Princess Irene of the Netherlands
Get Princess Irene of the Netherlands essential facts below. View Videos or join the Princess Irene of the Netherlands discussion. Add Princess Irene of the Netherlands to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Princess Irene of the Netherlands

Princess Irene
prev. Duchess of Parma
Princes Irene 1978.jpg
Princess Irene in 1978
Born (1939-08-05) 5 August 1939 (age 82)
Soestdijk Palace, Baarn, Netherlands
(m. 1964; div. 1981)
IssuePrince Carlos, Duke of Parma
Princess Margarita, Countess of Colorno
Prince Jaime, Count of Bardi
Princess Carolina, Marchioness of Sala
Irene Emma Elisabeth van Oranje-Nassau, van Lippe-Biesterfeld
FatherPrince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
MotherJuliana of the Netherlands
ReligionRoman Catholicism,
prev. Calvinism

Princess Irene of the Netherlands (Irene Emma Elisabeth; born 5 August 1939) is the second child of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and Prince Bernhard.

In 1964, she converted to Catholicism and married the then-Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma in a Catholic ceremony in Rome, thus forfeiting her place in the royal succession. Since their 1981 divorce, she has espoused left-wing causes, including anti-nuclear campaigns, and has developed a pantheistic philosophy about the relationship between man and nature.[1][]

Childhood and family

The princess was born on 5 August 1939 at Soestdijk Palace. At the time of her birth, war was a distinct possibility but, because her parents hoped for a peaceful solution, they chose to name their new daughter for Eirene, the Greek goddess of peace.[2][3] She has three sisters, the eldest of whom is the former queen of the Netherlands, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands; the two younger ones are Princess Margriet and the late Princess Christina.[4][5]

Because of the invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany during World War II the Dutch royal family first fled to the United Kingdom. Irene was not yet a year old when the family was forced to leave the Netherlands; she was christened in the Chapel-Royal of Buckingham Palace in London, with the wife of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth being one of her godparents. When the family was leaving the Netherlands, the port where they boarded the British warship was attacked by a German air raid; one of the German bombs exploded within 200 yards of the family. Irene was placed in a gasproof carrier to protect her from chemical warfare.[6][7][8]

Princess Irene with Carlos Hugo in 1964.

Princess Juliana and her daughters again took flight when the London Blitz began, this time to exile in Ottawa, Canada, where her younger sister, Margriet, was born and where Irene attended Rockcliffe Park Public School.[3][4][7][9] As a teenager, she was dubbed by the Dutch press "the glamorous Princess of the Netherlands." During the war, the Royal Dutch Brigade (the formation of Free Dutch soldiers that fought alongside the Allies) was named for Princess Irene. This was continued after the war as the Regiment Prinses Irene.[10]

Always an independent person, Irene was thrilled to receive a sports car from her father, one of the gifts he had been presented with. Irene's happiness was short-lived; when she opened the hood of the automobile, she noticed that the vehicle only looked like a sports car but had an ordinary car's engine. She asked her father for permission to turn the vehicle into a true racing-type auto, which Prince Bernhard refused to allow.[11]

She was a bridesmaid at the 1962 wedding of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark.

Princess Irene studied at the University of Utrecht, then went to Madrid to learn the Spanish language and became proficient enough to become an official interpreter.[3][11]

Marriage controversy


While studying Spanish in Madrid, Irene met Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma, the eldest son of Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne, Xavier. In the summer of 1963, Princess Irene secretly converted from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism.[12] The first time the public or the Royal Family knew about the conversion was when a photograph appeared on the front page of an Amsterdam newspaper showing the Princess kneeling to receive communion at a Mass in the Roman Catholic Church of the Geronimites (Los Jerónimos) in Madrid.[13] Irene's conversion took place a year before her engagement announcement, but the royal family did not officially announce the news until January 1964.[14][15] When news leaked out that she was engaged to Prince Carlos Hugo (born 1930), it provoked a Protestant outcry and a constitutional crisis.[16][17]

