Meet Queen Máxima: The Netherlands' Popular And Progressive Queen

Whether or not you're into the monarchy, it's easy to understand the fascination with royal families. The glitz, glamour, scandal, and romance make for a one-of-a-kind spectacle. For most of us, it's probably the closest we can get to a real-life fairytale with the princesses, tiaras, carriages, and everything that goes along with it. Everyone and their mother knows about the British Royal Family, but if we're to talk about royal families, another family worth paying attention to can be found just a few miles east of England — the royal family of Orange in the Netherlands. They may not be as highly publicized, but the Dutch widely love them.

Of the royal family, Queen Máxima, in particular, stands out. She is not of royal lineage, and she is not Dutch either, but neither of those factors stopped her from winning both the heart of King Willem-Alexander and the Dutch. She is one of the most popular members of the royal family, per Statista. Her passion, warmth, and authenticity made her easy to love. Aside from her pleasant demeanor, she is known for championing progressive causes such as inclusive finance, the inclusion of immigrants, and LGBTQ+ rights.

She is Argentinian

Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti was born and raised in Recoleta — an affluent neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Her parents are Jorge Horacio Zorreguieta and Maria del Carmen Cerruti de Zorreguieta. Her father's side of the family, the Zorreguietas, was a powerful one in Argentina, hailing from a generation of landowners and politicians (via Dutch Review). Due to this, she grew up living a comfortable life among her six siblings: two biological and three step-siblings (via theRoyal House of the Netherlands). However, years later, her family ties sparked controversy when she was set to wed then-Prince Willem-Alexander. Notably her father's involvement in the reign of the dictator General Jorge Rafael Videla (via Reuters).

Her hometown of Argentina is notorious for its high inflation rates and unstable economy. According to Bloomberg, the country's inflation rate spiked to 83% in 2022. Even in the 1980s, the country's economic state wasn't fairing well. Hyperinflation was an area of concern, so much so that even a young Máxima took notice and found what would become her lifelong advocacy. "I decided to study economics when I was 14 because I really wanted to make the world economy better. I had experienced so much hyperinflation in Argentina, so much financial misery, I wanted to do something about it," she shared in an interview with Matthijs van Niuwkerk (via NOS). In 1995, she graduated from the Universidad Católica Argentina with a degree in economics and began working in finance.

She was an investment banker before she married into royalty

Queen Máxima's work ethic and ambition are like no other. Before marrying into royalty in 2002, Queen Máxima was making her way up the corporate ladder as an investment banker. She was affiliated with several high-ranking international companies in Buenos Aires, New York, and Brussels including HSBC James Capel Inc., and Dresdner Kleinwort Benson (via the Royal House of the Netherlands). When she met Willem-Alexander, she had just embarked on her new role at Deutsche Bank as an asset manager in New York (via Jan Magazine). As their romance blossomed, she eventually relocated to Deutsche Bank in Brussels.

Queen Máxima is a self-described "data freak" whose passion and purpose came together through the work she has put in through the years. Her experiences as a young girl in an economy-struck Argentina brought her closer to what has become her life's purpose: to financially uplift the underprivileged sectors of society.

She met King Willem-Alexander at Seville's Spring Fair

To a young Máxima, love was about finding the right timing (via Harper's Bazaar). She admired the loving relationship of her parents and hoped for the same.

Feria de Abril, or the Seville Spring Fair, is one of the most significant events in the city of Seville. Unbeknownst to Queen Máxima, it would also be the meeting grounds of her and her feature beau King Willem-Alexander. While taking photos at the fair, she caught the attention of the young prince — but not in the meet-cute way that one would hope. Upon seeing the camera lens, Willem-Alexander was annoyed because he thought Máxima was a paparazzo. "I thought, who does he think he is? If I want to take pictures, I'll take pictures!" Máxima recalled in an interview with Matthijs van Nieuwkerk. At the time, she was completely unaware that the man she had just met was a prince (via People).

