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Father of Dutch queen dies

Prince Bernhard, the father of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, died Wednesday. He was 93.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Prince Bernhard, the father of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, died Wednesday, the Royal House said in a statement. He was 93.

Bernhard had been diagnosed with cancer in mid-November. Last week, the Royal House said tumors 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.

The German-born Bernhard, one of the most popular figures in the Dutch royal family, has received a stream of family visitors this week. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had said the “whole country sympathized” with him in his illness.

Dapper, dashing figureBernhard gained respect from the Dutch with his service as a pilot for the Allies in World War II and his help in rebuilding the Netherlands, which had been devastated by Nazi occupation. But his image was tarnished by a bribery scandal late in his wife’s reign and by his openly rocky marriage and affairs.

Regular broadcasts on Dutch television and radio were interrupted for the announcement of his death. The Dutch national anthem was played in his honor.

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 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. He also is credited with establishing the Bilderberg group — a secretive annual discussion forum for prominent politicians, thinkers and businessmen — of which he was chairman from 1954 to 1976.

Bernhard was born Bernhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld, of impoverished German nobility, at Jena on June 29, 1911.

He is survived by the queen, three other daughters and more than 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.