Bernhard zur Lippe-Biesterfeld

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Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (1976)
Standard of Prince Bernhard as the Dutch Prince Consort
Prince Bernhard's coat of arms

Bernhard Leopold Friedrich Eberhard Julius Kurt Karl Gottfried Peter Prinz zur Lippe-Biesterfeld (born June 29, 1911 in Jena , †  December 1, 2004 in Utrecht ), Prince of the Netherlands , was Prince Consort of Juliana of Orange-Nassau , Queen of the Netherlands. Together they had four daughters: the future Queen Beatrix and her sisters Irene , Margriet and Christina . He was a grandfather of today's King Willem-Alexander .


Origin and youth

The future Dutch Prince Consort was the eldest son of Prince Bernhard zur Lippe ( Haus Lippe ) senior and Armgard von Cramm . In the old registry office documents, which are kept in the Thuringian Jena city ​​archive, June 28, 1911 is entered as the date of his birth. The official date of birth was given as June 29th throughout his life. This is probably his real birthday too. Although the inconsistency has not been resolved with certainty, incorrectly dated birth entries were more common at that time. The home births customary at this time were only reported to the registry office a few days later, which occasionally led to incorrect entries.

Bernhard zur Lippe-Biesterfeld junior lived in his youth on his home estate in Reckenwalde ( province of Posen ). Initially, he was privately tutored at home and from the age of twelve attended boarding school in Züllichau . From 1926 he attended the Arndt-Gymnasium in Dahlem , where he passed his Abitur in 1929 . He then studied at the Lausanne and Berlin University Jura . During his stay in Berlin he developed a weakness for fast cars, horse riding and safaris. He almost died in a boat accident and in a plane crash. In a car accident at 160 km / h he suffered a fractured cervical vertebra and rib.

Profession and Politics

As a legal referendar he joined IG Farben in 1935 and in the same year became secretary to the management of the Paris branch. Prince Bernhard was a member of both the Reiter-SS , a mounted special formation of the Schutzstaffel , and the NSDAP . He later joined the NSKK .

Marriage to Princess Juliana

In 1935 he met Princess Juliana, daughter of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands . As a member of the nobility and Protestant, he was acceptable to the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina as the son-in-law and husband of the heir to the throne. Nonetheless, its suitability has been hotly debated in the Netherlands .

Prince Bernhard's lack of political intuition distanced him from the Dutch at a time when political tensions in Europe with the dictatorial German Reich were growing. His first trip as a member of the Dutch royal family took him to the Reich Chancellery of the National Socialist dictator Adolf Hitler , who on this occasion gave Prince Bernhard the impression that the prince's marriage to the future Queen of the Netherlands was a sign of the alliance between the two states.

Shortly before his marriage, he had received the SS officer Langenheim in the Dutch royal palace and told him in an interview his assessment of the political situation in the Netherlands and the role of the Dutch National Socialist Party . All of this was reported in detail to the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop . Whether or not this was a betrayal of Dutch interests was later the subject of public debate. In any case, Prince Bernhard resigned from all National Socialist groups as the future husband of the Dutch heir to the throne. On January 7, 1937, he married Princess Juliana. A year later his daughter, Princess Beatrix , was born, Queen of the Netherlands from 1980 to 2013.

Second World War

Prince Bernhard in Ottawa (1942)
Prince Bernhard (right) with the British Generals Montgomery and Horrocks in September 1944

During the Second World War, Bernhard was a loyal member of the Dutch royal family and chatted with Queen Wilhelmina in London exile , while his wife and children in exile in Canada Ottawa lived. In England he wanted to work in the British secret service, but the British War Admiralty and later the Allied Command Staff of US General Eisenhower distrusted him and therefore denied him access to secret service information. On the recommendation of the British King George VI. however, he was later allowed to participate in planning staff. He was trained as a pilot in the Royal Air Force at Hatfield Airfield . He flew numerous missions. He also wanted to take part in the air raids on Germany ; however, he was not allowed to do so. In 1944 his mother-in-law, Queen Wilhelmina, appointed him commander in chief of the Koninklijke Luchtmacht . When the Dutch resistance movements LKP, RVV and OD merged after negotiations with a royal resolution of September 5, 1944 to form the inland forces ( Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten , BS for short), Prince Bernhard was given the joint high command. His headquarters were initially set up on the Anneville estate near Ulvenhout (south of Breda ). In May 1945 he helped mediate the surrender of the German occupation forces in the Netherlands.

