The Canadian Press
International News, Wednesday, December 1, 2004
Prince Bernhard, father of Netherlands' Queen Beatrix, dies at 93
The Associate Press
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP-CP) - Prince Bernhard, the father of the Netherlands' Queen Beatrix, has died, the Royal House announced Wednesday. He was 93.
Bernhard had been diagnosed with cancer in mid-November. Last week, the Royal House said tumours had spread to his stomach and lungs, causing difficulty breathing. He was moved to Utrecht University Medical Hospital on Wednesday.
Bernhard had been staying at the royal palace in Soestdijk, where he lived for six decades with his wife, the former queen Juliana, who died earlier this year.
One of the most popular figures in the Dutch royal family, the German-born Bernhard received a stream of family visitors in recent days.
"Prince Bernhard was a man who enjoyed life, a vital man who remained active until a very old age," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a nationally televised address. "He devoted himself to issues and people close to his heart."
Bernhard spent much of the Second World War as aide-de-camp to then Queen Wilhelmina, who had set up her government-in-exile in Britain after the Nazis overran the Netherlands in 1940.
Juliana and her children, including Beatrix, came to Canada and spent the war years in Ottawa. Each year, the Dutch royals send Canada's capital thousands of tulip bulbs as a token of appreciation.
Bernhard's service as a pilot for the Allies during the war and his help in rebuilding the Netherlands, devastated by the Nazi occupation, earned him the respect of the Dutch. But his image was tarnished by a bribery scandal late in his wife's reign and by his openly rocky marriage and affairs.
Tall, handsome and active into his 90s, Bernhard was a dapper dresser, with glasses and a trademark carnation in his buttonhole. For the Dutch, Bernhard was an avuncular presence in his adopted country throughout the second half of the 20th century.
Outside the Netherlands, he was seen as a jet-setting, charismatic ambassador for the Dutch during postwar reconstruction. He helped found the World Wildlife Fund in 1961 and became its first president, and is credited with establishing the Bilderberg group - a secretive annual discussion forum for prominent politicians, thinkers and businessmen - which he chaired from 1954 to 1976.
Regular broadcasts on Dutch television and radio were interrupted for the announcement of his death Wednesday. The Dutch national anthem was played in his honour.
He was born Bernhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld on June 29, 1911, to impoverished German nobility.
In 1995, researchers found documents in the U.S. National Archives which said Bernhard was a member of the Nazi party between 1933 and 1937.
In an open letter earlier this year, Bernhard dismissed rumours that he had any contact with Nazis during the war as "nonsense." The rumours were also rejected by both the Dutch government and the respected Netherlands Institute for War Documentation.
But he didn't deny having an illegitimate daughter in Paris, saying he "wasn't in a position" to do so.
Bernhard also said he had accepted the findings of a government inquiry, which said he received $100,000 US in improper commissions from American aircraft builder Lockheed in 1976.
"I look back with satisfaction on my life," he wrote. "I'm sure this (letter) will provoke new reactions, but frankly, I don't give a damn."
Bernhard is survived by four daughters and more than 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.
Uniform subject(s): Heads of State and heads of government
Subject(s) - The Canadian Press : INTERNATIONAL; SOCIAL
Hour of publication: 17:32 EST
Length: Medium, 463 words
© 2004 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
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