Skip to content

Happy Birthday, Máxima! The Queen of the Netherlands turns 50

In 1999, Máxima made her first public appearance alongside Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. Since then she has been in the spotlight – radiant, confident, elegant. What is the secret of the blonde Argentine at the court of the Dutch?

Long blonde hair loose, always fresh – that’s how the Dutch met and fell in love with Máxima Zorreguieta a good 20 years ago. When the Argentinean married Crown Prince Willem-Alexander a little later, the royal fairy tale seemed perfect: she cried the most beautiful tears ever shed at a royal wedding and kissed the most beautiful kiss ever kissed at a royal wedding. The world was enraptured. Now Queen Máxima celebrates her 50th birthday.

"Máxima was slightly chaotic

On May 17, 2021, Máxima will be 50 years old, and there’s nothing to suggest that the royal cäfig is constricting her. On the contrary, she is bursting with energy, whether she is opening a kindergarten or parleying with a president at a gala dinner. She is also the UN Special Representative for Inclusive Financing in Developing Countries. And let’s not forget: Mother of three teenage daughters.

Máxima brought glamour to the rather contemplative royal house. "She is spontaneous, intelligent and used to be slightly chaotic" that is how Marcia Luyten, who presented the biography of the queen, describes her. Her mother taught her to bring structure into her life, a virtue that must definitely have helped her, even if things are not as strict with the Oranjes as they are with the Windsors in Great Britain. The government also gives her far more professional freedom than, say, her father-in-law, the German Prince Claus. But even in Holland, the spotlight can be unforgiving.

Máxima and Willem-Alexander 2001
In love and engaged! Máxima and Willem-Alexander in October 2001. Photo: Getty Images

Máxima experienced this in 2007, when she said in a speech that there was no Dutch identity: "There is no such thing as the Niederländer." Half the country felt that it had been put on the spot. The sentence was actually intended as a compliment to the diversity of the people.

Máxima grew up in a wealthy family in Buenos Aires. Family ties were close; she had two brothers, a sister and three half-sisters. The children attended private schools, played sports, spent vacations on their own estate, and made music. Máxima played guitar, often at formal dinners. "Then she played and sang, for example, a song by the Beatles", the biographer said.

Máxima got to know Willem-Alexander in Seville

She was ambitious, wanted to go higher, and after studying economics she ventured to New York in 1996. By day she worked hard in a bank, by night she partied at jet-set parties. It was at one such party in Seville in 1999 that she met the red-blond Dutchman – the rest is history.

But this story also has dark chapters:Máxima’s father was a member of the military government in the 1970s, which was guilty of the worst human rights violations. "That was not talked about in her family and among friends", Luyten says. In the Netherlands, she was confronted with her father’s past; it could even stand in the way of her marriage. Experts determined that Jorge Zorreguieta must have known about the violence but was not actively involved in it. However, he was not welcome at official events until his death in 2017.

Dutch royal family
WIllem-Alexander, Máxima and the three daughters Ariane, Alexia and Amalia together with Máxima’s mother-in-law,Princess Beatrix Photo: Getty Images

Máxima stood by her father: "He had the best intentions, and I believe in him", she once said. At her wedding in 2002, she then shed bitter tears when the tango "Adiós Nonino" (Goodbye Väterchen) was played in the church – tears for the father who was not allowed to be there.

And how is it today? Biographer Luyten asked family and friends in Argentina whether she actually felt at home with the pale people on the North Sea. "They said: Máxima has settled in perfectly." In fact, life in the north also has its advantages: "Finally she doesn’t stand out so much", Luyten knows. In her home country, the tall blonde was an exception among the rather petite dark-haired women. "Here she can finally wear high heels."

Máxima sets fashion accents

But of course she stands out with her elegant outfits in a country that has elevated the casual look with jeans and sneakers to a principle. "Lekker makkelijk" (shön simple) , this does not apply to the fashion queen. The jacket tailored from an old mailbag, for example, became just as much a Máxima classic as the royal blue robe she wore to the 2013 change of throne.

As queen, Máxima has innumerable duties. She cuts briquettes, sheds hands, visits businesses, and waves and beams as if there were nothing more beautiful. The former banker also takes her voluntary work for the UN seriously. Confidants know that she is still talking on the phone and reading documents until late in the evening.

During the Corona pandemic, however, her social antenna briefly failed. When the Dutch were to stay home in October 2020, the royal family went to their Greek villa. The outrage was so great that the royal couple had to apologize in a TV address.

With material from dpa