Prince Consort of the Queen

Prince Bernhard next to Queen Juliana in 1960

As an officer and prince of the Netherlands, he temporarily held the position of inspector general, comparable to that of a military commissioner . He took on the soldiers' complaints and inspected barracks, ships and aircraft.

With the accession of his wife Juliana to the throne in 1948, he became the Queen's Prince Consort.

His commitment to the economic recovery in his adopted home brought Prince Bernhard to many Dutch supervisory boards , e. B. the Dutch airline KLM and Fokker Aircraft.

In 1954, Prince Bernhard initiated the Bilderberg Conference , an important annual meeting since then of European and North American politicians and business magnates, of which only the lists of participants are known, but not the topics of discussion. He stated the original purpose of the Bilderberg Conference with counteracting anti-Americanism in Europe and anti-Europeanism in the United States by bringing together important personalities from both sides of the Atlantic for talks that were not burdened by expectations and communiqués. Here, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman's idea of a European Economic Community was also strengthened.

Airplanes and cars were great passions of the prince. He ended his pilot career together with his grandson, today's King Willem Alexander, with a loop at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Flight operations were specially interrupted for this phase. The prince is said to have flown over fifty different types of aircraft. Among other things, he also took part in test flights for the Concorde (at least passively in the cockpit).

Although he was a big game hunter for many years, his attitude towards nature changed. In 1961 he played an essential role in founding the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , of which he became the founding president. In his honor, a newly discovered primate species, the Prince Bernhard Spring monkey, was named in 2002.

Arrival of the funeral procession in front of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, December 11, 2004

Prince Bernhard died at the age of 93 in Utrecht University Hospital of the consequences of cancer of the lungs and intestines. On December 11, 2004, he was buried with a large state funeral in the family crypt of the Orange family in Delft .

A flight formation in honor of the deceased was held at the memorial service. A “missing man formation” together with F-16 fighter planes and a Spitfire from World War II flew over the nieuwe Kerk in Delft. The Spitfire was one of the numerous aircraft models that the prince had flown as a pilot in his very long flying career.


When his wife came under the influence of the occultist miracle healer Greet Hofmans in the 1950s , a number of extramarital affairs and boisterous parties were not mentioned in the Dutch embassies that the prince attended as part of his various activities.

Membership in NSDAP and Reiter-SS

During a visit to the former Dachau concentration camp in 1968

Prince Bernhard was a member of the SA, the Reiter-SS and the NSDAP in the 1930s . This has been proven by historians. He himself denied this after the war or played it down. The historian Annejet van der Zijl came to the conclusion in a comprehensive study in 2010: "Based on the data now available, the conclusion that Bernhard's sympathy and commitment to National Socialist organizations was significantly greater than he later portrayed." 1937 turned Bernhard also wrote two letters to Adolf Hitler. He asked Hitler to take action against negative press reports about him.

The Lockheed scandal

Prince Bernhard was involved in the so-called Lockheed scandal , in which the US company paid bribes of 1.1 million US dollars for the purchase of Starfighter F-104 aircraft for the Koninklijke Luchtmacht . After the scandal became known - which took place similarly in various other countries - the purchase of a luxurious apartment in Paris for his lover Helene Grinda came to the public in the Dutch and international press . The prince continued to have very close contacts with Tibor Rosenbaum , the Swiss banker and front man of Mafia financier Meyer Lansky, and with Robert Vesco . Vesco used Amsterdam as a mailing address when he misappropriated significant sums of money from the funds of the offshore finance company he controlled, Investors Overseas Services .