Although Dutch law did not forbid a Catholic to reign over the Netherlands, Protestant succession was traditional, born out of the 16th-century Eighty Years' War with Spain and the assassination of William of Orange by a supporter of Philip II of Spain who believed William had betrayed both the Spanish monarch and the Catholic Church.[16] By the middle of the 20th century religious attitudes had begun to change, but only very slowly. While members of the Roman Catholic Church accounted for approximately 34 percent of the Dutch population, and Catholic political parties had been in coalition governments since 1918, the high fertility rate of the Catholics was a matter of some concern for all non-Catholics.[18][19]

Fresh memories of Francisco Franco's association with fascism amplified the crisis over a royal conversion to Catholicism and a marriage without approval of the Dutch States-General. For the second in line to the throne to not only convert to Roman Catholicism, but to also associate with an alleged Franco sympathizer, caused shock and consternation in the Netherlands. When Princess Irene left the Netherlands to join Prince Carlos in Paris after the announcement of their engagement, a threat was telephoned to KLM Royal Dutch Airways by an anonymous caller saying, "you should investigate the plane". The telephone call was construed to be a bomb threat and the airliner was searched, causing more than an hour's delay for the flight. It was the first instance of any threat involving the royal family and their air travel.[20]

Queen Juliana attempted to stop the marriage, first by sending a member of her staff to Madrid to persuade the Princess not to go ahead with a marriage that would be a political disaster for the monarchy in the Netherlands. It seemed to work and the Queen went on Dutch radio to tell the citizens that Princess Irene had agreed to cancel her engagement and was returning to the Netherlands. When the airplane arrived at Schiphol Airport, the Princess was not on it, and Queen Juliana and her husband, Prince Bernhard were supplied with a Dutch military plane to go to Spain to retrieve their daughter.[21] However, a message was delivered to the Queen from the Dutch government warning that it would resign en masse if she set foot in Spain. It was suggested that Princess Irene was a pawn of General Francisco Franco who tried to maximize the event to his benefit.[22]

Given the ramifications and the fact that a monarch from the House of Orange had never visited Spain, the Queen had no choice but to turn back. Prince Bernhard then traveled to Madrid to meet with his daughter and her fiancé, who both accompanied him back to the Netherlands, where an immediate meeting took place with the couple, the Queen, Prime Minister Marijnen, himself a Roman Catholic, and three top cabinet ministers.[12][23] When the meeting ended in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, 9 February 1964, Dutch radio broke its traditional Sabbath day silence to announce that Princess Irene would give up any rights of succession to the throne so she could marry Carlos Hugo. The princess further stated that she did not want the government to create a bill which would grant official consent to her marriage.[24] In an attempt to gain public favour for her proposed marriage, Princess Irene publicly stated that her marriage was intended to help end religious intolerance.[3] This caused a division in public opinion, as less than 40 percent of the country ruled by the Protestant House of Orange was Roman Catholic. Over the ensuing weeks, things deteriorated further when Pope Paul VI granted an audience requested by the couple in Rome. The Vatican believed the meeting was being held with the consent of the Dutch Royal Family.[25] The Queen at first denied such a meeting had taken place, but it was later verified.[26] Because the constitution prohibits members of the royal family from any involvement in foreign politics, Irene alienated herself from almost every Dutch citizen when a photo appeared in a Dutch paper showing her at a Carlist rally in Spain and she declared that she supported her fiancé's political goals.[27] The Dutch government officially announced that it had no responsibility for either the words or actions of Princess Irene in the future on 10 April 1964. It was done in response to Irene's declaration of joining Carlos Hugo's political campaign to regain the throne of Spain on 8 April 1964.[28][29]


No one from the Dutch Royal family or any Dutch diplomatic representative attended the marriage of Princess Irene and Prince Carlos Hugo in the Borghese Chapel at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy, on 29 April 1964.[30] There were also no representatives of Spain's Franco government at the ceremony; the couple chose Rome as the site of their nuptials because of its neutrality.[31]

