Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld

Infobox Dutch Royalty|prince|consort
name =Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
title =Prince Consort of the Netherlands

caption =
imgw =200
reign =6 September 1948 - 30 April 1980
spouse =Juliana
issue =Beatrix
Princess Irene, Duchess of Parma
Princess Margriet
Princess Christina
royal house =House of Lippe
father =Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
mother =Baroness Armgard von Sierstorpff-Cramm
date of birth =birth date|1911|06|29
place of birth =Jena, Germany
date of death =death date and age|2004|12|1|1911|06|29
place of death =Utrecht, Netherlands|

Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (29 June 1911 in Jena – 1 December 2004 in Utrecht), Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld, born "HSH Count Bernhard Leopold Friedrich Eberhard Julius Kurt Karl Gottfried Peter of Lippe-Biesterfeld" (later elevated thus to Prince), was Prince Consort to the late Queen Juliana, and father of 6 children; one of them is the current monarch, Queen Beatrix.

Although his private life was rather controversial, Bernhard was generally regarded as a charming and popular figure by the majority of the Dutch for his performance as a pilot and activities as a liaison officer during World War II, his work during post-war reconstruction, and for assisting specific individuals. The German-born prince helped found the World Wildlife Fund (later renamed World Wide Fund for Nature), becoming its first president in 1961. He also established the 1001 Club: A Nature Trust in 1970 to fund the organization. He helped found the Rotary International and was one of two founders of the international Bilderberg Group, which meets yearly in order to discuss the future of the world and issues concerning Europe.

Early life

Bernhard was born Count "Bernhard Leopold Friedrich Eberhard Julius Kurt Karl Gottfried Peter of Lippe-Biesterfeld" in Jena, Germany, the elder son of Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld (younger brother of the reigning Prince of Lippe) and Baroness Armgard von Sierstorpff-Cramm. Because the marriage of his parents did not properly conform to the marriage laws of the House of Lippe and was therefore morganatic, Bernhard was born with the title of "Count" only. In 1916, the Reigning Prince of Lippe, Leopold IV, granted Bernhard the title of "Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld".

After World War I, Bernhard's family lost their German principality and the revenue that had accompanied it. But the family was still wealthy and Bernhard spent his early years at Reckenwalde, the family's new estate in East Brandenburg thirty kilometers east of the Oder-river, (now the village of Wojnowo in Poland ), near the city of Züllichau (Sulechów), and not in East Prussia, an error on the Dutch Royal Family website. He received his early education at home. When he was twelve, he was sent to board at the gymnasium in Züllichau and several years later to board at a gymnasium in Berlin, from which he graduated in 1929.

Bernhard suffered from poor health as a boy. Doctors predicted that he would not live very long. This prediction might have been the key to Berhard's reckless driving and the risks that he took in the Second World War and thereafter. The prince wrecked several cars and planes in his lifetime.

Bernhard studied law at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and in Berlin, where he acquired a taste for fast cars, horse riding, and big-game hunting safaris. He was nearly killed in a boating accident and an airplane crash, and he suffered a broken neck and crushed ribs in a 160 km/h (100 mi/h) car crash in 1938.

Bernhard was a member of the Nazi Party, the Sturmabteilung and a special branch of the SS called the "Reiter SS"- an equestrian sporting organisation. The Prince was not a Nazi by conviction; these memberships made life easier for an ambitious young man.People defending the Prince have stated that membership was necessary to be a student.The Prince later denied these well-documented memberships. Whatever the case, he was not politically active and although this German aristocrat was never a fierce champion of democracy, there are no accounts of him ever having made fascist or anti-semitic remarks.

Alliance with the House of Orange

In the 1930s, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, Prince Bernhard's younger brother, Aschwin, publicly declared his support for the Nazi Party. Prince Bernhard was a member of the honorary German Reiter SS Corps (SS Cavalry Corps). The Prince eventually went to work for the German chemical company, IG Farben. After a period of training, he became Secretary to the Board of Directors at the Paris office in 1935. Because he was a Protestant of royal rank (the Lippes were a mediatized sovereign house), Bernhard was acceptable to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands as a suitable husband for her daughter, Princess Juliana. Bernhard's appropriateness as consort of the future Queen would later become a matter of some public debate.

