Netherlands' Prince Bernhard dies

Prince Bernhard enjoyed popularity as a bon vivant

Dutch Prince Bernhard, one of the most popular figures in the royal family, has died at the age of 93. Bernhard, the father of the Netherlands' sitting monarch, Queen Beatrix, was suffering from cancer. He died late on Wednesday after being moved to the Utrecht University Medical hospital when his condition worsened.

The German-born prince, who became the consort of the late Queen Juliana, was a pilot with the Allied forces fighting against Germany in World War II. The royal house said that, in accordance with his wishes, no efforts had been made to revive the prince. Bernhard's service during the war and his help rebuilding the nation after the Nazi occupation earned him the respect of his adopted country.

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"Prince Bernhard was a man who enjoyed life, a vital man who remained active until a very old age," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a nationally televised address.

Prince Bernhard was married to Queen Juliana for six decades

"He devoted himself to issues and people close to his heart." But Prince Bernhard's image suffered in 1976, when he accepted the findings of a Dutch parliamentary commission that he had received improper commissions from the US aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed. Beyond his country he was seen as a jet-setting and charismatic ambassador for the Dutch during post-war reconstruction.

In 1961 he helped create the World Wildlife Fund, becoming its first president. He is also credited with founding the Bilderberg group - a secretive annual discussion forum for prominent politicians and thinkers. Queen Juliana, who abdicated in favour of her daughter in 1980, died in March this year.

source: www.bbc.co.uk (external - login to view)