Dutch television provided coverage of the marriage and Irene's family was among those who watched the ceremonies, although fate conspired in the form of a power failure which made them unable to see the last part of the rite. The Dutch royal family gathered at the home of Prince Bernhard's mother, Princess Armgard, for the television coverage. Princess Armgard had also converted to Roman Catholicism like her granddaughter, but decided against attending the wedding.[32][33] Irene and her mother spoke on the telephone before she left for the Basilica. Governmental fears that attendance at the wedding by the Dutch royal family might be construed as approval of Spanish politics made it impossible for the family to do anything else.[25] The Dutch government had also vetoed the possibility of the wedding being held in the Netherlands. While it is said that Pope Paul VI had been asked to officiate at the wedding and declined, he did send the couple his special blessing before the ceremony. He received the newlyweds at a private Vatican audience after their wedding.[34][35] Because she had failed to obtain the approval of the States-General to marry, Irene lost her right of succession to the Dutch throne. She agreed that she would live outside of the Netherlands.[12] In an effort to maintain no conflict between the royal family and the government, Queen Juliana invited Premier Marijnen to her birthday celebration at the palace the day after Irene's wedding.[]

In 1968, Princess Irene was libeled by the West German "rainbow press". The publications operated similarly to movie and television gossip magazines, with the exception being that instead of stories about film or television stars, the rainbow press wrote about royalty and their supposed secret lives. One of the publications printed a story that Irene had undergone an abortion with parental consent before she was married. Irene's father, Prince Bernhard, took the paper to court to clear his daughter's name. The court found in favor of father and daughter, ordering the newspaper to pay them both damages and to print a public apology.[36]

After the wedding, Irene was very active in her husband's right-wing political cause, but over time they drifted away from right-wing extremism to left-wing sympathies and became a part of the international jet-set crowd. In 1977, Irene was expelled from Spain because of her political views; her husband was also barred from the country for the same reason.[37] Prince Carlos was allowed to return in late 1977, but Princess Irene was not permitted back in the country until April 1978.[38] The prince, head of the Royal House of Bourbon-Parma, became a naturalized Spanish citizen in 1979. The couple had four children, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1981.[39][40][41]

Having been married to the Duke of Parma, she is the only one of her sisters whose husband was of princely status.[42][43] Her youngest sister, Princess Christina, later waived her rights to the throne when she married Jorge Guillermo, a United States citizen born in Cuba and a Roman Catholic.[44]

Since divorce

In 1980, Irene and her children returned to live in the Netherlands, initially moving back into Soestdijk Palace. She became involved in various personal development workshops, trying to "find herself".[39] By 1981, she and her children had moved to their own home across the street from the palace, where Irene did traditional household chores like grocery shopping.[45] In 1983 and 1985, she publicly spoke out against the additional deployment of NATO missiles at a large anti-nuclear rally in The Hague and with a letter to the newspaper De Volkskrant.[46][47] Her connection with nature, that she says she had felt since childhood, intensified, and in 1995 she published her book Dialogue with Nature.[48] The book outlined her philosophy that human beings are alienated from the natural world, but the Dutch media seized upon passages that recounted conversations she said she had with the trees and dolphins.[49]

In 1999 Princess Irene purchased a farm near Nieu-Bethesda in South Africa, turning it into a sanctuary.[50] In 2001, she helped establish the NatuurCollege in the Netherlands.[51] She is also the founder of NatureWise, an organization that brings elementary school children in the Netherlands directly in touch with nature.[52][53] The Princess is an honorary member of the Club of Budapest.[50]


Carlos Hugo and Princess Irene had four children:[54]

Name Birth Marriage Partner Issue
Prince Carlos, Duke of Parma 27 January 1970 Unmarried Brigitte Klynstra Carlos Hugo Klynstra[55]
12 June 2010 (civil)
20 November 2010 (religious)
Annemarie Gualthérie van Weezel Princess Luisa, Marchioness of Castell'Arquato
Princess Cecilia, Countess of Barceto
Carlos, Prince of Piacenza
Princess Margarita, Countess of Colorno 13 October 1972 19 June 2001 (civil)
22 September 2001 (religious)
Divorced 8 November 2006
Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn
3 May 2008 (civil) Tjalling ten Cate Julia ten Cate
Paola ten Cate
Prince Jaime, Count of Bardi 13 October 1972 3 October 2013 (civil)
5 October 2013 (religious)
Viktória Cservenyák Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma
Princess Gloria of Bourbon-Parma
Princess Carolina, Marchioness of Sala 23 June 1974 21 April 2012 (civil)
16 June 2012 (religious)
Albert Brenninkmeijer Alaïa-Maria Brenninkmeijer
Xavier Brenninkmeijer

