NETTY ROYAL

Margaritagate

After having followed Margaritagate, as it is sometimes called in The Netherlands, over the past weeks, I still don't know exactly what to think of the whole case as it is pretty complicated.

It all started with four articles in the serious Dutch weekly magazine HP/De Tijd between February 14 and March 7. After having kept silent for more than three years, Princess Margarita de Bourbon de Parme, daughter of the Duke of Parma and his former wife Princess Irene of the Netherlands, and her husband Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn, scion of a Dutch patrician family, wanted to tell their own story to the press and invited the HP/De Tijd and the German weekly magazine Stern to their castle in the south of France. It hit the Netherlands like a storm. Although before not that many people had ever heard of the couple, now they became about the most known couple in the Netherlands. The magazines were sold within no time including the extra printed ones and the subject was discussed everywhere. Never before a member of the Dutch royal family had talked with the press so openly and for all not about a family quarrel, while also the family in private was discussed in a not too positive way. It is almost impossible to give a summary of the things that were told in the series of articles, but I will try.

The articles in HP/De Tijd start with the beginning of the relationship between Edwin and Margarita in the spring or summer of 1999 and their quick engagement in November 1999. In 2000 the problems with Margarita's family started, especially after May 2000 when it turned out that the Duke of Parma had been able to have a look at the Social Service file of Edwin and had taken some wrong conclusions that were not in favour of Edwin: he had brought his family in financial difficulties in the past, hadn't been graduated, had never had a real job and above all might have the HIV-virus. Soon it also turned out that members of the family were against their relationship. Queen Beatrix, who was asked for help, didn't want to interfere and told them to find a solution themselves. The national ombudsman and the Government Information Service also didn't want to help the couple in the beginning of 2001, despite the fact that they feared that they were being bugged and that their mail was read. In the course of 2001 more problems occurred. Although Margarita and Edwin were officially engaged Queen Beatrix didn't allow Edwin to appear on the official wedding photo of her son Prince Constantijn and Laurentien Brinkhorst in May. Prince Bernhard didn't want Edwin to visit him on his birthday in June 2001 although the couple then just had married civilly. Other problems occurred with Monseigneur Bär who was going to bless their religious marriage in September, but had heard about problems. They were able to persuade him to bless their marriage after all.

The wedding itself at the Cathedral of Auch in France was only visited by a handful of family members, while the father of Margarita didn't even show up. They had to kick out some guests around 5:30 in the morning long after the party had ended, among them Constantijn and Laurentien. Several people told Margarita and Edwin that they had overheard strange conversations. Dutch newspapers and magazines only wrote about the fact that Margarita's father hadn't attended his daughter's wedding and that Edwin posed as a baron in France, although he didn't have a title. They decided to write letters to members of Margarita's family to tell how they saw the whole situation and that they hoped for support, while on the other side they told they might take legal actions. Also then Prime Minister Wim Kok received a letter in which was asked him to interfere. Some people reacted but neither the Queen nor Wim Kok wanted to help. A conversation with Queen Beatrix in January 2002 also didn't bring the support and solution the couple wanted. Only one week later the press published stories about unpaid bills of the wedding in September 2001 - according to the couple they only forgot to pay three bills.

It didn't stay unnoticed that the couple didn't show up at the wedding of the Prince of Orange and Máxima Zorreguieta on February 2. What nobody knew was that the couple wasn't even invited, on television it was reported that the couple wasn't able to come due to financial problems. This story is said to have caused the end of Fincentives, the company of Edwin, although before 2002 everything had been going very well. It turned out that also the assessments of Edwin had been handled by the treasurer of the royal court without permission of Edwin. As soon as they discovered this they turned to Prime Minister Wim Kok for help for the last time, as well as to two ministers. Nothing was done. And at the end of the series of articles the couple also tells they weren't welcome at the funeral of Prince Claus in October 2002, but after some pressure the Queen at least allowed them to say goodbye to him at Palace Noordeinde the day before the funeral.

In the articles Princess Margarita also revealed some family secrets. She among others tells that her grandfather Prince Bernhard, already has a relationship with his personal assistant, Cocky Gilles, for years; coincidently at the same time a television programme told that the prince has two illegitimate daughters, one in the USA and one in France (the last one is Alexia Grinda, already known for years). She also says that her father has an illegitimate son with the former nanny of his children and is being supported by his children as he doesn't have a lot of money himself. Furthermore she tells that in 1999 - before the beginning of Margarita's relationship with Edwin, although that is almost impossible according to me as the relationship of the Prince of Orange and Máxima Zorreguieta only started in April/May 1999 - the Prince of Orange and Queen Beatrix haven't been speaking with each other for months because Queen Beatrix thought Máxima Zorreguieta wouldn't be strong enough to become his wife.

