After 52 years of secrecy, royal historian Cees Fasseur has been given sole access to the private archives of the Dutch royal family. In his book, Juliana & Bernhard. The story of a marriage, 1935-1956, he reveals the intrigues – particularly the influence of faith healer Greet Hofmans – that almost led to a royal divorce, the abdication of the late Queen Juliana and a constitutional crisis.
The book describes the first 20 years of the royal marriage. During the Second World War and the German occupation of the Netherlands, Juliana lived in Canada with her daughters. Meanwhile Prince Bernard spent the war in London where he had affairs with at least three high society women. It is already widely known that Prince Bernhard fathered two illegitimate children later in life.
The book also contains a report by the Beel Commission, which has been printed for the first time ever. The commission was appointed at the request of the royal couple itself following the summer of 1956. In that summer, an article, leaked by Bernhard, appeared in the German weekly Der Spiegel about the Dutch royal couple’s marital difficulties. The article Between Queen and Rasputintold of the friction between the Hofmans camp surrounding Queen Juliana and the faction led by her husband Prince Bernhard.
The prince believed the political influence of Greet Hofmans, who held pacifist views, was particularly damaging to the queen. But he did not want a divorce and wrote to his wife asking her if she wanted to“reduce the name of the family to that of a third class Balkan monarchy.”
Queen Juliana felt that her husband was deliberately making her life “a hell”. He often teased his wife, who prided herself on being ordinary, by calling her “majesty”.
The report recommended that Greet Hofmans be removed from the royal household. Prince Bernhard was told to improve his behaviour. Author Cees Fasseur describes the report as an anti-climax. It does not mention the possibility of a divorce, the possible abdication of Juliana or Bernhard’s sexual escapades. Dutch newspaper editors at the time were asked not to print stories on the royal couple’s marital difficulties. They complied and the royal scandal was left for the foreign press to report.
Here the book ends, but the Hofmans affair was not the last scandal to burden the relationship between Queen Juliana and Prince Bernard. In response to the publication of the book Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende praises the decision by Queen Beatrix to open the archives even though it reveals“painful private matters for her and her sisters.”
For more information: www.radionetherlands.nl