Titles, styles, and honours

Styles of
Princess Irene of The Netherlands
Coat of Arms of the children of Juliana of the Netherlands.svg
Reference styleHer Royal Highness
Spoken styleYour Royal Highness
Princess Irene (window Dutch Church, Austin Friars in London)


  • 5 August 1939 - 15 November 1964: Her Royal Highness Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld
  • 15 November 1964 - 7 May 1977: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Piacenza
  • '7 May 1977 - 7 January 1981: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Parma
  • 7 January 1981 - present: Her Royal Highness Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld[56][57]

The Princess used the following names since her divorce:

  • Princess Irene of Lippe-Biesterfeld[58]
  • Mrs (Mevrouw) van Lippe-Biesterfeld.[59]


National honours

Foreign honours



  1. ^ Affairs, Ministry of General (9 October 2015). "Princess Irene - Royal family - Royal House of the Netherlands". Retrieved 2021.
  2. ^ "Baby Princess Carried to Birth Registration". The Montreal Gazette. 8 August 1939. Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "Princess Irene's Shadow Emerges". The Miami News. 11 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  4. ^ a b Goddard, Lance, ed. (2005). Canada and the Liberation of the Netherlands, May 1945. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 44. ISBN 1-55002-963-0. Retrieved 2012.
  5. ^ Sleeman, Elizabeth, ed. (2001). The International Who's Who of Women 2002. Psychology Press. p. 281. ISBN 1-85743-122-7. Retrieved 2012.
  6. ^ "Wilhelmina Flees Holland; Escapes German Bombers". St. Petersburg Times. 14 May 1940. Retrieved 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Princess of Peace Finds No Peace". The Windsor Daily Star. 12 June 1940. Retrieved 2012.
  8. ^ "Dutch Royalty Flees; Baby in Gasproof Box-Photo of Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard carrying Irene in the gasproof box". The Milwaukee Journal. 14 May 1940. Retrieved 2012.
  9. ^ "Ottawa-born Dutch Princess to Wed". The Leader-Post. 10 March 1965. Retrieved 2012.
  10. ^ Van Der Zee, Henri A., ed. (1998). The Hunger Winter: Occupied Holland, 1944-1945. University of Nebraska. p. 67. ISBN 0-8032-9618-5. Retrieved 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Princess Irene: Always the Independent Type". The Windsor Star. 10 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  12. ^ a b c "Princess Irene Gives Up Throne". The Pittsburgh Press. 8 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  13. ^ "Holland All Abuzz Over Royal Rumors". The Windsor Star. 5 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  14. ^ "Dutch Princess Irene Joins Catholic Church". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 30 January 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  15. ^ "Irene Advised to Drop Rights". The Evening Independent. 8 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  16. ^ a b "Princess Irene Keeps Dutch Guessing About Engagement". The Palm Beach Post. 8 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  17. ^ "Constitutional Crisis in Holland". Montreal Gazette. 12 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  18. ^ Besamusca, Emmeline; Verhuel, Jaap, eds. (2009). Discovering the Dutch: on culture and society of the Netherlands. Amsterdam University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-90-8964-100-7. Retrieved 2012.
  19. ^ Lijphart, Arend, ed. (1968). The politics of accommodation: pluralism and democracy in the Netherlands. University of California Press. pp. 84-86. Retrieved 2012. princess irene netherlands.
  20. ^ "Bomb Scare Delays Princess' Plane". The Evening Independent. 8 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  21. ^ "Princess' Engagement Off". The Calgary Herald. 5 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  22. ^ MacClancy, Jeremy, ed. (2000). The decline of Carlism. University of Nevada. p. 97. ISBN 0-87417-344-2. Retrieved 2012.
