AMSTERDAM — Dutch Queen Beatrix is abdicating after a 33-year reign and her newly popular son is becoming king.
He is highlighting a new generation of young royals waiting in the wings across Europe. Some are more popular than others, but the heirs to Europe’s thrones are often more glamorous and closer to their subjects than sitting kings and queens.
Here’s a snapshot of how royal houses are faring across the continent.
Willem-Alexander – who becomes king the moment his mother abdicates Tuesday – has sometimes struggled to match the popularity of Queen Beatrix.
But his marriage to a charismatic Argentine-born banker a decade ago, becoming a father and a recent televised interview have all given his approval ratings a boost.
His wife, Princess Maxima, charmed the nation by swiftly mastering the Dutch language and injecting a little Latin flair into the monarchy.
The British House of Windsor has overcome years of crisis to rest secure in its subjects’ hearts – thanks in large part to the celebrity status of the youngest royals.
The monarchy’s current popularity was highlighted at Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned for 60 years.
It reached its lowest ebb in 1997 when Prince Charles’ former wife Diana died in a car crash in Paris. Then, the royal family was criticized as aloof and unfeeling.
Since then, the family and its staff have worked hard to turn around that image. Last year’s wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was an extravaganza of pomp and glamor that cemented the new couple – young, attractive, socially at ease – at the heart of a 21st-century monarchy.
The Spanish monarchy’s popularity has slumped dramatically over the last year. The 75-year-old King Juan Carlos’ woes began when he was criticized for going on a luxurious safari last year during Spain’s crippling financial crisis. He later made an unprecedented apology but the damage was done.
It has only gotten worse. One of the king’s princess daughters and her husband have been named as suspects in a corruption scandal, a first for a member of the king’s immediate family.
Both incidents have led to have handful of calls for the king to step down and let his son take over, but neither of the country’s two main parties support these calls – openly at least.
The general consensus is that the Royal Palace could do with a modernizing facelift.
Beatrix’s decision to step down has had an immediate impact on the Netherlands’ southern neighbor Belgium, where King Albert is 78 and looking increasingly frail. He was widely seen as a transitional monarch when he ascended the throne in 1993 but his reign has stretched over two decades as his bilingual kingdom struggled through several political crises.
There has been a chorus of voices that Albert should follow the Dutch example and abdicate in favor of Crown Prince Philippe. Yet Albert’s son has always been seen as someone low on charisma and political savvy.
Compounding the royal difficulties in Belgium is the increasing call for far-reaching autonomy for northern Dutch-Speaking Flanders and francophone Wallonia, putting the royal house, the symbol of a united nation, in an increasingly difficult spot.
The Swedish royal family’s public image has been dented in recent years by scandalous reports about the king, including allegations of extramarital affairs and visits to shady night clubs.
However, his eldest daughter, Crown Princess Victoria, remains hugely popular and the monarchy seems safe for at least one more generation.
The Swedish royal house also got a boost amid the pageantry of Victoria’s 2010 wedding to her former personal trainer Daniel Westling.
Like Willem-Alexander in the Netherlands, Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik married a popular foreign bride. Frederik met his Australian-born wife Mary in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics and married her four years later. The couple has four children.