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Ditch the King. Hire an Actor.

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A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 29, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition


ON April 30, 1980, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands was succeeded by her daughter Beatrix. That day was marked by violent rioting in Amsterdam.

My parents, German Jews who fled to Holland in the 1930s, were not exactly what you’d call royalists. But my mother had a certain weakness for royal families, and especially for the scandals that go hand-in-hand with monarchies.

And when it came to Queen Juliana, my mother got her fill of scandals. Juliana’s husband, Prince Bernhard, was a notorious philanderer who sired any number of illegitimate children and was accused of accepting bribes from Lockheed in the 1970s, forcing him to surrender his status as inspector general of the Dutch armed forces.

Now that theaters, opera houses and museums cannot exist without sponsors, perhaps it’s time for the Dutch to resign themselves to having a royal family that, during state visits and official occasions, subtly drops the message that this visit was brought to you in part by Royal Dutch Shell. Or Pfizer, for that matter. In these days of globalization, the Dutch royal family shouldn’t necessarily be sponsored only by Dutch enterprises.

Arnon Grunberg, a novelist, is the author of “The Jewish Messiah” and “Tirza.” This essay was translated by Sam Garrett from the Dutch.



Extracts from a Time Magazine article published on 18 January 1937

“Marked was the vigor last week of the Knickerbocker aristocracy of Manhattan in observing the joyous marriage day of Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Juliana of The Netherlands.”

“Prince Bernhard zu Lippe-Biesterfeld, at the time his engagement to Crown Princess Juliana was announced (TIME, Sept. 14), was a minor salaried employee of the great German chemical trust I. G. Farben-industrie Aktiengesellschaft, and a Nazi Storm Trooper.”(4)

In March 2010, The Daily Telegraph published an article: Dutch Prince Bernhard ‘was member of Nazi party’


Prince Bernhard, the father of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, was a member of the Nazi party, a new book has claimed, contracting the German-born Dutch war hero’s life-long denials.

Annejet van der Zijl, a Dutch historian, has found membership documents in Berlin’s Humboldt University that prove Prince Bernhard, who studied there, had joined Deutsche Studentenschaft, a National Socialist student fraternity, as well as the Nazi NSDAP and its paramilitary wing, the Sturmabteilung.

As “Wing Commander Gibbs” – an honorary rank he held in the RAF – the prince later flew Allied bombing raids over occupied Europe before returning in 1944 as a Dutch war hero.(5) and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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