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Prince Bernhard

Dutch royalty, Prince of the Netherlands, husband of Queen Juliana, father of Queen Beatrix, and the founder and first president of the World Wildlife Fund.


Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Bernhard Leopold Friedrich Eberhard Julius Kurt Karl Gottfried Peter Lippe-Biesterfeld

Date and place of birth: June 29, 1911, Jena, Germany

Date, time, place and cause of death: December 1, 2004, at 6:50 p.m., Utrecht University Medical Hospital, Utrecht, Netherlands (Cancer)

Marriage
Spouse: Queen Juliana (m. January 7, 1937 - March 20, 2004) (her death)
Wedding took place in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Children
Daughters: Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard (b. January 31, 1938, at 9:47 a.m., Soestdijk Palace, Baarn, Utrecht, Netherlands)
Irene Emma Elisabeth (b. August 5, 1939, Soestdijk Palace, Baarn, Utrecht, Netherlands)
Margriet Francisca (b. January 19, 1943, Ottawa Civic Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Marijke Christina (b. February 18, 1947, Soestdijk Palace, Baarn, Utrecht, Netherlands)

Parents
Father: Prince Bernhard von Lippe
Mother: Baroness Armgard von Sierstorpff-Cramm

Burial site: The royal crypt, Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), Delft, Netherlands


Biography

Prince Bernhard's lifestyle contrasted greatly with that of his wife Queen Juliana. He enjoyed the jet-setting good life, with fast cars, lavish parties, designer clothes, luxury vacations and carried on numerous affairs with women around the world. Conversely, the shy and soft-spoken Queen Juliana was down-to-earth, unpretentious and uncomfortable with ceremony and pomp. She was known as the "people's queen" and also the "bicycling monarch" for her penchant for bicycling around her capital. She dispensed with convention by abolishing the curtsey and other formalities which she found embarrassing or considered outdated. It was not unusual to find the informal queen shopping at the local supermarket in a common housewife's dress. Queen Juliana sometimes startled visitors by personally serving them tea or by sitting comfortably on the floor. Her no-nonsense attitude and tireless work on behalf of social issues and child welfare, won the deep affection and respect of her subjects. Prince Bernhard on the other hand, had a regal attitude that distanced him from his countrymen. The German-born prince won some admiration from the Dutch for successfully getting the royal family to safety in England after the Nazi German invasion of the Netherlands, and later, flying with the Royal Air Force against the Nazis during World War II.

Initially an avid big-game hunter, he later recognized the importance of conservation, founding the World Wildlife Fund and serving as its first president (1961-77). The organization would go on to become one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation groups. He was credited with convincing world leaders to ban hunting of the Bengal Tiger and the African Elephant.

He was never able to shake his playboy image, and his reputation was later tarnished by bribery and adultery scandals. In an interview before his death, he acknowledged he'd fathered two illegitimate daughters. "I had six daughters," he told a Dutch newspaper in the interview, and asked that they be left in peace. The girls were named Alexia and Alicia. Alexia, a Frenchwoman, born in the 1960s, was an open secret in the Netherlands. However, the existence of Alicia was a startling revelation. Born in the 1950s, she was believed to be living in the United States at the time of his death.

A major scandal ensued when it was revealed Prince Bernhard had received bribes totaling over a million dollars from U.S. aircraft manufacturer Lockheed, in his capacity as inspector-general of the Dutch armed forces. The 1976 Lockheed bribery scandal forced the Prince to relinquish his military titles and all his public offices after an investigation determined he had solicited bribes from the U.S. plane manufacturer to influence the Dutch government's purchase of fighter aircraft. Later in life he finally admitted to having taken the bribes, but said he had a clean conscience about the Lockheed affair, and that he did it with the best intentions, but it was also, "very stupid."

The media always managed to dig up additional unpleasantness from Bernhard's background whenever one of these scandals would become public knowledge. Though years later he claimed he was totally opposed to the Nazi ideology, he did acknowledge he'd been a member of the Nazi German SS. Evidence also came to light that Bernhard had been a member of Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Questionable business deals involving various nefarious characters were also uncovered. Yet the controversial consort of Queen Juliana was always able to count on the support of his wife, who stood by him through thick and thin throughout their 67 year marriage. He died of cancer in 2004.


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