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Dutch love their Argentine queen despite father's past

26th April 2013, Comments0 comments


Maxima, the Argentine-born future queen of the Netherlands, has worked hard to win over Dutch hearts and is immensely popular despite her father's murky role in his country's military junta.

As the wife of Crown Prince Willem Alexander, former investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta, 41, will on Tuesday become queen of the Dutch following Queen Beatrix's unexpected announcement in January that she will abdicate in favour of her son.

The couple had a fairytale romance and were married in 2002, with Maxima being given Dutch nationality and allowed to remain a Catholic in the staunchly Protestant House of Orange.

But the run-up to the marriage was overshadowed by the past of Maxima's father, Jorge Zorreguieta, who was a junior agriculture minister under the notorious Argentine regime of general Jorge Videla in the 1970s.

The junta, which Videla led from 1976-1981, is held responsible for the disappearance of up to 30,000 people during the so-called "Dirty War" against political opponents.

Amid popular outcry in the politically correct Netherlands, Maxima's father was told he could not attend his daughter's wedding in Amsterdam, and her mother also stayed away out of solidarity.

Maxima said at the time she would accept the decision, but television cameras lingered on her tears as her father's favourite tango "Adios nonino" was played during the wedding ceremony.

"I regret that he did his best in a bad regime. He had the best intentions," Maxima said in an interview ahead of the wedding.

In an interview a few weeks before the inauguration, she told the Dutch national broadcaster that her family "made a joint decision" that they would not attend Willem-Alexander's investiture.

"It's a constitutional celebration and, yes, my father does not belong in it."

"My wedding was a different event. It would of course be fantastic if he could be here but emotionally this is different," she said.

The Dutch cabinet even commissioned historian Michiel Baud to look into the extent of Zorreguieta's involvement in the junta.

He concluded that Zorreguieta must have known something about the torture and the thousands that disappeared at the time, but was almost certainly not personally involved.

While Zorreguieta has been accused of involvement in some disappearances and continues to be investigated, he has never been charged.

With her easy charm and ready smile, Maxima was quick to win over the Dutch people, immersing herself in the language and culture, even swimming in an Amsterdam canal for charity.

She's the country's most popular royal according to opinion polls, even more so than the much-admired Queen Beatrix and a long way ahead of her husband, whose youthful reputation as a boozing Casanova was transformed by his relationship with Maxima.

The princess has invested time in development projects, supporting micro-credit initiatives in developing countries and the emancipation of women of immigrant origin.

In 2009 she was named as the UN Secretary General's special advocate for inclusive finance for development.

But she has not been entirely without controversy.

In 2007, commenting on the issue of Dutch identity, she said: "The Dutch person does not exist, no more than the Argentinian." The remark sparked criticism that she was speaking out of turn.

Born on May 17, 1971 in Buenos Aires, where she grew up, Maxima Zorreguieta met Willem Alexander through mutual friends in Madrid in 1999.

Having received an economics degree in 1995, Maxima worked for a string of international banks in Buenos Aires, New York and Brussels.

Since getting married, the couple have been living in Wassenaar, an upmarket suburb of The Hague, the seat of government and the city where Queen Beatrix lives and works.

They have three daughters, Catharina-Amalia, 9, who as the heir apparent will become the Princess of Orange, Alexia, 7, and Ariane, 5.

"People are incredibly kind to me," Maxima said of life in the Netherlands, praising the fact that she was not chased around by photographers.

"It's fantastic that I can move around freely here in the Netherlands and that I can take my children to school and do shopping," she said of life in a country where royalty is expected to tread a fine line between normalcy and majesty.


© 2013 AFP

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