The House of Orange-Nassau

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The House of Orange-Nassau, abdicating Dutch Queen Beatrix's family, has historically played a central role in the politics and government of the Netherlands, which it transformed from a republic into a monarchy.

Indirectly, the French revolution led to the creation of the Dutch monarchy, when the Congress of Vienna in 1815 reorganised Europe on the ashes of the Empire.

William I returned from exile in England, where he had been driven by Napoleon, and became the Netherlands' first monarch.

He reigned over a territory that included the current Netherlands, the Austrian Netherlands, which became Belgium in 1830, and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which became independent in 1890.

Behind the history of the monarchy is a long tradition of state control, which goes back to a conflict between William the Silent (1533-1584), who backed Protestantism, and King Philip II, who wanted to impose Catholicism by force.

Even during the republic, the Orange-Nassaus (Oranje in Dutch) provided the country with "stadhouders", all-powerful governors of the province-states.

After the reigns of William II (1792-1849) and III (1817-1890), the torch passed to women. Queen Emma, the wife of William III, became regent while waiting for Wilhelmina (1880-1962) to come of age.

The queen, who married a German prince, Henri de Mecklemburg, won respect in exile in London by motivating the fight against the Netherlands' Nazi invaders during World War II.

Juliana (1909-2004) succeeded her in 1947 and was noted for her simplicity, choosing to be called "Madam" rather than "Your Majesty" and occasionally doing her shopping by bicycle.

From her marriage to prince Bernhard de Lippe-Biesterfeld, another German prince, were born Beatrix (1938), Irene (1939), Margriet (1942) and Christina (1947). Beatrix, the eldest, married the German diplomat Claus von Amsberg in 1966 and came to the throne in 1980, aged 42.

After the down-to-earth style of her mother, Beatrix tried to restore the prestige of the monarchy, insisting that she be called "Your Majesty".

She has three sons -- princes Willem-Alexander (1967), Johan Friso (1968) and Constantin (1969). The heir, Willem-Alexander, in 2001 married an Argentine, Maxima Zorreguieta.

Prince Friso has been in a coma since a skiing accident in February, 2012 in the Austrian Alps.

© 2013 AFP

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