too. You were a great support to us all."
The new king, Europe's youngest monarch, has pledged to be a 21st century royal head of state, even telling Dutch people that they do not have to call him "your majesty" unless they want to.
"As king I want to encourage people to make the most of the opportunities they have. I will represent the kingdom with pride. I want to unite the Dutch, in times of happiness and in times of sadness," he said.
Today’s ceremony was timed to co-incide with the national holiday of Queen’s Day, which is always held on April 30.
King Willem-Alexander has become not only the monarch of the Netherlands but also the Dutch Caribbean territories of Curacao, Aruba and Saint Maarten.
In recent decades it has become the tradition for the monarch to abdicate.
Queen Beatrix's mother Juliana resigned the throne in 1980 on her 71st birthday, and her grandmother Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 at the age of 68.