  23. ^ "Princess Irene to Wed Spaniard". The Pittsburgh Press. 8 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  24. ^ "Princess Irene to Give Up Succession Rights for Love". The News and Courier. 9 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  25. ^ a b "Dutch Rift Seems Almost Complete". The Windsor Star. 20 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  26. ^ "Royalty Received by Pope Paul". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 8 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  27. ^ "Dutch Crisis Builds Up Princess Beatrix, Premier". The Toledo Blade. 10 February 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  28. ^ "Irene Will Join Fight for Carlos". The Spokesman-Review. 8 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  29. ^ "Holland Disowns Irene's Future Words, Actions". St. Joseph Gazette. 10 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  30. ^ "Princess Irene, Prince Carlos Married in Catholic Ritual". Eugene Register-Guard. 29 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  31. ^ Long, James M. (29 April 1964). "Princess Irene Married; Wedding is Boycotted". The Evening News. Retrieved 2012.
  32. ^ "Queen Sees Irene's Wedding on Video". The Press-Courier. 30 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  33. ^ "Irene Marries Amid Carnival Air". The Miami News. 29 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  34. ^ "Dutch Tell Paul They Object To Papal Wedding for Irene". New York Times. 10 April 1964. Retrieved 2012."THE HAGUE, 10 April (UPI) - The Netherlands has informed Pope Paul VI that she would oppose a papal marriage ceremony for Princess Irene and Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma, court sources said today." (pay-per-view)
  35. ^ "Crowds Cheer; Bride's Kin Stay Away". Youngstown Vindicator. 29 April 1964. Retrieved 2012.
  36. ^ "Enraged Dutch Royalty Fights to Clear Name of Princess". Gadsden Times. 20 March 1969. Retrieved 2012.
  37. ^ "Princess Expelled From Spain". The Windsor Star. 9 May 1977. Retrieved 2012.
  38. ^ "Princess' Long Exile Ends". The Free Lance-Star. 4 April 1978. Retrieved 2012.
  39. ^ a b "Princess Irene to Dissolve Marriage". Boca Raton News. 7 January 1981. Retrieved 2012.
  40. ^ "Princess Plans Divorce". Boca Raton News. 14 December 1980. Retrieved 2012.
  41. ^ "People in the News-Annulment Started". Reading Eagle. 7 January 1981. Retrieved 2012.
  42. ^ Kersting, Hendrik (11 March 1965). "Dutch Princess to Marry Commoner". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2012.
  43. ^ "Queen Juliana Gives Approval to Betrothal". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 30 June 1965. Retrieved 2012.
  44. ^ "Dutch Princess Marries, Gives Up Right to Throne". The Victoria Advocate. 29 June 1975. Retrieved 2012.
  45. ^ "Princess Irene". The Times-News. 30 October 1981. Retrieved 2012.
  46. ^ "Princess Joins Missile Protesters in Largest Rally in Dutch History". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 30 October 1983. Retrieved 2012.
  47. ^ "Princess Opposes Deployment". Tri City Herald. 13 October 1985. Retrieved 2012.
  48. ^ Emoto, Masaru, ed. (2005). The True Power of Water:Healing and Discovering Ourselves. Simon and Schuster. p. x. ISBN 0-7432-8981-1. Retrieved 2012.
  49. ^ Brunke, Dawn Baumann, ed. (2009). Animal Voices, Animal Guides:Discover Your Deeper Self Through Communication with Animals. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. p. back cover. ISBN 978-1-59143-098-8. Retrieved 2012.
  50. ^ a b "H.R.H. Irene van-Lippe Biesterfeld". Club of Budapest. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  51. ^ Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld H.R.H. Prinses Irene of the Netherlands. "The NatureCollege Foundation (in English)". Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  52. ^ "Princess Irene experiences nature at the Mastbos". De 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2012. (Google English translation)
  53. ^ "NatureWise home page". Retrieved 2012. (Google English translation)
  54. ^ Williams, George L., ed. (2004). Papal Genealogy:The Families And Descendants Of The Popes. McFarlan. p. 152. ISBN 0-7864-2071-5. Retrieved 2012.
  55. ^ Bart Dirks & Remco Meijer, "Nederland heeft er een prins bij: Carlos Hugo Roderik Sybren prins de Bourbon de Parme" (in Dutch), de Volkskrant, 28 February 2018. Retrieved on 28 February 2018.
  56. ^ Princess Irene Archived 26 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine - website of the Dutch Royal House
  57. ^ Koninkrijksrelaties, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en. "Wet lidmaatschap koninklijk huis". Retrieved 2019.
  58. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIII. "Niederlande". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1987, pp. 85-86.
  59. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XV. "Niederlande". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1997, p. 75.

External links

Media related to Princess Irene of the Netherlands at Wikimedia Commons

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes