Prince Claus (1926-2002)

Prince Claus married Princess Beatrix on 10 March 1966. The couple had three sons: Willem-Alexander (born 1967), Friso (born 1968) and Constantijn (born 1969). Prince Claus died in Amsterdam on 6 October 2002.

Youth and education

Claus von Amsberg, son of Claus-Felix von Amsberg and Gosta von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen, was born on 6 September 1926 on the estate of his mother's family in Dötzingen (Hitzacker).

From 1928 to 1947 his father ran a plantation in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Prince Claus attended primary school in Bad Doberan in Mecklenburg from 1933 to 1936 before transferring to a boarding school in Lushoto (Tanganyika). From 1938 to 1943 he received his secondary education at the Baltenschule, a boarding school at Misdroy in Pomerania. From January to August 1943 he attended secondary school at Bad Doberan, and from August 1943 to January 1944 he served as a naval auxiliary near Kiel. In January 1944 the Prince was called up for a two-month period of service in the Labour Corps in Königsberg/Neumark. He then returned to secondary school and was awarded his (wartime) school-leaving certificate in July 1944.

Military service

Immediately after leaving school the Prince was called up for military service, and served in Reserved Armoured Division no. 6 in Neuruppin until March 1945. He attended the Armoured Vehicle Training School at Viborg in Denmark for three months of this period.

From March to May 1945 he served with the 90th Panzer Division in Italy, but did not see active combat. He was captured by the Americans near Merano in early May and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp at Ghedi near Brescia, where he was employed as a driver and interpreter. In September 1945 the Americans transferred him to the US base Latimer Camp near Amersham in the United Kingdom to work as an interpreter. After his release in December 1945 Prince Claus returned to Hitzacker.

The Prince then had to sit the school-leaving examinations again as the certificate awarded him during the war was not officially recognised. He passed the examinations in Lüneburg in 1947.

Studies and diplomatic service

Prince Claus originally wanted to study mechanical engineering, but as the German universities were overcrowded and priority was being given to older candidates he was unable to enrol. He therefore began the year's work experience placement which was prescribed as part of the university course, taking a job at an engineering works in Winsen/Luhe. At the end of 1948, however, he decided to enrol at the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the University of Hamburg. He sat his first law examination (Referendar) in 1952 and his second (Assessor) in 1956. In early 1957 he began working for the West German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and passed the Diplomatic Service (Attaché) examination in 1958. From 1958 to 1961 he was Secretary at the German Embassy at Ciudad Trujillo (now Santo Domingo), Dominican Republic, and from 1961 to 1963 was posted to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Later that same year he transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bonn, where he worked in the department responsible for economic relations with sub-Saharan Africa until August 1965.

Marriage and family

On 28 June 1965 the engagement was announced of Claus von Amsberg and Princess Beatrix, after a report drawn up by Professor Louis de Jong at the government's request had concluded that there were no concerns about his conduct during the Second World War. In autumn of the same year a bill consenting to the marriage was passed by the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. On 10 December 1965 Claus von Amsberg became a Dutch citizen.

The civil marriage ceremony was conducted by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Gijsbert van Hall, in Amsterdam City Hall on 10 March 1966. The marriage was blessed during a service in the Westerkerk, which was conducted by Rev. H.J. Kater, with a sermon by Rev. J.H. Sillevis Smitt. On this occasion, Claus von Amsberg received the title of Prince of the Netherlands and the designation Jonkheer van Amsberg.

The royal couple took up residence in Drakensteyn Castle in Lage Vuursche. Three sons were born to Prince Claus and Princess Beatrix: Willem-Alexander in 1967, Friso in 1968 and Constantijn in 1969.

Work until 1980

Immediately on his arrival in the Netherlands the Prince had devoted his energies to learning the Dutch language and familiarising himself with every aspect of Dutch society. During the early years of their marriage, Prince Claus and Princess Beatrix devoted much of their time to the upbringing of their children. They went on various visits, not only to Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles but also to many other countries and international organisations.

The Prince was involved in a variety of activities, but he was particularly interested in development cooperation. This was a field in which the knowledge and experience he had gained during his diplomatic career could be put to good use. He was appointed member of the National Advisory Council for Development Cooperation and its Bureau, and he was Chair of the National Committee for Development Strategy 1970‑1980, Chair of the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and special adviser to the Minister for Development Cooperation. In these capacities he visited a number of countries targeted by Dutch policy, such as India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zambia.

Prince Claus and Queen Beatrix

On 30 April 1980, at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Queen Juliana abdicated in favour of her daughter Princess Beatrix, who became Queen of the Netherlands. After the investiture, Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus visited the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. They took a great interest in important events in the Netherlands and kept themselves fully informed of socioeconomic developments and the concerns of the Dutch people.

During his working visits, Prince Claus devoted particular attention to technological innovation and music. He was also interested in the preservation of historic buildings, nature conservation, the environment and urban and regional planning. He frequently visited public utility organisations, commercial and industrial enterprises, and companies in the agriculture and fisheries sector.

Public appointments

In 1984 Prince Claus accepted four new posts in addition to his post of Special Advisor on Development Cooperation. In that year, he became Inspector-General for Development Cooperation, member of the Board of Directors of both De Nederlandsche Bank N.V. and Royal PTT Nederland, and Chair of the Transport and Public Works Platform. In 1998 he withdrew from his posts at De Nederlandsche Bank NV and Koninklijke PTT Nederland NV when he reached the statutory age limit of 72.

Prince Claus was also honorary chair of the National Coordinating Committee for the Protection of Monuments and Historic Buildings and the King William I Foundation, and patron of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Scouting Netherlands.

To mark Prince Claus's seventieth birthday, the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development was established on the initiative of the Dutch government. The objective of the Fund is to enhance understanding of cultures and to promote interaction between culture and development. Prince Constantijn now act as honorary chair.