Royalty-NL/2

Claus was born Klaus-Georg Wilhelm Otto Friedrich Gerd von Amsberg, on his family’s estate, Schloss Dötzingen, near Hitzacker, Germany on 6 September 1926. His parents were Claus Felix von Amsberg and Baroness Gösta von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen. His father, a member of the untitled German nobility, operated a large farm in Tanganyika (formerly German -c1East Africa) from 1928 until World War II. From 1938 Claus and his six sisters grew up on their maternal grandparents’ manor in Lower Saxony; he attended the Friderico-Francisceum-Gymnasium in Bad Doberan from 1933 to 1936 and a boarding school in Tanganyika from 1936 to 1938. Claus was a member of such Nazi youth organisations as Deutsches Jungvolk and the Hitler Youth (membership in the latter was mandatory for all fit members of his generation). From 1938 until 1942, he attended the Baltenschule Misdroy. In 1944, he was conscripted into the German Wehrmacht, becoming a soldier in the German 90th Panzergrenadier Division in Italy in March 1945, but taken as a prisoner of war by the American forces at Meran before taking part in any fighting. After his repatriation, he finished school in Lüneburg and studied law in Hamburg. He then joined the German diplomatic corps and worked in Santo Domingo and Ivory Coast. In the 1960s, he was transferred to Bonn. Claus met Princess Beatrix for the first time on New Year’s Eve 1962 in Bad Driburg at a dinner hosted by the count von Oeynhausen-Sierstorpff who was a distant relative of both of them. They met again at the wedding-eve party of Princess Tatjana of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse, in the summer of 1964. With memories of German oppression still very strong 20 years after the war, sections of the Dutch population were unhappy that Beatrix’s fiancé was a German and former member of the Hitler Youth. Nonetheless, Juliana gave the engagement her blessing after giving serious thought to canceling it. The engagement was approved by the States-General (Dutch House of Commons and House of Lords) —a necessary step for Beatrix to remain heiress to the throne—in 1965. He was granted Dutch-c2 citizenship later that year and changed the spellings of his names to Dutch. The pair were married on 10 March 1966. Their wedding day saw violent protests, most notably by the anarchist-artist group Provo. They included such memorable slogans as “Claus, ‘raus!” (Claus, get out!) and “Mijn fiets terug” (Give me back my bike), a reference to the memory of occupying German soldiers confiscating Dutch bicycles. A smoke bomb was thrown at the wedding carriage by a group of Provos. For a time, it was thought that Beatrix would be the last monarch of the Netherlands. However, over time, Claus became accepted by the public, so much so that during the last part of his life he was generally considered the most popular member of the Royal Family. This change in Dutch opinion was brought about by Claus’s strong motivation to contribute to public causes (especially Third World development, on which he was considered an expert), his sincere -c3modesty and his candor (within but sometimes on the edge of royal protocol). The public also sympathised with Claus for his efforts to give meaning to his life beyond the restrictions that Dutch law imposed on the Royal Family’s freedom of speech and action. However, these restrictions were gradually loosened; Claus was even appointed as senior staff member at the Department of Developing Aid, always in an advisory role. One example of his attitude toward protocol was the “Declaration of the Tie”. In 1998, after presenting the annual Prince Claus Awards to three African fashion designers, Claus told “workers of all nations to unite and cast away the new shackles they have voluntarily cast upon themselves”, meaning the necktie, that “snake around my neck,” and encouraged the audience to “venture into open-collar paradise”. He then removed his tie and threw it on the floor. In 2001, when on Dutch television he announced the marriage of his son Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, and Máxima Zorreguieta, an Argentine woman of Spanish and Italian descent, Prince Claus referred to himself as more a citizen of the world than anything else. Prince Claus died April 6, October 2002 (aged 76) at the Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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