55 years ago yesterday, Princess Beatrix married German diplomat Claus van Amsberg. Royal weddings are usually celebratory occasions but in post-war Europe, the Dutch heir-to-the-throne’s choice of husband was not completely welcomed. As a child, Claus had been required to join the Hitler Youth and conscripted into the German army at the very end of WWII; while he was never involved in active combat, his past involvement with the Nazi party was problematic.
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Princess Beatrix and Claus van Amsberg announce their engagement, June 28, 1965
The couple stood firm and leveraged support from Beatrix’s German father Prince Bernhard to gain Queen Juliana’s endorsement. They further prevailed in gaining parliamentary approval for their marriage, a step needed for Princess Beatrix to remain in the line of succession, despite a petition with over 65,000 signatures against the marriage.
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The couple give notice of their upcoming marriage at Baarn Town Hall, February 17, 1966
These circumstances paved a less than ideal path to the altar and the couple’s wedding day on March 10, 1966 saw groups simultaneously cheering and protesting the union (a smoke bomb detonated during the carriage procession). Thankfully, these stresses are not evident in the Beatrix and Claus’ beaming faces. Their day started with traveling by the House of Orange’s gold carriage to a civil ceremony at Amsterdam Town Hall presided by mayor, Gijsbert van Hall.
A religious ceremony immediately followed in the Westerkerk, led by the Reverend Johannes Hendrik Sillevis Smitt.
Princess Beatrix wore her wedding gown for both ceremonies. Collaboratively created by the bride and Dutch royal family couturier Carolien Berge-Farwick of Maison Linette in white silk and duchess satin, the gown’s fitted bodice featured a high, rounded neckline and three quarter length sleeves. Sparkling beadwork at the waist highlighted the gown’s split skirt, which revealed a beautifully embroidered column underskirt and flowed to a sixteen foot train. While the dress’ streamlined shape was certainly of its time, the spectacular embroidery elevated it to one befitting a future queen.
This regal royal bridal look was further elevated by the voluminous silk tulle veil and statement Wurttemberg Pearl Tiara. Impressive tiaras can easily overwhelm even a royal bride but the unadorned neckline of the gown, the extensive embroidery on the skirt, and the classic 60s bouffant veil balanced the tiara, beautifully.
Princess Beatrix was attended by six adult bridesmaids, including her younger sister Princess Christina, who wore Wedgewood blue silk crepe gowns. Lace jackets with three quarter length sleeves, gloves, and matching bandeau headpieces with large feather poufs completed their ensemble. Two wee bridesmaids wore white silk dresses with white floral wreaths in their hair.
Queen Juliana topped a stunning petrol blue velvet coat and blue lace column gown with a turban made of mottled blue and white silk petals.
Princess Irene wore a headpiece of large deep pink silk flowers. Princess Margriet wore a white veiled pillbox, the fur hat linking with the collar and cuffs on her blush silk gown and coat.
Guests from numerous European royal houses were in attendance:
Despite the controversy of this marriage, Prince Claus became an accepted and much loved member of the Dutch royal family and by all accounts, the couple enjoyed a happy marriage and family with their three sons. When Prince Claus died in 2002, he was deeply grieved by all.