Claus von Amsberg

Claus von Amsberg
Prince Claus in 1970
Prince consort of the Netherlands
Tenure 30 April 1980 – 6 October 2002
Spouse Beatrix of the Netherlands
(m. 1966-2002; his death)
Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau
Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands
Full name
Claus George Willem Otto Frederik Geert van Amsberg
House House of Amsberg
Father Claus Felix von Amsberg
Mother Gösta von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen
Born (1926-09-06)6 September 1926
Hitzacker, Germany
Died 6 October 2002(2002-10-06) (aged 76)
Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Burial 15 October 2002
Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, Netherlands
Occupation Diplomat
Religion Dutch Reformed Church

Claus George Willem Otto Frederik Geert van Amsberg (6 September 1926 – 6 October 2002), later Prince Claus of the Netherlands; né Klaus-Georg Wilhelm Otto Friedrich Gerd von Amsberg was the husband of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and as such was prince consort of the Netherlands from Beatrix's ascension in 1980 until his death in 2002.


Prince Claus was born Klaus-Georg Wilhelm Otto Friedrich Gerd von Amsberg, on his family's estate, Haus Dötzingen, near Hitzacker, Germany on 6 September 1926.[1] 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 East 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.

The future prince 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).[2] 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 Côte d'Ivoire. In the 1960s, he was transferred to Bonn.

Claus met Crown 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. Sections of the Dutch population were unhappy that Beatrix's fiancé was a German and former member of the Hitler Youth, only twenty years after the end of the war, and there were protests during the wedding celebrations, most notably by the anarchist-artist group Provo. Nonetheless, her engagement was approved by the States-General—a necessary step for Beatrix to remain heiress to the throne—in 1965. He was granted Dutch 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, including 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. 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.[3] 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 modesty, his candor (within but sometimes on the edge of royal protocol), and his approachability by all levels of society[original research?].

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 (lest they get involved in political controversy)[original research?]. Many also believed that these restrictions were at least partly the cause of his severe depression, which lasted many years. As a result, restrictions were loosened; Claus was even appointed as senior staff member at the Department of Developing Aid, albeit 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.[4]

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.

Titles and style

  • Klaus von Amsberg (1926–1965)
  • Jhr. Claus van Amsberg (1965–1966); his name was changed officially after obtaining Dutch citizenship
  • His Royal Highness Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Jonkheer van Amsberg (1966–2002)[5]
  • His Royal Highness The Prince of the Netherlands (1980–2002)[6]

Honours and awards

See also List of honours of the Dutch Royal Family by country

Dutch orders and decorations

Foreign honours

Academic awards

Prince Claus was also appointed Honorary Fellow of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in 1988. Prince Claus was held in very high esteem in the international development cooperation community, partly because of his considerable insight and understanding of the problems involved, and partly because of his exceptional gift for expressing the hopes and anxieties felt by all.



Name Birth Notes
King Willem-Alexander 27 April 1967 He married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in 2002, and has three daughters.
Prince Friso 25 September 1968 He married Mabel Wisse Smit in 2004, and had two daughters. He died on 12 August 2013.[15]
Prince Constantijn 11 October 1969 He married Laurentien Brinkhorst in 2001, and has two daughters and a son.


Claus suffered various health problems, such as depression, cancer and Parkinson's disease. He died in Amsterdam on 6 October 2002 after a long illness, aged 76. He died less than 4 months after the birth of his first grandchild.

He was interred in the Royal Family's tomb in Delft on 15 October. It was the first full state funeral since Queen Wilhelmina's in 1962.


External links

  • In pictures: Prince Claus remembered
  • Video: Condolences pour in, 7 October 2002
  • Dutch Royal Family website: Biography
  • Profile at The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Prince Claus of the Netherlands
Born: 6 September 1926 Died: 6 October 2002
Dutch royalty
Preceded by
Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
Prince consort of the Netherlands
1980 – 2002
until 2013
Title next held by
Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti
as queen consort

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