Prince Bernhard's political affiliations with the Nazi regime have received much attention. Various members of his family and acquaintances were aligned with the Nazis prior to and during the war - a number of these being entertained shortly before and joining the royal wedding party. Protocol demanded that the prospective Prince-Consort be invited to an audience with his head of state, the German dictator, Adolf Hitler. The atmosphere was less than cordial. The dictator is reported to have made some small talk about tourism on the Rhine and reportedly hailed the union between the Prince and Princess Juliana as a great alliance of Germanic nations. The Prince and Hitler met only once. Later, at his dinner table, Hitler called Bernhard "a complete idiot".

The Prince's brother, Prince Aschwin of Lippe-Biesterfeld, was an officer in the German army. Although the secret services on both sides were interested in this peculiar pair of brothers, no improper contacts or leaks of information were discovered. The Prince showed himself to be a loyal Dutch citizen and officer. He cut off relations with those members of his family who were enthusiastic Nazis. As a sign of his "Dutchness" he spoke only Dutch when negotiating the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands. The Prince was known to be very fond of smart uniforms and medals. He made a point of wearing his medals in the English "Court style". The Dutch armed forces wear their medals in the "Prussian style". The Prince's deliberate disregard of the regulations was not widely noticed but it is a clear sign of his allegiance.

The Prince's mother was no admirer of the Nazis and got into trouble for refusing to hoist a swastika flag on her country seat at Reckenwalde. The Nazi government did not take kindly to her, as the mother of an allied general.

World War II

Prince Bernhard began to make himself popular and trusted in the eyes of the Dutch people at the outset of World War II. During the German Invasion, the Prince, carrying a machine gun, organised the palace guards into a combat group and shot at German planes. The Royal Family fled the Netherlands and took refuge in England. Once safely there, Princess Juliana and the children then went on to Canada, where they remained until the end of the war.

In England, Prince Bernhard asked to work in British Intelligence but the War Admiralty, and later General Eisenhower's Allied Command offices, did not trust him sufficiently to allow him access to intelligence information. However, on the recommendation of Bernhard's friend and admirer, King George VI, he was later permitted to work in the war planning councils.

In 1940, flight Lieutenant Murray Payne instructed the prince to fly a Spitfire. The Prince made 1,000 flight-hours in a Spitfire with the RAF's 322 "Dutch" squadron wrecking two planes during landings. As "Wing Commander Gibbs(RAF)," Prince Bernhard flew over occupied Europe in a B-24 bomber attacking V-1 launch pads, he was in a B-25 Mitchell bomber bombing Pisa, over the Atlantic ocean bombing a submarine and in an L-5 reconnaissance plane over occupied Europe. Prince Bernhard was awarded the Dutch Flying Cross for his "ability and perseverance" (Dutch: "bekwaamheid en volharding"). (source: Interview with the Prince,1993, Henny Meyer, published in "Het Vliegerskruis" 1997)

In 1941, Prince Bernhard was given the honorary rank of wing commander in the Royal Air Force. He then trained as a pilot and gained his wings later that same year.

From 1942 to 1944, Bernhard flew as a pilot with the Royal Air Force. He also helped organise the Dutch resistance movement and acted as personal secretary for Queen Wilhelmina.

Queen Wilhelmina erased the word "honorary" (the exact words were " à la suite") in the decree that promoted Bernhard to General. In this unconstitutional manner, she gave this Royal Prince a position that was never intended by either Parliament or her ministers. The minister of defence did not choose to correct the Monarch and the Prince took a real and important role in the Dutch Armed forces.

By 1944, Prince Bernhard became Commander of the Dutch armed forces. After the liberation of the Netherlands, he returned with his family where he became active in the negotiations for the German surrender. He was present during the armistice negotiations and German surrender in Hotel de Wereld ("The World Hotel") in Wageningen in The Netherlands on 5 May 1945. The Prince was a genuine war hero in the eyes of most of the Dutch and even kept cordial relations with the communists who fought against the Nazis. In the post-war years the popular Prince earned respect for his hard work in helping to reinvigorate the economy of the Netherlands.

Postwar roles

After the war, the position of Inspector General was created for the Prince.He was made a member of the board of supervisors of Fokker Aircraft, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and within a few years was invited to serve as an adviser or non-executive director of numerous corporations and institutions. There have been claims about KLM helping Nazis to leave Germany to Argentina in KLM flights, while he was on the board of the KLM [] . After a 1952 trip with Queen Juliana to the United States, Prince Bernhard was heralded by the media as a business ambassador "extraordinaire" for the Netherlands. With his global contacts, in May 1954, he was a key figure in organising a meeting at the Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands for the business elite and intellectuals of the Western World to discuss the economic problems in the face of the then growing threat from communism. As a result of the success of this first meeting, it became an annual affair known as the Bilderberg Group. The idea for the European Union, first proposed by Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950, was encouraged at Bilderberg.

