It was King Willem-Alexander himself who requested this expertise. Questioned, the sovereign, who has been in the midst of a drop in popularity in recent months (he was credited with 80% favorable opinions in 2020 and more than 38% three years later), said with a gloomy expression. “We must see the past as it is, including the less beautiful parts.” He also had words for the Dutch Jewish community.
If this announcement aroused so much emotion, it was because Prince Bernhard had always denied having belonged to the Nazi party. More than the fact, it is this lie until its last breath that scandalizes.
Born in Jena in 1911, he is the son of Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld and Baroness Armgard von Sierstorpff-Cramm. It is a younger and penniless branch of the princely family of Lippe, which lost its throne in 1918.
In a Germany where Hitler is in power, it is difficult to be able to exercise in the army as is the case for the prince, without there being links with the Nazi power. He was thus a member of a cavalry unit composed of members of the upper bourgeoisie and the aristocracy.
The prince studied law at Humboldt University in Berlin and Lausanne. In 1936, after his engagement to Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, he left the NSDAP (Nazi Party). From this union, four daughters were born: Beatrix (1938), Irene (1939), Margriet (1943) and Christina (1947-2019).
With the Allies during the war
During the Second World War, the prince joined the Royal Air Force. He coordinated the Dutch resistance from London with his mother-in-law Queen Wilhelmina, while the Crown Princess and their daughters found refuge in Canada. In 1944, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Dutch armed forces which took part in the Battle of Normandy and then liberated the kingdom. It was common knowledge that Prince Bernhard had poor relations with General Montgomery.
In 1948, Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in favor of her daughter Princess Juliana. Bernhard becomes prince consort.
He is the founding president of the WWF and was also at the basis of the creation of the Bilderberg influence group which met for the first time in 1954.
On the sentimental side, the prince has numerous extramarital affairs and two natural daughters, Alexia and Alicia.
In 1976, the Lockheed affair scandal broke out. It appears that the prince received a commission of $1,200,000 at the time to encourage the Dutch army’s purchase of fighter planes. Queen Juliana’s throne is about to falter. He must give up his post as inspector general of the armies. In an interview given at the end of his life, he confirmed his involvement in this affair.
Cornered by the Lockheed affair, Queen Juliana in turn abdicated in April 1980 in favor of her daughter Crown Princess Beatrix, mother of the current sovereign. The princely couple retires to Soestdijk Castle. If the prince continues to honor official commitments, Juliana of the Netherlands will only appear at family events, devoting herself fully to her fourteen grandchildren.
Two years her senior, Juliana died in March 2004 following lung problems. She is buried in Delft Cathedral. In accordance with his last wishes, his four daughters are dressed in white. The prince, supported by Queen Beatrix and Princess Irene, wears a carnation in his buttonhole as he used to.
On December 1, 2004, the prince died of cancer at the university center in Utrecht. His two natural daughters had been invited by Queen Beatrix to come and pay their respects privately before his remains. They had their share of inheritance from their father. Bernhard of the Netherlands was buried in his military costume. More than 40,000 people will line up to pay their last respects.