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Netherland’s Prince Claus, 76, Dies

October 6, 2002

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ Prince Claus, the German-born husband of Queen Beatrix who employed wit, charm and patience to overcome Dutch hostility and win the affection of his adopted nation, died Sunday. He was 76.

Claus had been in and out of intensive care for several months with respiratory and heart problems. Doctors at the Amsterdam Medical Center said he died of Parkinson’s disease and pneumonia, according to a government statement.

Claus was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit two weeks ago with a lung infection.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was to address the nation in a live television broadcast later Sunday.

The royal couple’s three sons were at Claus’s bedside when he died, Dutch television reported. It was unclear where Beatrix was when he died.

It will be the first royal funeral since the death of Beatrix’s grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina, in 1962. Her mother, Queen Juliana, abdicated in 1980. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

Claus’ own entry into Dutch society was hard fought, since the nation still bore scars inflicted by the Nazi army in which he had served.

It helped when he and the queen produced the first male heir to the Dutch throne in nearly a century. The royal couple had two more sons, Prince Johan Friso and Prince Constantijn.

He appeared frail and lacking energy during one of his last television appearances in March 2001 when he and the queen announced the engagement of Crown Prince Willem Alexander to Argentinian investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta. Claus advised his prospective daughter-in-law to learn the Dutch language and customs, as he had done 35 years earlier.

The prince’s two-year romance and 11-month engagement to Maxima _ as everyone knows her _ enthralled this sober trading nation of 16 million people and gave renewed luster to the Royal Family, often perceived as distant, stodgy and unglamorous.

Though born a German aristocrat, Claus showed a humility that appealed to the unassuming Dutch. In 1997, he asked the public to refrain from marking his birthday because it coincided with the funeral of Britain’s Princess Diana.

During a speech at an African fashion show in 1998, Claus expressed admiration for Nelson Mandela’s casual style of dress. In what he called ``the Declaration of Amsterdam,″ he ripped off his own necktie and tossed it at his wife’s feet, calling it ``a snake around my neck.″ His act briefly touched off an open-necked fashion craze among normally conservative Dutchmen, but the prince was unable to escape royal decorum and resumed knotting his tie before long.

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