Dutch Queen Beatrix abdicates, making son Willem-Alexander the Netherlands' 1st king in 123 years

(CBS/AP) AMSTERDAM Queen Beatrix signed the official act of abdication Tuesday at the Royal Palace in downtown Amsterdam, making her eldest son Willem-Alexander the first Dutch king in more than 100 years.

The much-loved Beatrix -- known as "Queen Bea" -- ended her 33-year-reign, resigning -- in layman's terms -- Tuesday in a nationally televised signing ceremony as thousands cheered outside and millions more watched on television. She left with a retirement party for a million people that will go on late into the night, nearly all of the revelers dressed in orange, the official color of the Dutch royal family. Royalty from across Europe -- including Britain's Charles and Camilla -- also gathered in Amsterdam, to witness the 75-year-old queen formally abdicate.

It's a celebration tinged with regret because many here say they'll miss their queen. One reveler said, "There is sadness, it's not just me, it's all over the country. We'll be sad to see her go."

With her abdication, she becomes Princess Beatrix and her son ascends the throne as King Willem-Alexander. He is the first Dutch king since Willem III died in 1890. The 46-year-old father of three's popular Argentine-born wife, an economist, becomes Queen Maxima, and their eldest daughter, Catharina-Amalia, becomes the Princess of Orange and first in line to the throne.

But unlike in Britain - where Prince Charles will probably only become king when his mother, the queen, passes away - in the Netherlands, it's a tradition for monarchs to retire when they reach old age. Beatrix's mother and grandmother also abdicated.

Willem-Alexander gripped his visibly emotional mother's hand after they both signed the abdication document.

Willem-Alexander has been groomed to be king since the moment he was born. For many years, he had a reputation as a playboy prince, reportedly dating a lingerie model. But then he settled down - and his glamorous wife gave a boost to the royal family - just as Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, has in the U.K.

But Dutch historian Joost Rosendaal told CBS News the new king could find his mother is a hard act to follow: "He is more or less not king by grace of god, but king by grace of the people. And if he loses this connection with the people then his power will be diminished, and the Republican movement will getting stronger."

In tough economic times many wealthy European royals are struggling to hold on to the support of their subjects. Willem-Alexander and Maxima will have to tread carefully to keep the public happy. But with so much excitement over the Netherlands, new fresh-faced king and queen, the Dutch royal family are riding a wave of popularity.

But in these tough economic times, many wealthy European royals are losing their popularity. But the Dutch royal family has a reputation for being down-to-earth - and King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will hope that helps them hang on to the support of their people.

Watch Holly Williams' report above.

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