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King Willem-Alexander takes Dutch throne

King Willem-Alexander has been sworn in as the new King of the Netherlands.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands leaves with his wife Queen Maxima at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam on April 30, 2013 following his investiture.

AMSTERDAM - Willem-Alexander became the first king of the Netherlands since 1890 on Tuesday, ascending a throne largely stripped of political power, but still invested with enormous symbolic significance for the Dutch people.

At his investiture in Amsterdam's 600-year-old Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, the 46-year-old monarch swore an oath to uphold the Dutch constitution and stressed the need for unity at a time of economic crisis.

"I take office in a period when many in the kingdom feel vulnerable or uncertain. Vulnerable in their job or in their health, uncertain about their income or their immediate environment," Willem-Alexander said at his inauguration, attended by crown princes and princesses and other dignitaries.

"We can no longer take it for granted that children will be better off than their parents ... Our strength is therefore not in isolation but by cooperating."

Willem-Alexander - who is a water management specialist, a useful expertise in a country where much of the land is below sea level - and his wife Maxima, a former investment banker from Argentina, are expected to bring a less formal touch to the monarchy at a time of national austerity and budget cuts.

April 30, or Queen's Day, has always been an occasion for partying in the Netherlands, and Amsterdam has been awash with orange - the color of the House of Orange - for days.

Houses were covered in bunting and flags and shop windows were stuffed with orange cakes, sweets, clothes and flowers.

Many people took Monday off work and started celebrating in earnest from Monday evening.

Nearly a million people were expected at street parties in the capital where there was dancing to bands and DJs in a carnival atmosphere.

An estimated 25,000 people, many dressed in orange or wearing orange wigs, hats, feather boas and crowns, massed in Dam Square next to the Royal Palace to watch the abdication and inauguration being broadcast live.

Blinking back tears, former Queen Beatrix stepped out onto the balcony of the Royal Palace and presented her son to the crowds of cheering well-wishers.

"Some moments ago I abdicated from the throne. I am happy and thankful to present to you your new King," said Beatrix, 75, who retired after 33 years in the role, following in the tradition of her mother and grandmother. She now takes the title of princess.

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