Queen Beatrix thanks Dutch people on eve of abdication

Media caption, Anna Holligan tours the venues involved in the investiture of the new Dutch king

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has made a farewell national address on the eve of her abdication and investiture of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander.

The queen thanked the Dutch people for their "heart-warming displays of affection" and paid tribute to her late husband, Prince Claus.

The queen was also attending a sumptuous gala dinner in her honour at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

She has been head of state since 1980, when her mother abdicated.

Monday evening's gala dinner was attended by her family and 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.

In her televised address, an emotional Queen Beatrix said that 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."

Paying tribute to Prince Claus, who died in 2002, she said he had helped modernise the House of Orange.

Media caption, People in the Netherlands are getting excited about the new Dutch king

"Perhaps history will bear out that the choice of my partner was my best decision."

The queen 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.

Now aged 75, the woman known affectionately as Queen Bea has said it is time for a new generation to take over.

In a short ceremony in the Royal Palace on Tuesday, she will sign the instrument of abdication.

Her son will become the Netherlands' first king since Willem III, who died in 1890.

Earlier on Monday, Willem-Alexander, 46, his future queen Maxima, an Argentinian-born investment banker, and their three children took part in a final dress rehearsal at Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk.

Abdication 'tradition'

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.

She 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.

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