King Willem-Alexander’s grandfather lived a turbulent life. He cheated on his wife regularly. He also had two illegitimate children.
Celebrity couples with a large age gap have always been an issue. Also in the European royal families. So did Prince Bernhard the Netherlands (1911-2004), the father of Old Queen Beatrice (85), led a turbulent private life. A new episode from this is now known. Because his former lover, Hélène Grinda (80), gives an interview for the first time in which she talks about the long-term affair with the prince.
She was 16, Prince Bernhard was already 49
Hélène and Bernhard once met on a hunting trip. At that time it was actually a purely men’s affair – but a group of young women of good background were also invited to the excursion in question (probably for entertainment purposes). Including 16-year-old Hélène.
Bernhard, who married Juliana of the Netherlands (1909-2004, Queen of the Netherlands from 1948 to 1980) in 1937, fell in love with the young woman. He called her “Poupette” (“doll” in French) and after a while bought her a luxury apartment in Paris.
Affair about Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands: “He was my first great love”
Hélène, now 80, tells the Dutch magazine “Privé”: “Bernhard was a good-looking, well-groomed man. Of course I knew he was married – and that made things exciting. He was my first great love.”
Shortly after Bernhard’s death in 2004, it became public knowledge that the prince consort had fathered two illegitimate children of the former Queen Juliana, who were also included in his will: Alicia (71) and Alexia (56). The second comes from his affair with Hélène.
In the interview, Hélène also gives insights into the complex father-daughter relationship: “Bernhard has always been a loving father to Alexia. She had a hard time never being able to talk about her father. But ultimately he also ensured that she developed a passion for dogs and horses. She got her first horse from him. Today she no longer lives in Paris, but in the west of France, near the stables where her horses are cared for.”
“Juliana has forgiven him for everything, even his affairs.”
Hélène even has flattering words about Bernhard’s wife, whom she knew personally: “This woman had a big heart. She must have loved Bernhard very much. She has forgiven him for everything, even his affairs. She was always friendly to me, as well as to Alexia.”
In 1972, at the age of 28, Hélène married Baron Stanislaus Lejeune (1944-1998). She had a son with him and he adopted Alexia. They divorced and in 1981 Hélène finally married businessman Victor Dial, then vice-president of Peugeot.
Prince Bernhard was a member of the NSDAP
Bernhard, who was born in Jena as the eldest son of Prince Bernhard zur Lippe, was not only the subject of conversation with his extramarital love affairs. In 1976 it was revealed that Bernhard had received $1.1 million in bribes from Lockheed in the early 1960s so that their aircraft would sell better in the Netherlands.
As only became public at the beginning of October 2023, Bernhard had kept his NSDAP membership card in his personal archive during his lifetime. And that, shortly before his death, Bernhard told the daily newspaper “de Volkskrant”: “I can declare with my hand on the Bible: I was never a Nazi. I never paid for party membership, I never had a membership card.”
Bernhard’s grandson Willem-Alexander then made a press statement: “I can well imagine that the news will have a great impact and evoke a lot of emotions, especially in the Jewish community. But I am convinced that we have to face the past, even the less beautiful parts of the past.”
“Crown Princess Juliana was a lovely woman, but not particularly attractive in the eyes of aristocratic machos”
The historians Gerard Aalders and Coen Hilbrink had already found a copy of Bernhard’s membership card in the USA in 1996. The original copy appeared in 2004. However, according to the evidence, Prince Bernhard resigned his membership when he became engaged to the then Princess Juliana in 1936. Despite his aristocratic origins, many Dutch people questioned him in the 1930s; There was heated debate about his suitability as prince consort.
The historian and journalist Christoph Driessen once explained the connection between Juliana and Bernhard in this unflattering way: “Crown Princess Juliana was a lovely woman, but not particularly attractive in the eyes of macho aristocrats.” This led to her also becoming a marriage candidate from Nazi Germany came into question. And Bernard? According to the historian, he probably agreed to the marriage out of opportunism.