An investigative committee of the Dutch parliament had apparently found unequivocal evidence of violations of the law in 1976. The document most incriminating the prince is said to be a personal letter from the prince to Lockheed requesting the transfer of the commission for the purchase of the Starfighter by the Dutch armed forces in 1974. The investigations are said to have unearthed the payment of more than US $ 1 million to the Argentine Juan Perón for the purchase of railway equipment in the Netherlands. The investigation report was kept secret during the prince's lifetime. Prime Minister Joop den Uyl gave Prince Bernhard the choice to give up all public offices in order not to be brought to justice in return. Prince Bernhard then withdrew from all public offices on August 26, 1976. He was succeeded as President of the WWF by John H. Loudon .

Project castle

In 1988, Prince Bernhard and Princess Juliana sold two paintings from their private collection to raise money for the WWF. The paintings were sold for £ 700,000  which was deposited into a WWF Swiss bank account. Nonetheless, in 1989 Charles de Haes , director general of WWF, transferred £ 500,000 back to Prince Bernhard - as de Haes explained, for a "private project". In 1991 newspapers reported that most of the money had been used to recruit British mercenaries to fight poachers in the nature reserves. The mercenaries infiltrated organizations that benefit from the illegal ivory trade in order to roll them up.

This "Project Castle", as it was called, had turned into the opposite. Prince Bernhard's troops had not only infiltrated the illegal trade, they also participated in it. Irish reporter Kevin Dowling revealed that the South African Army was also involved in the trade, suggesting there were links with the “whites” struggle for apartheid to continue. He also accused members of the South African counterintelligence unit Koevoet , who were trained under the "Project Castle", to be responsible for the Boipatong massacre in 1992.

In 1995, the first black South African President, Nelson Mandela, set up the Kumleben Commission, which, among other issues, was to determine the role of WWF in the apartheid era in South Africa. In the investigation report it was suggested that the mercenaries of the "Project Castle" had planned attacks on ANC members. To this end, they even set up military training camps in the nature reserves, where fighters from UNITA and Renamo were trained. Although Prince Bernhard was never charged in this connection, the “Project Castle” also damaged the prince's reputation.

Awards (selection)

Bernhard in Persia with the Shah of Persia Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his wife Farah Pahlavi ( Tehran in the 1970s)

Prince Bernhard wore 96 orders and awards from all over the world. Including:

The prince was a Johanniter and in the Alliance of the Order of St. John of Niederweisel brought about a connection between the Johannites in Northern Europe. Later he mediated between this order and the Catholic Order of Malta . The asteroid of the inner main belt (2643) Bernhard is named after him.

Family table

Family table Bernhard zur Lippe-Biesterfeld

Ernst zur Lippe-Biesterfeld (1842–1904)
× 1869
Caroline von Wartensleben (1844–1905)

Aschwin von Sierstorpff-Cramm (1846–1909)
x 1872
Hedwig von Sierstorpff (1848–1900)


Bernhard zur Lippe (1872–1934)
× 1909
Armgard von Cramm (1883–1971)

Bernhard zur Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911–2004)
× 1937
Juliana of the Netherlands (1909–2004)


Beatrix of the Netherlands (1938)
× 1966
Claus von Amsberg (1926–2002)

Irene (1939)
× 1964
Karel Hugo von Bourbon-Parma (1930–2010)

Margriet (1943)
× 1967
Pieter van Vollenhoven (1939)

Christina (1947-2019)
x 1975
Jorge Guillermo (1946)


Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands (1967)
Johan Friso (1968–2013)
Constantijn (1969)

Carlos Javier Bernardo (1970)
Margarita Beatrix Marie (1972)
Jaime Bernardo (1972)
Maria Carolina Christina (1974)

Maurits (1968)
Bernhard jr (1969)
Pieter-Christiaan (1972)
Floris (1975)

Bernardo (1977)
Nicolas (1979)
Juliana Jr. (1981)

In addition to the legitimate daughters, Prince Bernhard has two illegitimate daughters: the American Alicia de Bielefeld (* 1952 in San Francisco) and the Frenchwoman Alexia Grinda-Lejeune (* 1967 in Boulogne-Billancourt).


