The Netherlands' Queen Máxima might just be the world's most overqualified royal
Ever since the introduction of Meghan Markle, a Northwestern University-educated feminist who was a former World Vision ambassador who spoke about gender equality at the United Nations, into the British royal family; the focus on royals around the world has reached fever pitch.
Like most royals of her generation, she comes from a normal background and her achievements were earned entirely independent of the royal family to which she would eventually marry into. While Kate Middleton has a history of art degree from St Andrew’s University, which she exercises in her role as patron for London's National Portrait Gallery, she spent little time working in the real world working because of her clearly defined path as a royal bride.
The global obsession with Meghan has renewed the affection for the British royals and whet the appetites of celebrity followers and royal watchers the world over eager to get their fix of tiaras, palace events and a new crop of princesses even further afield.
Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary was an established sales director when she met her husband Prince Frederik, Jordan’s Queen Rania’s dedication to humanitarian work sets her apart from her peers and Belgium’s Queen Mathilde has an honours degree in psychology and speaks three languages. The bar for people who marry into royal families is extraordinarily high, and then, in comes The Netherlands' Queen Máxima, whose professional success would make even Meghan blush.
Máxima, originally from Argentina, holds an economics degree from Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires, and had been working as vice president of institutional sales for HSBC’s Latin American branch in New York when she met her husband King Willem-Alexander at a party in Seville in 1999.
At that time, she was working as vice president of institutional sales for HSBC’s Latin American branch and then moved onto Dresdner Kleinwort Benson to work as vice president of emerging markets, during which time she met her future husband which would change her entire life trajectory. Within a few months, the couple realised they had something special and while he was limited geographically to Holland, she moved to Brussels, where she worked at Deutsche Bank, as a halfway point: she could continue her work in finance without having to endure a transatlantic relationship.
She grew up studying at a bilingual school which taught in both English and Spanish and after meeting Willem-Alexander, she began studying Dutch and became fluent within two years. By that time, they had announced their engagement and with a royal wedding on the horizon, they could no longer avoid the unforgiving attention of the spotlight.
By the time they exchanged vows in 2001, the happy couple had already faced with their fair share of hardship, in particular because of Máxima’s father Jorge Zorreguieta, who served as Argentina’s agriculture minister during the country’s brutal dictatorship in 1970s, during the infamous Dirty War period. The news was the subject of national debate, and even Dutch parliament discussed her suitability as a royal bride-to-be. All the while, then Queen Beatrix stood by her son and his partner and the decision was made not to invite Jorge to their wedding for fear of national upset.
"As a daughter I find it terrible that my father won't be there. But that's the way it is, and I understand the feelings of the Dutch on the question,” she said at the time.
He was also absent from other notable royal family ceremonies, in particular when Alexander ascended the throne in 2013 and Maxima was made queen, but the couple always made private trips to see her family in Argentina and later with their three daughters Amalia (15), Alexia (13) and Ariane (12).
Over time, the focus shifted from history towards the future as she committed to her royal duties and has become embraced globally for her work and down-to-earth attitude. But that didn’t mean she would stop her pre-royal work and she has utilised both her platform as queen and expertise in finance to fill up her schedule with worthy causes.
In 2009, she was appointed the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), she became the honorary chair of the Money Wise Platform in 2010, she’s a member of the Committee for Enterprise and Finance, in 2011, she became honorary patron of the G20's Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion and she’s a Global Agenda Trustee for the World Economic Forum’s Global Challenge Initiative on the Future of the Global Financial System.
Through her UN work, she acts as a global voice pushing for universal access to affordable, effective, and safe financial services and advocates that financial inclusion improves the objectives of poverty alleviation, job creation and gender equality around the world.
Her work requires more than speeches and raising awareness, but rather influencing and educating decision makers across all levels about the degrees of influence. In short, Maxima does a lot more that ribbon cutting and photo ops.
Part of the day job is travelling the world, facilitating relationships between other royal families and nations, while wearing your choice of gown and a tiara borrowed from the family vault, but she does so with ease.
When it comes to her dress sense, she is famous for her bombastic wardrobe without appearing ostentatious: she prefers big hats, chunky jewellery and bright colours, but most importantly, she is the ultimate champion of Dutch designers and often shops locally when it comes to filling up her closet.
On Monday, for the annual Kingsday celebrations, she chose a Claes Iversen dress for the occasion and she prefers Natan, the Edouard Vermeulen-run fashion house and Jan Taminiau, a boutique in Amsterdam. She regularly appears at Dutch Design Week, keeping an eye on the rising stars in her country’s fashion industry; a tactic which Meghan and Kate could adopt as they often flip-flop between British and international designers.
Máxima has the benefit of nearly 20 years experience to inform her decision making now, but she serves as a reminder that you can have some semblance of indigence after sacrificing so much of yourself for love; something Meghan might appreciate after realising all she's had to give up.