9 things you might not know about King Willem-Alexander

We're royally surprised 👑

King Willem-Alexander has been the Netherlands’ head of state for over 10 years now, but there’s more to him than “just” being king.

From secretly flying KLM planes to having the nickname “Prince Pils” while in university, King Willem Alexander has led an interesting life, that’s for sure.

1. King Willem-Alexander’s pretty normal upbringing (for a future king)

Willem-Alexander was born in the Academic Hospital in Utrecht and attended primary school in Baarn nearby.

Following his family moving house, he attended Eerste Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum in The Hague for high school and was placed in a ‘normal’ class.

His parents, Beatrix (then Queen of the Netherlands) and Claus, insisted that Willem-Alexander should not receive any form of preferential treatment from his teachers.

Here’s a cute video of Willem-Alexander and his brothers being interviewed about their upcoming move to The Hague in 1980 (Willem-Alexander reckons he’d rather stay where he is).

2. In his teens, King Willem-Alexander left for Wales

In his teenage years, Willem-Alexander found the pressure of being the heir to the throne a bit too much.

He biked to secondary school each day and would often try to escape from the detectives employed by the royal family to keep him safe.

He made a decision with his parents that it would be good for him to escape the Netherlands for a while, to finish his secondary school education at the Atlantic College in Wales.

drone-photo-of-flat-dutch-landscape-with-canals-and-windmills
It was probably very exciting for King Willem to see hills in Wales for the first time! Image: Depositphotos

3. King Willem-Alexander competed in the sports Elfstedentocht tour

King Willem-Alexander also competed in the 1986 Elfstedentocht tour — a 200-kilometre-long ice skating tour in Friesland (that might never happen again).

READ MORE: 2021 Elfstedentocht? Dutch cabinet in favour of ice skating competition as Netherlands freezes

It’s good that Willem did it back in the eighties, then! He competed in the ice skating tour under the pseudonym W. A. Van Buren, just as he did when he ran the New York marathon in 1992. He completed both events.

4. The Dutch King studied history at Leiden University

In 1987, Willem-Alexander began his studies in History at the oldest Dutch university, Leiden University and finished his MA in 1993.

He wrote his final thesis on how the Netherlands responded to the French decision to leave NATO’s integrated command structure. Helpful for someone destined to be the head of state!

READ MORE | Photo report! An ode to the lovely city of Leiden

Studying at Leiden University seems to be a tradition for the Dutch royal family, as Willem’s mother, Beatrix, and his grandmother, Juliana, also studied there.

5. While studying, Willem-Alexander acquired the nickname “Prince Pils”

During his university life, Willem Alexander acquired the nickname “Prince Pils” to his own displeasure, according to the NOS. He was a member of the infamous student association Minerva.

It was a rough time for the then-prince, as gossip magazines scrutinised his private life and especially his drinking activities.

His intellectual capacities were also questioned by not-so-illustrious magazines. You could hardly blame him for enjoying a Pilsner every once in a while. The crowds will certainly be raising one for him on King’s Day!

@dutchreview King Willem just knows how to throw a party 😏👑 #dutchreview #CapCut #meme #nederland #fyp #foryou #holland #voorjou #amsterdam #kingsday ♬ original sound – DutchReview

6. He didn’t tell Queen Máxima who he was when they first met

When the King first bumped into his future wife, Queen Máxima, he initially didn’t tell her who he was. The pair met at the 1999 Seville Festival in Spain.

When first introducing himself to Máxima, he said his name was merely Alexander — when he was, in fact, Willem-Alexander Prince of Orange.

When he finally did tell the queen his title, she thought he was joking!

7. He proposed to Queen Máxima while ice skating

It seems that the King is a bit of a romantic. He proposed to Queen Máxima whilst the two were ice skating on the frozen lake of Huis Ten Bosch.

Last year, he recreated that moment on Valentine’s Day and shared it with the public on Instagram — you must admit, it’s pretty sweet.

8. King Willem-Alexander might have secretly flown a plane you were on

King Willem-Alexander works as a pilot for KLM occasionally. He began doing this during his mother’s reign and has said that if he were not a member of the royal family, he would have liked to have been an airline pilot.

In 2017, King Willem-Alexander revealed that he had actually been flying Cityhopper KLM planes once or twice a month, even after his ascension to the throne.

READ MORE | King Willem Alexander’s secret flying career

In a pilot’s uniform and cap, he was rarely recognised when walking through the airport — though some clever passengers recognised his voice over the intercom.

9. Like any Dutchie, he has an interest in water management

Willem-Alexander knows his roots and his waterways.

He worked as an honorary member of the World Commission on Water for the 21st century, and he was a patron of the Global Water Partnership, a collaboration between the World Bank, the UN, and the Swedish government.

READ MORE | Do the royals pay taxes in the Netherlands?

His water-focused career continued when he was appointed Chairperson of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.


Well, the more you know! Hopefully, there are a few surprises here for you, even if there’s a lot about the Dutch royals that we already know and love (though that depends).

Did we miss any interesting facts about King Willem-Alexander? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Ailish Lalor
Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. William Alexander met maxima in a party where she offered to be the photographer for the party as the one her friend booked count come. Maximas friend introduced them and she told her his the price of The Netherlands

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