  • Willy Gerking: The Counts of Lippe-Biesterfeld. From the history of a sideline of the Count's house to Lippe and an excursus on the origins of the house to Lippe-Weißenfeld. Bad Oeynhausen, 2001.

Web links

References and comments

  1. A. van der Zijl, Bernhard; een hidden divorced , Amsterdam, 2016, p145
  2. Monarchy - People A – Z: Prince Bernhard, ( Memento from June 16, 2019 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Wilhelmina : Lonely and yet not alone . Translated from the Dutch by Hans Fischer. Evangelisches Verlagswerk, Stuttgart 1961, p. 229.
  4. a b Wilhelmina: Lonely and yet not alone . Translated from the Dutch by Hans Fischer. Evangelisches Verlagswerk, Stuttgart 1961, p. 261.
  5. ^ Resistance Museum Amsterdam: Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten , accessed February 13, 2016.
  6. Wilhelmina: Lonely and yet not alone . Translated from the Dutch by Hans Fischer. Evangelisches Verlagswerk, Stuttgart 1961, p. 332.
  7. The health worker . In: Der Spiegel . No. 24 , 1956, pp. 31 ( online ).
  8. Gerard Aalders and Coen Hilbrink (1996): De Affaire-Sanders - Spionage en Intriges in Herrijzend Nederland. Publisher SDU, The Hague, ISBN 90-12-08252-8 .
  9. Christoph Driessen : History of the Netherlands, From the sea power to the trend country. Regensburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7917-2173-6 , p. 197.
  10. Nieuwe feiten over Prins Bernhard in Anne Jets promotieonderzoek. In: Website of Annejet van der Zijl. Archived from the original on September 12, 2011 ; Retrieved on June 24, 2013 (Dutch): "Op grond van de nu beschikbare Gegevens lijkt de conclusie dan ook Kompetenzvaardigd dat Bernhard's sympathie voor, en betrokkenheid bij national socialist organizations aanzienlijk groter is geweest dan hij later deed voorkomen van der ." See also Annejet van der Zijl: Bernhard - een hidden divorced , Querido Verlag, Amsterdam 2010, ISBN 978-90-214-3764-4 .
  11. Bernhard's letter to Hitler on
  12. Ute Becker (Red.): The Chronicle. History from the 20th century to today . Wissen-Media-Verlag, Gütersloh 2006, ISBN 3-577-14641-9 , p. 545.
  13. Jean Schoos : The medals and decorations of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the former Duchy of Nassau in the past and present. Publishing house of Sankt-Paulus Druckerei AG. Luxembourg 1990. ISBN 2-87963-048-7 . P. 343.
  14. List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.9 MB)
  15. ^ Lutz D. Schmadel : Dictionary of Minor Planet Names . Fifth Revised and Enlarged Edition. Ed .: Lutz D. Schmadel. 5th edition. Springer Verlag , Berlin , Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7 , pp.  186 (English, 992 pp., [ONLINE; accessed on September 2, 2019] Original title: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names . First edition: Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg 1992): “1973 SD. Discovered 1973 Sept. 19 by T. Gehrels at Palomar. "
  16. ^ The Telegraph on December 15, 2004: Prince reveals two illegitimate daughters
  17. n-tv on December 14, 2004: Prince Bernhard's confession: Illegitimate daughters
  18. Berliner Morgenpost on January 14, 2011: Queen Beatrix is ​​supposed to avoid her half-sister
predecessor Office successor
Heinrich of Mecklenburg Prince Consort of the Netherlands
Claus von Amsberg