Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has abdicated and handed the throne to her son Prince Willem-Alexander.
Queen Beatrix, 75, signed the instrument of abdication in Amsterdam after 33 years on the throne.
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander has now become the country’s first king since 1890.
Huge crowds of orange-clad partygoers are in Amsterdam to pay tribute to the popular queen, who maintained a recent Dutch tradition to hand over to a new generation.
Queen Beatrix announced her intention to stand down in January, saying her son was ready to reign and that it was time for the throne to be held by “a new generation”.
The Queen formally relinquished throne at a short ceremony in the Royal Palace on Tuesday, signing a statement which read: “I now withdraw from my office of Queen of the Netherlands, and the monarchy will now be transferred to my eldest son, Willem-Alexander.”
There were huge cheers from the crowds outside, watching on giant screens in Dam Square, as Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima signed the deed.
Shortly after, the three royals emerged on a balcony above Dam Square.
King Willem-Alexander thanked his mother for “33 moving and interesting years”, saying he and the Dutch public and people in Dutch overseas territories were “intensely grateful” to her.
The three then held hands on the balcony as the national anthem was played, before the new king and queen’s three young daughters were brought out to wave at the crowds.
Willem-Alexander will later be officially sworn at the Nieuwe Kerk, before a joint session of the Dutch parliament.
His wife Maxima, a 41-year-old Argentine-born investment banker, will become queen consort.
In the evening, the royal family will take part in a water pageant.
The ceremonies will be attended by other invited royals and high-ranking dignitaries, including Britain’s Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain and Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and his wife.
About a million visitors were set to pour into Amsterdam, and street parties are taking place across the nation.
On Monday, Queen Beatrix thanked the nation, saying the people’s devotion had given her the strength to carry on during her 33-year reign.
“Without your heart-warming and encouraging displays of affection, the burdens, which certainly have existed, would have weighed heavily,” she said.
Paying tribute to her late husband Prince Claus, who died in 2002, she said he had helped modernize the House of Orange.
“Perhaps history will bear out that the choice of my partner was my best decision,” said the monarch, who is known affectionately as Queen Bea.
She said hereditary authority of itself did not give substance to a contemporary monarchy; rather this was earned through “the will to serve the country”.
Willem-Alexander is well-prepared for the task ahead of him and will stand above party and group interests, she said.
Prince Willem-Alexander has already said he wants to “be a king that can bring society together, representative and encouraging in the 21st Century”.
“People can address me as they wish because then they can feel comfortable.”
Queen Beatrix is the sixth monarch from the House of Orange-Nassau, which has ruled the Netherlands since the early 19th Century.
Correspondents say she is extremely popular with most Dutch people, but her abdication was widely expected and will not provoke a constitutional crisis.
Under Dutch law, the monarch has few powers and the role is considered ceremonial.
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.
Queen Beatrix has remained active in recent years, but her reign has also seen traumatic events.
In 2009 a would-be attacker killed eight people when he drove his car into crowds watching the queen and other members of the royal family in a national holiday parade.
In February last year her second son, Prince Friso, was struck by an avalanche in Austria and remains in a coma.
Abdication day in the Netherlands
- 10:00 local time – Queen Beatrix signs the act of abdication at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam
- 10:30 – the former queen, now Princess Beatrix, and the new King Willem-Alexander appear on the palace balcony, with new Queen Maxima
- 14:00 – King Willem-Alexander to be sworn in at the Nieuwe Kerk
- 19:30 – performance of The Song for the King followed by a water pageant