Next to the series of articles, Princess Margarita also gave two interviews on television in which she accused the royal family of abusing their power and that she and her beloved Edwin can never be driven apart. She also told that she might open her own website on which people can find more information and ask questions. Since many things happened. Right after the first part of the interview was published the royal family of the Netherlands issued a statement in which they regret the articles and say they don't recognise the portrait of them painted in it. Out of love for Princess Margarita the family restricts itself to this reaction. Only on March 20 Queen Beatrix herself said at a press conference during her state visit to Chili: "We are of course very worried about her and it is clear that this sad case touches us all deeply. I repeat again emphatic that we don't recognise ourselves in the story that are revealed about our family. I don't want to talk about it further, as it is about the daughter of my sister and I really hope that they will succeed in peace and privacy to bring the problems to a solution." She also said that the role of the Cabinet of the Queen that came in the news because of the inquiry to Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn will be discussed quietly and extensive after her return to The Netherlands. Furthermore also other people who were mentioned in the articles, including the private secretary of the Bourbon de Parme children, the head of the Government Information Service, as well as Monseigneur Bär gave a reaction in which they denied the stories of the couple. Also the Duke of Parma denied ever having seen the Social Service file of his son-in-law.

On February 22 Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn's lawyer revealed that he is preparing a huge claim against the Dutch state, because he had to sell his at first successful company Fincentives in June 2002, because the negative publicity around his own person seemed to be an obstacle for the continuity of it after he married Princess Margarita de Bourbon de Parme. Next to indemnification for the damage to the company he also wants rehabilitation for himself. Tens of people will be asked to testify before court, including members of the family. On March 10 the couple also officially informed against former Prime Minister Wim Kok and two ministers, as well as officials of various ministries and the former Internal Security Service, and accuse them of forgery, swindling and violation of the official secret.

As already said he subject was discussed everywhere, while also politicians intervened. The Socialist Party asked for an explanation of the role of the former Prime Minister Wim Kok in the quarrel and also wanted to know how it was possible that the family had been able to have a look at the file of Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn at the Social Service. Before the fourth part was published Prime Minister Balkenende said that the case was 'outmost painful and that he hopes that the case ends quickly'. He also confirmed, despite earlier denials, that information had been collected about Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn in 2000, which is the normal procedure for people who will become a member of the royal family. He said that the results of the investigations were the reason for 'conversations in the family circle'. In a letter to the couple several Ministers also on behalf of the Prime Minister told to be sorry that they were misinformed that no such investigation had taken place.

So far the highlight of the whole case was a day long debate in the Second Chamber, where also Margarita and Edwin were present at the public stand. Prime Minister Balkenende of the Netherlands didn't succeed in convincing the Second Chamber that it is reasonable that information about Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn turned up at Princess Margarita de Bourbon de Parme's family. It was said that the Commission for Information- and Security Services of the Second Chamber finds that the extra inquiry to Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn was right, as the suspicions against him were serious enough to justify the extra inquiry. It was not mentioned what the suspicions against Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn were, and also the question if the couple was bugged remained unanswered.

The outcome of the case still isn't clear and it might take months if not more until the case comes at court. The Netherlands is most likely awaiting an interesting case at court in which many questions people still have might be answered. Of course both the couple and the royal family, as well as the then Prime Minister Wim Kok and a few of his ministers have made mistakes. The family as well as the Prime Minister and his ministers could have known after getting the letters the couple wrote that this could mean trouble and they could have taken action to try to find a solution for the situation. Myself I really would like to know what the serious suspicions against Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn are that were discussed within the royal family and that justified an extra inquiry. And is the couple as paranoid and ready for psychological help as many people think, or are they right in accusing several bodies of bugging them and opening their mail? Did Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn really loose that much money and did he really have to sell his company due to the negative publicity, although several articles in newspapers have stated otherwise?

It most likely depends on the outcome of the case how much damage it will cost to the monarchy in The Netherlands. So far it seems that the case hasn't harmed the royal family very much, but that might change if the outcome of the case is negative for them. But whatever happens I think the monarchy will survive. The family has survived huger storms than this one.

Netty Leistra
Royal Watch
April 2003

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