THE NETHERLANDS: The Prince Errant Loses His Epaulets

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The Royal House of Orange has held sway in The Netherlands almost without interruption for 400 years, and according to the constitution, its monarch is "inviolable." Most of Queen Juliana's royal subjects hoped that the same was true of her dapper, German-born husband Prince Bernhard, 65. When rumors from the Lockheed bribetaking scandals began to gather around Bernhard's royal head last February, the majority of the Dutch public preferred to consider their esteemed merchant prince innocent, at least until proved guilty. Last week, however, the prince was forced to resign from virtually all his public and official posts after a government commission severely chastized him for "extremely imprudent" dealings with Lockheed. The prince, who served as Inspector General of the Dutch armed forces, will keep his ermine, but he has lost his epaulets. The stunned nation has lost something more—its cherished trust in royal rectitude.

Harsh Conclusion. The three-man commission of "wise men," which spent six months investigating allegations that the prince had accepted bribes totaling $1.1 million, said there was no firm evidence that Bernhard had actually received the money. But, the commission harshly concluded, Bernhard had "shown himself open to dishonorable requests and offers," and "allowed himself to be tempted to take initiatives that were completely unacceptable."

After reading the 240-page report, which is already selling by the thousands in Dutch bookstores at $5.60 a copy, the prince admitted that his friendship with top Lockheed officials had developed "along wrong lines." Said he: "I sincerely regret this." In addition to giving up his post as Inspector General, he may have to abandon some 300 other official roles, which range from chairman of the World Wildlife Fund to adviser for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. In a televised speech to a tense and packed meeting of Parliament, Prime Minister Joop den Uyl said that no legal action would be taken against Prince Bernhard because of possible "serious consequences" to Queen Juliana, who married the prince in 1937. Although there had been speculation that the Queen might abdicate if Prince Bernhard's name were not entirely cleared, Juliana seemed intent last week on remaining head of the House of Orange.

In its effort to figure out Bernhard's financial activities, the commission had to thread its way through a labyrinth of deals that began in the late 1950s. Lockheed officials, who were distressed that Prince Bernhard favored Northrop F-5s over their Starfighter F-104s, thought the prince might appreciate a Jetstar plane for his private use. When the prince declined, Lockheed's European agent, Fred Meuser, suggested that $1 million in cash might be appropriate, and the money was channeled to the late Colonel "Chouli" Pantchoulidzew, a former officer of the Imperial Russian Guard who had been a permanent house guest of the prince's parents since 1921. Although an official audit turned up no proof that the money reached Bernhard, the three wise men concluded that "His Royal Highness was the intended recipient" of $1 million that went inexplicably astray.

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