Princess Irene at 70: “I Struggled with my Royal Status”

  August 6, 2009 at 1:04 am by

In an exclusive interview to celebrate her 70th birthday, HRH Princess Irene of the Netherlands has spoken of her struggle to accept her royal status.

During the interview/documentary which was aired on Tuesday night in Holland on Nederland 2, Irene told how she couldn’t cope with the separation between herself and the people her royal title and family brought. “I always wanted to be a normal human being,” the Princess said, adding she had to “work a lot” to accept the fact she was a princess.

Princess Irene said in the documentary that she prefers to use her father’s last name, van Lippe-Biesterfeld: “It made a tremendous difference to me whether I answered the phone as Princess Irene or Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld. It helped me to be closer to the people.” She does however use her title occasionally when it will assist in bringing her message across.

Filmed at her home in Holland and now more at peace with her place and role in life, Princess Irene also spoke of her the great joy that her granddaughter, Julia Ten Cate (Princess Margarita’s only child), has brought to her life. “It is more than I have ever experienced before,” she said.

Click here to read Princess Irene’s birthday thread.

HRH Princess Irene Emma Elisabeth of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld was born on August 5th in 1939 at Soestdijk Palace, to TRH Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

Due to the Royal Family’s exile in Canada during the Nazi occupation of Holland in World War Two, Irene attended the Rockcliffe Park Public School in Ottawa. The family returned to the Netherlands in August 1945, following the Allied victory of the War. Irene later attended University of Utrecht, before moving to Madrid to study Spanish.

It was here that she met her future husband, HRH Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma. The Prince was the heir to Spain’s Carlist pretender to the throne, the Duke of Palma. This relationship created severe political and religious tensions within the Netherlands, who still had the fresh memories of General Francisco Franco’s support of Nazi Germany in their minds. Princess Irene’s secret conversion to Roman Catholicism saw outrage throughout the nation, as the Protestant-dominant Netherlands had a large fear of the possibility of a Catholic monarch due to the country’s 16th century war with Spain. This fear was also heightened by the wars over Catholic policies in neighbouring European nations.

However, the marriage went ahead (even though Queen Juliana tried to end the engagement several times) in April 1964. Attended by not one member of the Princess’ family or the Dutch government, Irene and Carlos Hugo wed at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Upon her marriage, through her failure to receive permission from the government to marry, HRH lost her place in the line of succession to the Dutch throne and alienated the majority of the Dutch people.

The couple had four children – Prince Carlos Xavier (b. 1970), twins Princess Margarita and Prince Jamie (b. 1972), and Princess Carolina (1974) – before they divorced in 1981.

Irene returned to the Netherlands following her divorce, and published her first book Dialogue with Nature in 1995, showcasing her love of nature. It was this love of nature that saw the Princess purchase a farm in South Africa and turn it into a sanctuary.

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3 Responses to Princess Irene at 70: “I Struggled with my Royal Status”

  1. lucien says:

    It is Julia Ten Cate Jess.

  2. Angela says:

    Whenever I hear about a royal claiming the desire to be a “normal human being” I think ‘Cry Me A River!!’. What they mean is a “normal person with tons of money” because being a normal person without family fortunes isn’t so great!

  3. Elspeth says:

    Thank you, Lucien; I’ve changed it. – Elspeth

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