The Bernhard Scandal, Friends Say, May Have Shored Up Juliana's Troubled Marriage
In past years Holland’s Queen Juliana has marked the September opening of the Dutch parliament—known as Prince’s Day—by riding triumphantly through the streets of The Hague in a horse-drawn golden coach. Sitting beside her on these traditional journeys, resplendent in his military uniform, was her consort of 39 years, Prince Bernhard.
For next week’s opening the mood is different. Bernhard, 65, has been disgraced by his misconduct in the Lockheed scandal. For Juliana, 67, it is a time of trial unmatched in her 28-year reign, and perhaps ever in the four-century dynasty of the House of Orange.
But if the scandal has shaken Juliana’s throne, it seems to have strengthened her troubled marriage to Bernhard, a playboy from obscure German nobility. “They often lived like cat and dog,” says an old friend of Juliana’s. “But as soon as the Lockheed affair looked bad, she put up a fight as only a loving woman can who wants to save her man.”
Juliana’s ultimate weapon was a threat to abdicate if the coalition government of Socialist Prime Minister Joop den Uyl took legal action against Prince Bernhard. A poll showed that 90 percent of the Dutch people wanted her to stay on the throne, and a stream of sympathetic letters continues to pour into the palace at Soestdijk.
The woman who inspires such loyalty has been described as humorous, intelligent and spirited. But close friends also point out that she has sometimes failed as a companion to Bernhard. “I would not say that the prince had every reason to womanize as he did,” remarks a palace intimate, “but Juliana certainly could have made things a bit more cozy. She often is too much of a busy bee, running about, making notes, telephoning. A man like Bernhard needs attention, a sounding board. Juliana could not give him a quiet, well-organized atmosphere, and this is why Bernhard started to have extramarital affairs. We did not condone it, but we understood.”
Even Bernhard’s foes agree that he has been an admirable father to their four daughters—Beatrix, 38 (heiress to the throne); Irene, 37; Margriet, 33; and Christina, 29. (Juliana does not get along with Beatrix, who resembles her strong-willed father. Juliana’s favorite is the sexy, soft-spoken Irene.) “Mummy” (the prince’s nickname for Juliana) “is head of state,” Bernhard has said, “and I am boss in the house.” Yet some friends felt that his $262,000 annual allowance, set by Juliana, was inadequate and only whetted his appetite for outside income.
On the other hand, Juliana, with a $1,340,000 yearly stipend, could indulge herself, but has chosen a relatively simple life. “In Wilhelmina’s day,” says a palace visitor of Juliana’s mother, “there was a lackey behind every chair. But when Juliana rings for tea, it may take quite a while until someone responds.”
Juliana sometimes rides a bicycle on Sundays, shops unobtrusively in country towns, and refuses to allow the royal photographer to retouch her portraits. She enjoys arranging and attending dinner parties for old friends. Her favorite dishes are pea soup and stewed beef with potatoes. (The plump Juliana diets irregularly.) She rarely misses TV news and once surprised friends by editing a videotape about herself and then playing the role of announcer. Nonetheless, she dislikes the press, especially news photographers, whom she once called “a bunch of apes.”
Although she studied law at the University of Leiden, Juliana’s reading now runs to detective stories. An avid movie fan, she shows the latest releases in the palace theater. She is moderately athletic, skiing in Austria every winter and occasionally indulging in the icy sport of curling.
There are reports that Juliana may stay on the throne only for one more token year. A court admirer disagrees: “She will sit it out until she’s 70, and she is strong enough mentally to go through the motions. But it will never be as before, and the poor queen knows it. Only a skeleton now remains of what once was the blossoming image of the House of Orange.”