Wednesday 17 August 2022

52-year-old royal scandal hits headlines

A controversial book about the marriage between queen Juliana and prince Bernhard has shed new light on a 52-year-old royal and political scandal.


The book’s author, historian Cees Fasseur, was given exclusive access to parts of the royal archives, including papers on the role of faith healer Greet Hofmans who became Juliana’s confidant in the 1950s.
By 1956 fears about the far-reaching influence of Hofmans within the royal court were leading to a constitutional crisis and had created deep rifts in the marriage between queen Juliana, the mother of the current monarch, and her husband prince Bernhard.
The book reveals for the first time the details of the machinations within the royal household which split the court into two warring camps. Juliana and Hofmans were on one side and Bernhard and the couple’s children, including the current queen, Beatrix, on the other.
Death threats
The books also reveals for the first time the existence of the anonymous letter containing death threats against Hofmans and signed by ‘the Action Committee’.
It was already known that two former resistance fighters had suggested using violence to resolve the crisis in 1956. Hand grenades and threatening letters were sent to a number of people in Juliana’s circle, including Hofmans herself.
Fasseur, says he does not know if Bernhard, who had close ties with the former resistance, knew about the threat to assassinate Hofmans – or if he gave the order to send such a threat himself.
Bernhard’s role
But the Telegraaf says Bernhard did leak news of the influence of Hofmans over the queen to the foreign press, a move which eventually forced the government to take action and ‘saved’ the monarchy.
In an initial reaction to the book’s publication on Monday, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said: ‘Her majesty the queen deserves a great deal of respect because instead of hiding information, she has given preference to making it public, although some of it is painful for her and her sisters.’
The newspapers are full of the Hofmans story today but there is no consensus on what is the most newsworthy element of the book, Juliana & Bernhard, story of a marriage, 1936-1956.
Front pages
The Volkskrant leads it’s front page article with the news that Juliana told the commission investigating Hofmans role in 1956 that her husband was ‘bullying’ her to such an extent that her life had become ‘hell’. She claimed he wanted her certified as mad so that her daughter, Beatrix, could take over the throne.
In its editorial, Trouw says the book shows ‘once again that the Dutch royal family is not a holy family’. It quotes from letters between the couple: ‘You hypocritical monster, what are you doing in Italy,’ Juliana wrote to Bernard. Bernard in turn urged Juliana not to divorce him and turn give the family ‘the status of third-rate Balkan royalty’.
For the nrc.nl/international background article on the Hofmans case, click here

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