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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 12:07 GMT
Dutch gear up for fairytale wedding
Woman browses among wedding merchandise
Dutch shops are packed with wedding merchandise
Amsterdam is awash with bright decorations as the Dutch prepare for the marriage on Saturday of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander to his Argentinian sweetheart, whose controversial family ties have failed to stop her winning the nation's affections.

The couple
The couple met at a Spanish party
Queen Beatrix's eldest son will exchange vows with Maxima Zorreguieta in the capital's Nieuwe Kerk church, a vast structure next to the royal palace on the Dam Square, in a wedding which will be broadcast to millions across the world.

Stringent security measures are to be imposed on the day, including the deployment of 4,000 police officers and plain-clothed detectives, metal detectors to uncover guns and bombs, and restrictions on air traffic above the city.

The city council has however allowed some demonstrations to take place on Saturday, gathering anti-monarchists, anarchists, and those opposed to the prince's choice of a bride.

Miss Zorreguieta's father served as an agriculture minister for two years during Argentina's Videla military dictatorship, under which as many as 30,000 people are believed to have been killed.

Enchanting Argentinian

But the 30-year-old Maxima has by all accounts managed to overcome any public reservations about her marriage to the crown prince, whom she met at a party in Seville.

When the couple announced their engagement last year, the glamorous Maxima denounced the regime which her father had served and declared that he would not be attending the wedding.

Jorge Videla
The Videla connection has largely been brushed aside
The nation as a whole is also unperturbed by her lack of aristocratic roots, or the fact that she is a Catholic marrying into the Protestant royal family.

Correspondents say that the fair-haired bride, a former New York investment banker, has in fact rather outshone the blond prince, who only recently spruced up a beer-loving image with a raft of official engagements and work for water management organisations.

The couple has also made efforts to get closer to the people with trips to schools and homeless shelters, and they recently took part in a royal chat session - which crashed shortly after going on air.

It remains unclear whether the webcast failed due to sabotage by protest groups.

Storybook spectacle

Nearly 2,000 people have been invited to the wedding.

Although an official invitation list has not been released, the presence of some guests has been confirmed.

Britain's Prince Charles will attend the ceremony, although his companion Camilla Parker Bowles will not accompany him. Spain's Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Christina are due to attend, as is Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito - but not his wife.

The United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela are also expected to attend.

After the wedding, the pair will ride through the streets in a golden horse-drawn carriage in a fairytale spectacle for the crowds.

See also:

23 Jan 02 | Europe
Dutch royal chat session crashes
09 Apr 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Wedding blues for Dutch monarchy
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