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Dutch princess's 'dream of a baby'

Maxima pictured before the queen's speech to parliament in September
Maxima pictured before the queen's speech to parliament in September

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AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (Reuters) -- Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander's wife Princess Maxima has given birth to a baby girl, sparking royal celebrations.

The girl will be second-in-line to the Dutch throne.

"Princess Maxima gave birth today, December 7 2003, at one minute past five (1601 GMT) to a healthy girl," the state information service said in a statement on Sunday.

"It is a dream of a baby," Willem-Alexander, the Prince of Orange, said in the statement, adding he was "grateful and happy."

The name of the girl, who is likely to be queen one day, has not yet been made public. She was born weighing 3.3 kg (7.3 lb).

Queen Beatrix arrived at the Bronovo hospital in The Hague in the early evening to loud applause from scores of royal fans waiting outside. She was accompanied by her son Prince Johan Friso and his girlfriend Mabel Wisse Smith.

A regiment of mounted artillery troops, in black and yellow livery, fired 101 cannon shots to announce the birth.

Television programmes were interrupted for the news. On one show the audience sang the national anthem.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a televised address that mother and baby were doing fine and congratulated the family.

Willem-Alexander, Beatrix's eldest son and heir-to-the-throne, married Argentinian-born Maxima Zorreguieta in Amsterdam in February 2002.

The marriage attracted controversy because Maxima's father was agriculture minister during Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship when up to 30,000 people vanished or were killed. He was barred from the wedding.

The royal couple's easy-going manner has made them a big hit with fans of the royal family. Tens of thousands thronged the centre of Amsterdam for the wedding.

The news they were expecting their first child dominated Dutch media when it was announced earlier this year.

The royal family has been dubbed "The Bicycling Monarchy" because of its laid-back style.

The House of Orange-Nassau became a symbol of resistance in World War Two by going into exile during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, boys and girls have the same rights to the throne. The current and past two monarchs have been queens -- Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix.

Willem-Alexander's younger brother Prince Friso gave up his lineage to the throne this year after parliament appeared unwilling to approve his marriage to Mabel because of her past relationship with a criminal.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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