It was 1999 when Maxima Zorreguieta met the man who would become her husband, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, at a party in Seville. The striking Argentine investment banker had heard a mystery royal would be at the fiesta, but she had no clue who it might be.
Little did the Latina blonde know that not only would she meet Willem-Alexander, then a prince, but he'd also take a keen romantic interest in her. It was hardly a case of instant romance, however. When the aristocrat whom she has always called Alexander, came to visit her three weeks later in New York where she worked at Deutsche Bank, she'd almost forgotten what he looked like.
The daughter of a wealthy landowner, Maxima was born on May 17, 1971, to Jorge Zorreguieta and Maria del Carmen Cerruti in Buenos Aires.
Educated at the English-style Northlands School in the city, she received a bilingual baccalaureat in 1988, going on to study economics at the Universidad Catolica de Argentina.
She came to the world's attention in August 1999, when the pair appeared together in public for the first time. Although they were dating seriously, Maxima kept her new beau's identity hidden from her parents.
"I would tell them something different (about Willem) every time, but at some point there was nothing for it than to say: 'He's the Prince of the Netherlands.'"
Their love was tested when Maxima and Willem-Alexander walked into a storm related to her father Jorge Zorreguieta. It emerged that during the Seventies he had served as Argentina's agriculture minister during the country's brutal military dictatorship. The news sparked a national discussion on whether his daughter was a suitable person to join the royal family.
Throughout the controversy – the Dutch parliament even went so far as to debate the issue – Queen Beatrix continued to embrace her son's girlfriend. And on Jan 31, 2001, on the queen's 63rd birthday, she posed for photos alongside the couple, giving their relationship the royal stamp of approval.
Two months later, accompanied by the happy couple and her husband Prince Claus, the monarch praised Maxima as "an intelligent, modern woman" in a rare nationally televised address as she announced the couple's engagement. However, though the wedding would go ahead, Maxima's father would not be present.
Facing reporters for the first time, Maxima candidly accepted the protocol that would keep her father away from her big day. "As a daughter I find it terrible that my father won't be there," she said, "but that's the way it is, and I understand the feelings of the Dutch on the question."
Instead she tried to focus on the personal joy that the wedding would bring. She said: "When we're in the church, we have to say, 'This is our day'. I think I won't see anyone there but Alexander."
Becoming Princess of the Netherlands didn't mean that Maxima, who has dual Argentine and Dutch citizenship, planned to lose her cultural identity.
She said: "I am Latin and I will continue being Latin. I dance, I sing and I will keep on dancing and singing." Asked if Willem-Alexander joined in the fun, she replied: I keep trying to push him. His hips are a little rigid."
Her husband said he hoped the down-to-earth woman with the winning smile wouldn't change after she became part of the royal family. "I fell in love with this Maxima: spontaneous, interesting, nice," he said. "It wasn't always, nor will it be easy, but I hope that she stays the same person as she is now."
And 16 months after their wedding, as Maxima joyfully announced she was expecting the couple's first child – "I was so happy, I couldn't believe it!", she exclaimed – it was clear the princess hadn't lost a bit of her vibrant personality.
Their first baby, Princess Catharina-Amalia, was born on December 7, 2003 and their second, Princess Alexia Juliana followed in June 2005. A third girl, Princess Ariane, joined the family on April 10, 2007.
Several years later on 30 April, 2013 Queen Beatrix abdicated and the former banker became one of the most prominent royals in the world, supporting the new King Willem-Alexander as his Queen consort.
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