Deconstructing Máxima of the Netherlands: The Dutch queen’s life, miracles and hardships

The fictional series ‘Máxima’ will focus on the Argentine economist who became a princess after she married Prince Willem of Orange. The show’s creators avoid comparisons with ‘The Crown’ and say that they are telling a true story, even if it looks like a fairytale

Delfina Chaves
A scene from the series 'Máxima', in which Argentine actress Delfina Chaves plays Máxima Zorreguieta.Martijn van Gelder

Fans of palace intrigues are in luck: the House of Orange now has its own series. Máxima, as the TV drama is called, focuses on Máxima Zorreguieta, the Argentine economist who became princess consort of the Netherlands after she married then-Prince Willem-Alexander in 2002. The German-Dutch co-production officially premiered this week at the MIPCOM audiovisual fair in Cannes. It is based on Dutch journalist Marcia Luyten’s book Máxima Zorreguieta: Moederland (Máxima Zorreguieta: Motherland, 2021).

“We tried to make it as realistic as possible,” says Rachel van Bommel, of the Millstreet Films production company, one of those overseeing the project. “We start from Marcia’s book, which is a good basis, and it sticks to the facts, but it’s not a personal diary. That’s what our screenwriters are there for.” For this authorized biography, the now-queen did not grant any interviews, although she did give the author permission to speak to family and friends. Van Bommel headed the entourage (along with the director and cast) that debuted the show before the media at a screening in Amsterdam in August. A few hours later, it was time to shoot some of the last scenes at the Vollenhoven country house, the Dutch royal family’s former vacation home, complete with ponds, gardens and greenhouses, on the outskirts of Utrecht. Justus Riesenkampff of distributor Beta, the German side of the business, avoids comparisons with The Crown, Netflix’s hit series about Elizabeth II and the British royal family. He sees Máxima as “a true story, even if it looks like a fairytale.”

The six-episode first season covers the first 30 years of Zorreguieta’s life: from her childhood in Buenos Aires, through her stay in New York while working on Wall Street, her first contact with Willem of Holland at the Seville Fair in Spain in 1999, to their 2001 engagement. The second installment is already in production and will include her controversial wedding. Máxima is the daughter of Jorge Zorreguieta, a high-ranking official in Jorge Videla’s dictatorship (he was Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock between 1979 and 1981). In light of some of the Dutch Parliament’s rejection of the marriage, she had to ask her father not to attend the royal wedding. As a show of solidarity with her husband, her mother, Maria del Carmen Cerruti, did not attend either.

“As a daughter, I find it terrible that my father is not at my wedding, but that’s the way it is and I understand the feelings of the Dutch about it,” Máxima declared at the press conference before the wedding. “I lament the dictatorship, the disappearances, the deaths. We all know the evils that the military regime caused and as an Argentine I feel a lot of sadness about it,” she said at the time. For Marnie Blok, the show’s lead scriptwriter, this story is reminiscent of Shakespearean dramas: “She had always been very loyal to her family and her father, whom she adored. However, when the time came, she had to choose between remaining loyal to her family or to her love. And that must have been hard indeed.”

A scene from the show 'Máxima' that recreates a date between Máxima Zorreguieta and Willem of Orange in the early days of their relationship.
A scene from the show 'Máxima' that recreates a date between Máxima Zorreguieta and Willem of Orange in the early days of their relationship. Martijn van Gelder

Delfina Chaves, the Argentine actress chosen to play Zorreguieta, is of the same opinion. “I’m sure it was the hardest decision she ever had to make in her life,” she says. “Because every time she has returned home, she has always stated the love she feels for her parents and how proud she is of them.” Chaves, who, like Máxima after her engagement, had to learn Dutch, values the importance of “understanding and remembering Argentina’s history, something essential for our democracy.”

For the scriptwriter, the queen is already a Dutchwoman. “At the beginning I asked myself, ‘Can I believe this relationship or is she playing a role?” confesses Blok. “I’m quite critical of the House of Orange, but in the end she won us all over. I even thought he wasn’t attractive enough for a woman like her. Then I realized that she loved his sense of humor.” Producer Rachel van Bommel goes even further: “There are local journalists who claim that she changed public opinion about the crown, saving our monarchy”

An image of the young couple Máxima Zorreguieta and then-Prince Willem-Alexander in September 2001, a year before their wedding.
An image of the young couple Máxima Zorreguieta and then-Prince Willem-Alexander in September 2001, a year before their wedding. Alain BENAINOUS (Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)

Dutch actress Elsie de Brauw plays Queen Beatrix, who abdicated in 2013 in favor of her son, at the age of 75. “She was a very firm person. She always showed a lot of character and was considered a bit cold,” the actor says. “But she was also smart, because Claus von Amsberg and she went through the same situation as Máxima and Willem.” He was German, and when they married in 1966, memories of World War II were still fresh. “The whole nation was against him then,” recalls De Brauw. “That’s why she knew what Máxima was going through and was very careful. Also, she thought that Willem needed a strong woman by his side.”

A scene from the series 'Máxima', with the actresses playing Máxima Zorreguieta and Beatrix, then Queen of the Netherlands.
A scene from the series 'Máxima', with the actresses playing Máxima Zorreguieta and Beatrix, then Queen of the Netherlands.Martijn van Gelder

Buenos Aires-born and Madrid-based actress Valeria Alonso, who plays María del Carmen Cerruti, the queen’s mother, believes that Argentina feels a kind of national pride about Máxima. “The Argentine loves to be around that kind of power,” she tells EL PAÍS in a statement. Alonso describes her character as “an incredible challenge. In fact, when I went to Argentina recently, I tried to have a coffee with [Máxima’s] mother. I found myself at a party with a lady who is a friend of hers. I asked her if I could ask her [Mrs. Cerruti] if she would like to meet me for an afternoon, because it would be great for my acting work. The lady sent her a message, but she replied that she didn’t interfere in her daughter’s affairs.”

The first installment of the show, which has not yet finalized the platform on which it will appear and its premiere date, wrapped in September; the program was shot on location in the Netherlands, New York, Seville, Madrid and Buenos Aires. The producers are already planning the next seasons. The Dutch royal family’s recent news — including the discovery of King Willem’s grandfather’s Nazi party card, the photos of the royal couple having a few beers with Vladimir Putin in 2014, shortly before he invaded Crimea, and the 2018 suicide of Máxima’s younger sister Agnes — means that Máxima will not lack material. Then there are the mafia’s threats to the heiress to the crown. As director Saskia Diesing explains, “When Amalia, the crown princess, turned 18 in 2022, it was announced that she would live in a student apartment with friends during her university years. The idea failed, as a plot by the local mafia to kidnap her was discovered.”

A year ago, the police arrested Ridouan Taghi as the head of the Mocro Maffia, one of the country’s largest drug-trafficking rings. “Although he is in prison, he has a bunch of hitmen on the outside, and [they] are suspected of murdering an opposing lawyer and an investigative journalist,” adds Van Bommel; she does not rule out addressing this episode in future seasons. “I think it’s reasonable to question whether we need a royal family. But on the other hand, I wonder if someone who was born into royalty and never asked for it, but is just the firstborn, deserves to live in that situation.”

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