Prince Claus of the Netherlands, the spouse of Queen Beatrix, died on Sunday aged 76. He passed away at 7pm at Amsterdam Medical Centre, nearly two weeks after being admitted into intensive care with a pulmonary infection.
Holland’s Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who made a special appearance on public television to deliver the news, described the death as “a shock” for the country. “It was a great man who departed from us this day,” he added.
Condolences began flooding in after the death of one of Holland’s most popular royals was announced. A statement from the D66 opposition party recalled the prince’s commitment to development aid and the environment, dubbing him “the conscience of the Netherlands”, while the Christian Democratics said his passing was “a great loss to the Netherlands”. A note left among candles and flowers at the entrance to the royal residence at Huis ten Bosch palace read simply: “He was the nicest member of the Royal Family.”
The prince - Claus von Amsburg until his marriage to Queen Beatrix in 1966 - was a former German diplomat who wed the Dutch crown princess when she was 28 and he was 40. The couple went on to have three sons, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince Johan-Friso and Prince Constantijn, whose wife Princess Laurentien, gave birth to Eloise, Claus’s first grandchild, earlier this year.
The queen’s consort had suffered from serious health problems for some time, and was in hospital for seven weeks over the summer before he was readmitted in September. The hospitalisation marked the latest in a series of illnesses for the prince – he underwent an operation in May, 2001, to remove a failing kidney, and had suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder, since 1991.
On Monday, the prince’s body will be transferred from the medical centre to the royal palace Huis ten Bosch at The Hague where it will lie in state until the funeral, scheduled for early next week. Following the service, Claus will be laid to rest in the royal family vault at Delft. The occasion will be the first royal funeral in the Netherlands since the death of Queen Beatrix’s grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina, who died in 1962.