Dutch Queen Beatrix, who turns 75 on Thursday, announced Monday she is abdicating in favor of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander, saying it was time to hand the crown to the next generation after more than three decades on the throne.
Willem-Alexander, 45, will be sworn in -- Dutch monarchs are technically not crowned -- as king on April 30. Decades of grooming for the throne involved shaking off his image as a beer-drinking fraternity boy whose blunt comments upset the media and politicians.
In a television broadcast, Beatrix, who once faced scandal over her father's involvement in a bribery case and whose middle son lies in a coma after a skiing accident, said she was stepping down because she felt Willem-Alexander was ready.
"It is with the greatest confidence that on April 30 of this year I will pass on the kingship to my son, the Prince of Orange, she said. "He and Princess Maxima are entirely ready for their future tasks."
Willem-Alexander will be the first Dutch king in more than a century.
His wife, who will become a queen, is from Argentina. They have three young children.
The decision appeared popular with the people.
A constitutional monarchy, the Netherlands has reduced the involvement of the royal house in politics.
The queen's full name is Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard, Princess of Oranje-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld. She rose to the throne in 1980, when she succeeded Queen Juliana.
Queen Wilhelmina handed over to Juliana in 1948 after half a century on the throne