Though generally not reported in the Dutch press, growing strain arose between Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard during this time. The jet-setting Bernard used his many absences from the country to carry on affairs, while throwing lavish parties at the various Dutch embassies.Fact|date=April 2007

Prince Bernhard was a very outspoken person, who often flouted protocol by making personal remarks on subjects about which he felt deeply. Almost until his last day he called for more recognition for the Polish WWII veterans, who played such an important role in the liberation of the Netherlands. It was only after his death that the Dutch government took the decision to publicly recognize the important role of the Polish army in the liberation of the Netherlands. On 31 May 2006 at the Binnenhof in The Hague, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix awarded the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade with the Order of William, the highest possible decoration for the armed forces.

Prince Bernard was a very close friend of dictator Juan and Evita Peron from Argentina, even making a visit to them in Buenos Aires on 4 April 1951 [] . He helped them in some business negotiations which were not very clear [,9171,911767,00.html] .


In the middle of the 1950s, Prince Bernhard was involved in what some considered a personal vendetta against Greet Hofmans, a faith healer and hand layer. For nine years she was a friend and adviser of Queen Juliana, often residing at Palace Soestdijk. Originally, Hofmans was introduced to Queen Juliana on the initiative of Prince Bernhard in 1948 to treat the eye sickness of Princess Marijke Christina. This illness arose because Juliana was infected with rubella during pregnancy. Hofmans developed a great influence on the Queen, encouraging pacifist ideas. In the period of the Cold War this caused a crisis in the royal household. Reputedly it reached the point where it threatened the marriage of Juliana and Bernhard.

Outside the Netherlands, a great deal was written about the Hofmans affair. On 13 June 1956, an article appeared in the German magazine "Der Spiegel" with the title "Zwischen Königin und Rasputin", literally meaning "Between Queen and Rasputin", which, as the title already indicates, painted a less than flattering picture of Hofmans. Later on, Bernhard admitted that he personally provided the information for the article. It is thought that by doing this he hoped to have Hofmans removed from the court. The Prime Minister, Willem Drees, had to act and appointed a committee of three wise men (elder statesmen) to advise the royal couple. The Prince got what he wanted; Hofmans was banished, and various friends and supporters of the Queen in the Royal Household had to give up their office. The report of the three wise men seems to have been mislaid in the archives.

The "Lockheed" Scandal

Scandal rocked the Royal Family in 1976 when it was revealed that Prince Bernhard had accepted a US$1.1 million bribe from U.S. aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Corporation to influence the Dutch government's purchase of fighter aircraft. He had served on more than 300 corporate boards or committees worldwide and had been praised in the Netherlands for his efforts to promote the economic well-being of the country. Prime Minister of the Netherlands Joop den Uyl ordered an inquiry into the Lockheed affair, while Prince Bernhard refused to answer reporters' questions, stating: "I am above such things" [ [,,3-1387624,00.html Times article] ] .

The Dutch and international press headlined the stories for months, providing proof of Prince Bernhard's Reiter SS membership and his numerous extramarital affairs, including the purchase of a luxurious Paris apartment for his mistress, Hélène Grinda, with whom he had an illegitimate daughter, Alexia. (Bernhard has a second illegitimate daughter, Alicia, in the USA.)

On 26 August 1976, a toned-down, but nonetheless devastating, report on Prince Bernhard's activities was released to a shocked Dutch public. The Prince's own letter of 1974, to Lockheed Corporation, demanding "commissions" be paid to him on Dutch government aircraft purchases was very damaging evidence of improper conduct by the Inspector General of the Dutch Armed Forces. Criminal charges were not pressed by the government out of respect for Queen Juliana, whose later abdication was tacitly understood to be directly related to her husband's conduct.

Prince Bernhard resigned as Inspector-General of the Dutch armed forces.

The Prime Minister, Joop den Uyl, made a statement in Parliament and told the delegates that the Prince would also resign from his various high profile positions in businesses, charities, and other institutions. The States-General voted against criminal prosecution. Prince Bernhard turned over the presidency of the international World Wildlife Fund to the British Duke of Edinburgh. The Dutch Royal family worked hard to rehabilitate the Prince's name, though other scandals were to be revealed in later years.

