Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti was born on 17 May 1971 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Jorge Horacio Zorreguieta (a government official and advisor) and María del Carmen Cerruti de Zorreguieta. The Queen’s maiden last names follow Spanish naming customs where the child takes their father’s last name (Zorreguieta) and their mother’s last name (Cerruti). In most instances, the children go by their ‘first’ last name in school and jobs; Máxima was no different.
Her Majesty has two brothers, one sister and three paternal half-sisters. Sadly, her sister, Inés Zorreguieta Cerruti, died by suicide in June 2018. She was named after her paternal great-grandmother Máxima Bonorino González.
Máxima grew up in in the Recoleta neighbourhood of Buenos Aires and began her education at the Northlands School in nearby Olivos – a bilingual school for English and Spanish, which was founded in 1920 by two English women. She graduated in 1988 after passing her baccalaureate examinations. She then entered Universidad Católica Argentina (Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina) where she graduated with a degree in economics in 1995. She further continued her education in the United States, receiving her master’s degree.
The Queen speaks her native Spanish, English, Dutch, as well as conversational French.
While studying at the Universidad Católica Argentina, from 1989-1990, she worked for Mercado Abierto SA where she did research into software for financial markets. Two years later, she was working in the Sales Department of Boston Securities SA in Buenos Aires. At the same time, she taught English to children and adults, and also taught mathematics to secondary school children and first-year students. Her time at Mercado came to an end in 1995.
Her next venture was to the United States, and by July 1996, Máxima was working for HSBC James Capel Inc. in New York. While there, she served as Vice-President of Latin American Institutional Sales. She left this position in February 1998 and moved on to Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, serving as Vice-President of the Emerging Markets Division until July of 1999. After this, she began working at Deutsche Bank in New York, where again she was Vice-President of Institutional Sales.
Máxima left the United States for Europe to work in Brussels, Belgium, at the European Union Representative Office for Deutsche Bank from May 2000 through March 2001. She left her position when her engagement to Willem-Alexander was announced.
Máxima met a Dutchman named Alexander (then Willem-Alexander, The Prince of Orange), in April 1999 at the Seville Spring Fair in Seville, Spain. An interview later revealed that The Prince of Orange only introduced himself as Alexander and didn’t reveal his true identity at their initial meeting. Máxima later admitted she soon completely forgot who he was. Later on, she thought he was joking when he admitted that he was a prince and the heir apparent to the Dutch throne. They agreed to meet in New York, where she was stationed at the time with the Deutsche Bank.
Her family was quite curious about the man who had stolen her heart, and Máxima finally admitted to them that he was the heir apparent to the throne in the Netherlands. Not surprisingly, they were shocked, but they welcomed Willem-Alexander with open arms. Willem-Alexander’s family (parents, Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus and brothers, Princes Constantijn and Friso) were just as welcoming with Máxima. The relationship was able to remain secret until they were seen together in August 1999 on the Dutch royal yacht.
The Prince of Orange proposed in 2001 with a light orange stone and diamond ring to represent the national colour of the Netherlands. On 30 March 2001, Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus announced that the heir to the throne would marry the Argentinian Máxima Zorreguieta. Máxima addressed the nation during a live broadcast in Dutch, a language that, at the time, she was only conversational in. By 17 May, she was granted Dutch citizenship, making her a dual citizen of the Netherlands and Argentina, and less than two months later, on 3 July, the two houses of the Dutch parliament passed a bill consenting to the marriage.
However, controversy surrounded the engagement announcement when it was revealed that Jorge Zorreguieta had been the agricultural minister for the government under Jorge Videla’s military dictatorship, during the National Reorganization Process. His tenure included the beginning of a period called the “Dirty War” where between 10,000 to 30,000 people were killed or disappeared. There was an investigation by Michiel Baud, a Dutch professor in Latin American studies, at the request of the States-General into Jorge’s involvement. Jorge claimed that he was a civilian and had no idea of the atrocities that had occurred. Baud concluded that Jorge Zorreguieta had no direct involvement with the “Dirty War” but had to have known about it, considering his position.
Many in the Netherlands were concerned about the involvement of Máxima’s father, but they did not believe she should be held accountable as she was only a child when he held the position in the government. Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus came forward to show support for Máxima and the wedding went ahead – but without Jorge. Máxima’s mother also decided to stay in Argentina with her husband. The future Queen was not without family at the ceremony, though, as her siblings flew in for the occasion.
Máxima and Willem-Alexander were married on 2 February 2002 in a civil ceremony at the Beurs van Berlage, and the religious ceremony followed directly after at the Nieuwe Kerk, with thousands lining the streets to celebrate the couple. The new Princess chose to remain a Roman Catholic after her marriage, and as such, Willem-Alexander lost his distant place in the British line of succession until the new Act of Succession went into effect in 2013.
The couple has three daughters: Catharina-Amalia “Amalia” (born 7 December 2003), Alexia (born 26 June 2005), and Ariane (born 10 April 2007). Willem-Alexander remarked that they referred to their children as “The A-Team” and decided to give them all names starting with an ‘a’ to keep their “triple-A rating”.
In April 2013, Queen Beatrix abdicated in favour of Willem-Alexander. It was said that she stepped down because of tradition and the strain of her son, Prince Friso’s condition and subsequent death from a skiing accident. She reverted to being titled Princess Beatrix after her abdication. With Willem-Alexander as monarch, Máxima was given the title of Queen consort, and therefore, their oldest child, Amalia was named The Princess of Orange (the title of the heir to the throne). Máxima is the first queen consort since 1890 and the first commoner.
Máxima is the godmother to several children, including Prince Sverre Magnus of Norway and her niece, Countess Leonore of Orange-Nassau, the daughter of Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien.
The Queen holds numerous positions in the Netherlands and across the globe including being the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, Member of Council of State, and patron of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.