Weeks later, King Willem-Alexander was in New York for a wedding, giving him another opportunity to meet with Máxima, who worked there at the time (via Jan Magazine). Upon meeting again, their romance quickly developed. After four months, King Willem-Alexander met her parents. A year after, Queen Máxima made a big move — literally and figuratively — by taking a job in Brussels, bringing her miles closer to her beloved. Talk about a whirlwind romance.

Her marriage to King Willem-Alexander caused a controversy in the Netherlands

Queen Máxima's wedding was bittersweet. Though she was marrying the love of her life, her parents were not in attendance. Once details of Queen Máxima's father's involvement in the dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla came to light, it created a roadblock to their upcoming marriage. Jorge Zorreguieta, Queen Maxima's father, served as his secretary of Agriculture. Due to Willem-Alexander's status as heir apparent, lawmakers had a say in their marriage, per the Los Angeles Times.

Her father's involvement in a dictatorial reign responsible for the kidnap and murder of at least 30,000 civilians was not taken lightly. At one point, during the heat of deliberations, Willem-Alexander was prepared to forego his title to marry Máxima (via Harper's Bazaar). In the end, Zorreguieta was banned from the wedding and any state affairs, including King Willem-Alexander's inauguration in 2013. However, he was allowed at private events such as the baptism of his grandchildren.

Queen Máxima eventually spoke up about the issue. She rejected the dictatorship, saying, "I have long rejected the Videla dictatorship, the disappearances, the torture, the murders, and all the terrible facts of that time. That has certainly left major scars on our society." She justified her father's participation in the regime by claiming that "he had the best intentions" (via Dutch Review).

She adopted a unique approach to learn more about the Netherlands

As a foreigner to a country she would later be queen consort of, she made a conscious effort to learn more about the Netherlands. It appears that Queen Máxima was a fan of hands-on learning experiences. In an interview during her 50th birthday, she shared how she put on a wig and went undercover. Her mission was to visit museums and cafes while she practiced her Dutch and treated herself to her favorite Bitterbalen.

Aside from her undercover missions, she also brushed up on her Dutch by immersing herself in local media including "Jeugdjournaal," a kids' news network on NOS; "Lingo," a Dutch game show; and "Klokhuis," a youth documentary show. Her experience working in Brussels for a time also helped with familiarizing herself with the language (via Harper's Bazaar).

Dutch is a notoriously difficult language to learn, and her efforts did not go in vain. "People were struck by the fact that as soon as she came she started to learn Dutch. We were impressed. It showed she has respect and was willing to make an effort to understand us," Dutch historian Henk te Velde shared (via BBC).

She's very popular among the Dutch

There are many things to love about Queen Máxima: her warmth, ambition, and style are the points that often draw attention. But what truly makes her popular amongst the Dutch is her "authenticity." "She is exotic, she has passion and sparkle and flamboyance, and she doesn't try to be distant like Beatrix. We love her for that, people can feel the authenticity," Dutch historian Han van Bree remarked (via the BBC).

A survey in 2018 conducted by Ipsos showed that the Dutch royal family is quite popular, with a 68% approval rating for preserving the monarchy. Queen Máxima ranked slightly higher than the king in approval ratings, scoring in the lead with an 8.0 — a couple of points above King Willem-Alexander's 7.6, and his mother, Queen Beatrix's 7.5.

Their ratings took quite a hit in 2019 during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a poorly timed family trip to Greece. Due to backlash, they cut their trip short and quickly issued an apology video. King Willem-Alexander's rating dipped from 76% to 57%, while Queen dipped from 83% to 68% (via NOS). Though she didn't normally pay much attention to surveys, she admitted that it affected her. "It hurts the heart. I work very hard to achieve things, and a holiday that didn't mean much to us. ... It hurts me," she shared in an interview with Matthijs van Nieuwkerk.