Later Difficulties

In 1988, Prince Bernhard and Princess Juliana sold two paintings from their personal collection to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. The paintings sold for GBP700 000, which was deposited in a Swiss WWF bank account. In 1989, however, Charles de Haes, director-general of the WWF, transferred GBP500 000 back to Bernhard, for what De Haes called a private project. In 1991, newspapers reported what this private project was: Prince Bernhard had hired mercenaries - mostly British - to fight against poachers in nature reserves. The paramilitary group infiltrated organisations profiting from illegal trade in ivory in order to arrest them.

This 'Project Lock', as it was called, seemed to have backfired enormously, however. The "private army" of Bernhard had not only infiltrated in the illegal trade, they were also participating in it. To make things worse, Irish reporter Kevin Dowling discovered that the South African army was also involved in the trade, hinting at connections between the army of Bernhard and the WWF and the struggle for maintaining apartheid. Moreover, he claimed members of the South African run counterinsurgency unit Koevoet (Afrikaans/Dutch for "crowbar"), were trained under Project Lock.

In 1995, Nelson Mandela called upon the Kumleben Commission to investigate, among other things, the role of the WWF in apartheid South Africa. In the report that followed, it was suggested that mercenaries from Project Lock had planned assassinations of ANC members and that mercenaries had been running training camps in the wildlife reserves, training fighters from the anti-communist groups UNITA and Renamo. Although Prince Bernhard was never accused of any crime in its context, the Project Lock scandal dealt another damaging blow to the Prince's name.

The Prince is also alleged to have sent a letter to Adolf Hitler offering the Prince's support in exchange for Hitler's support of Bernhard as stadtholder of the occupied Netherlands. These allegations have never been substantiated and no letter has ever been discovered.

Yet more controversy came on 30 October 2002, when he paid the fines of two Albert Heijn supermarket staff members, who were convicted of assaulting a shoplifter after they detained him.

Prince Bernhard was also well-known for his love for fast planes, fast cars and speeding. Apparently Winston Churchill said that he only knew of one person that was having a great time during WWII, and that it was Prince Bernhard [] .

In spite of an earlier agreement, Prince Bernhard did wear his uniform at the funeral of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma in 1979 and at a D-Day commemoration. The Prince was eventually laid to rest in his Royal Dutch Air Force uniform.

In an interview published after his death, Prince Bernhard admitted that he had accepted more than one million dollars (US) in bribes from Lockheed; he acknowledged it was a mistake and claimed that all of the money went to the WWF. He said: "I have accepted that the word Lockheed will be carved on my tombstone." [ [ Times article] ] He also admitted to having fathered two illegitimate daughters in the years following his marriage [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008] .

In February 2008, Joop den Uyl's biography claimed that the official report investigating the "Lockheed" bribe scandal also presented proof that the Prince had accepted money from yet another airplane maker: Northrop. The former Prime Minister claimed he had not made the information public to protect the Dutch monarchy. [ [ | Nieuws, Sport en Evenementen op Radio, TV en Internet | Nederlandse Omroep Stichting] ]


Prince Bernhard is father of six children, four of them with Queen Juliana. The eldest daughter is the current Queen of the Netherlands, Beatrix (1938). His other daughters with Juliana are Irene (1939), Margriet (1943) and Christina (1947).

He had two illegitimate daughters. The first is Alicia von Bielefeld (born June 1954), whose mother has not been identified. A landscape architect, she lives in the United States. Prince Bernhard's sixth daughter, Alexia Grinda (a.k.a. Alexia Lejeune or Alexia Grinda-Lejeune, born in Paris in November 1967), is his child by the French socialite and fashion model Hélène Grinda (born 1944, Mrs. Stanislas Baron Lejeune (1945-1988), by whom she has a son Cyril, Baron Lejeune, born 1972, and daughter of Jean-Paul Grinda (1900-1975) and wife Françoise Blason). Although rumours about these two children had already spread, it was made official after his death.




* His Serene Highness Count Bernhard zur Biesterfeld (1911-1916)
* His Serene Highness Prince Bernhard zur Lippe-Biesterfeld (1916-1937)
* His Royal Highness The Prince of the Netherlands (1937-1980)
* His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (1980-2004)


External links

* [ Dutch Royal House official website]
* [ The World Wildlife Fund website]
* [ Official site of the Royal House of the Netherlands]
* [ Official memorial]
* [ Article about Prince Bernhard during WWII on Go2War2 (Dutch)]
* [ The Mars en Mercurius website]

s-ttl|title=Prince Consort of the Netherlands

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