She shares three daughters with King Willem-Alexander

She shares a home with King Willem-Alexander and their three daughters, Princess Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane. The eldest, Princess Amalia, is next in line for the throne. Due to their status as a royal family, they are inevitably under scrutiny. As parents, the king and queen have tried their best to give their children a sense of normalcy. There is limited media coverage of the royal children, except for their yearly family photos and occasional interviews.

After going through it himself, King Willem-Alexander is an expert in growing up under the watching eyes of the press. Instead of living a sheltered life, he encourages his children to make the most of their freedom. "Know your own limits. Go everywhere. Make mistakes, as far as possible, out of the eyes of the public. I did that a lot. Festivals, parties, everything, and more — find your boundaries. It is a good thing to do without doing it in the public domain," he said (via Hello!).

In 2021, Princess Amalia, the heir apparent, expressed that she is not ready to be a queen just yet, which is understandable given her young age. If her father decides to abdicate early or in his untimely death, she has requested her mother to take her place temporarily. "I don't see her as the future queen, I still see her as my little baby," Queen Máxima shared

She advocates for inclusive finance

Queen Máxima first experienced poverty as a young child in Argentina. She recounted this experience in an interview with Straatjournaal and said, "I was shocked to see children of my age begging for money. When I was older, I saw adults selling fruit in train stations" (via Dutch News). These experiences, along with the hyperinflation in Argentina, drew her to the finance sector and became the foundation for one of her most pressing advocacies: inclusive finance and economic empowerment for the poor (via Trouw). In June 2019, she launched Schulden Lab Almelo (Debt Lab Almelo), a foundation created to assist vulnerable families with existing debts.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she would visit at least three to five countries a year for this cause with the goal of accessible financial services for all (via NOS). She believes that digital banking can make a huge difference, especially amongst the poor, and said, "In Tanzania, I spoke to a woman who had to travel two days a month to collect her salary in the city. If she can do digital banking using her mobile phone it makes a big difference" (via NOS). Her point was further exemplified by how digital banking aided micro and small businesses during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Her main goal is to eradicate poverty by 2030 and "increase people's chances for better lives, financial health, and financial resilience with the help of digital financial services," she shared.

She is a UN Secretary-General's Special Advocate

In 2009, Queen Máxima was appointed as the UN Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA). It comes as no surprise that the queen was passionate about her cause. "I'm trying to leave something behind: a national strategy for 'inclusive financing,' with clear targets. Fifty national strategies have already been drawn up," she announced at a press briefing (via Trouw). However, it hasn't been without its fair share of controversy.

Her royal status definitely comes in handy when she needs to pull the right audience and secure, otherwise impossible, meetings to lobby for her causes. However, it can also be disadvantageous once she finds herself in a situation with a potential conflict of interest. For this same reason, King Willem-Alexander relinquished his role in the United Nations once he was coronated. She caused quite a stir after she was found speaking to Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to Bangladesh. His involvement in the murder of a Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, made speaking to him a misstep on the queen's part. A member of parliament, Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, expressed his dismay and said, "Anyone who approved this conversation between Queen Máxima and the Saudi crown prince understands nothing about diplomacy and even less about imaging."

She likes to keep it low-key

Considering the amount of attention Queen Máxima gets as the Dutch's favorite royal, it may come as a surprise that she does not like being the center of attention. However, that seems to be the case, according to royal journalist Rick Evers. "The most photographed woman in the Netherlands does not like to be in the spotlight herself," he shared, per NOS.

She doesn't enjoy the spotlight, but she has apparently accepted that it comes with the territory. At the end of the day, it's all about making a change and putting in the work. "I think if you have this position, there's a responsibility for us to make a change," she shared in an interview with Al Jazeera (via YouTube). She continued, "it's more hard work than anything I've actually done, and I was a banker in New York working 16 hours a day." Though all of this should probably be tiring, it's the opposite for the queen, who said, "When you are actually doing something you like, you find the time and you find the energy."

She makes time for her family

With just a peek at Queen Máxima's resume, you can tell she has been booked and busy for a long time. Technically, she has three full-time jobs: fulfilling her roles as queen, UNSGSA special advocate, and being a mother. Regardless of her full plate, she makes it a point to spend time with her children, per People. It's admirable how she manages to stay afloat. The trick? Aside from having an amazing team that helps her, it boils down to managing her priorities (via YouTube). It's probably the best scheduling hack there is and what helped her once she became a working mother. "I think all working mothers do everything they can to make it go smoothly. And my priority is my children. So when they need us, I'm there," Máxima revealed to BlauwBloed.

After the kids are in bed, she proceeds to get more work done. "I hold telephone meetings when the children have gone to bed. And I give speeches via video links so I don't have to fly," Máxima shared, according to People. Princess Alexia backed her mom up on this one by commending her ability to make time for her family amidst a busy schedule, and said, "I think she is doing very well as a mother. She has a very busy job, of course, but I still spend a lot of time with her. All of us, including my father" (via Harper's Bazaar).

She advocates for mental health awareness

A tragic event in Queen Máxima's family life drew her closer to the cause of mental health awareness. Her younger sister, Inés Zorreguieta, suffered from depression and took her own life in 2018. "We knew she wasn't well ... it was a bit of a taboo. We didn't know exactly what the diagnosis was and how we could help her," Maxima expressed in an interview. She and her sister were quite close, and aside from being a bridesmaid at her wedding, Zorreguieta was also the godmother of her youngest daughter Princess Ariane (via People). Her death came as a shock to the queen. "After her suicide, we were overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, loss, and powerlessness ... that we could not help Inés," Máxima admitted.

Four years after her sister's passing, Queen Máxima became the honorary president of the Mind Us Foundation, a foundation that advocates for mental health awareness amongst the youth. In her speech, she encouraged people to be open about mental health issues to remove their stigma, saying, "We have to get psychological problems out of the taboo. We have to talk about it." Her daughter, Princess Amalia, is also open about her mental health and has shared that she occasionally goes to therapy, per the BBC.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

She is progressive

One's royal status can often deter participation in partisan matters. However, this was not the case for Queen Máxima. She is not one to steer clear of controversial topics, and is, in fact, very vocal about her stance on the inclusion of immigrants, LGBTQ+, and abortion.

Queen Máxima takes an active role in the causes she believes in. On the topic of abortion, she actively lobbied for a pro-choice stance — specifically, in a conversation with Governor Greg Abbott in Texas after stricter abortion rulings were enacted Post-Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Aside from lobbying to government and other heads of state, she also made appearances at important conferences such as the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) conference in 2013, one of the first European LGBTQ+ conferences (via the Government of the Netherlands). In 2016, she also opened the international conference on transgender health care, as per Harper's Bazaar. "We [King Willem-Alexander and I] think support for the LGBT+ community is very important. We need to make the world the same for everyone so that everyone feels at home wherever they live," she said after visiting a famous gay bar in San Francisco called the Twin Peaks Tavern (via Out).

She is known for her sense of style

Queen Máxima is one fashionable royal who apparently isn't afraid of a little experimentation in her wardrobe. According to the South China Morning Post, Queen Máxima is credited with being one of the first modern monarchs to wear a pantsuit at a royal gathering. Her style is emblematic of playful elegance, very similar to her own personality; it's anything but dull. From her statement headpieces to her color-coordinated outfits to her thoughtfully planned jewelry — she knows how to dress for an occasion. 

Oh, and we must not forget wide-brimmed hats, which appear to be one of her staple pieces. Various publications have chronicled her looks, and she's often been dubbed one of the most stylish royals in the world. Being one of the most stylish royals, she has many notable outfits — and she isn't averse to repeating them.

She wowed the crowd at her wedding with a stunning Valentino wedding gown and continues to work with renowned fashion houses for her note-worthy looks. Not all her items are custom-made; she has also been seen in more affordable pieces from Zara.