The life of Princess Irene of the Netherlands

irene netherlands
© RVD - Jeroen van der Meyde

Princess Irene of the Netherlands was born on 5 August 1939 as the second daughter of the future Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard and she was thus a granddaughter of Queen Wilhelmina. Her eldest sister was the future Queen Beatrix, and her two younger sisters are Princess Margriet and the late Princess Christina.

Princess Irene was not yet one year old when the family was forced to flee to the United Kingdom, and her christening took place in the Chapel Royal of Buckingham Palace on 31 May 1940 in the presence of both the Dutch and British royals. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother acted as one of her godparents. While Queen Wilhelmina set up a government in exile in London, it was decided that Juliana and her daughters should go to Canada for their safety.

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, Wilhelmina’s first cousin and her husband, who was the Governor-General of Canada, had offered to help. After all, England could be invaded as well. On 2 June 1940, Juliana, her daughters and several others boarded the HNLMS Sumatra, which was accompanied by the HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck. Wilhelmina later wrote in her memoirs, “I gazed after the car as it drove off from Lydney Park – when and where would we meet again? Bernhard returned late in the evening, very unhappy at the prospect of their long separation. Several weeks passed before Juliana’s first letter brought a ray of light for him and myself.”1They arrived safely on 10 June 1940 and stayed at Government House at first. A month and a half later, they moved to a villa in Ottawa. Irene attended the Rockcliffe Park Public School before the family returned to the Netherlands in August 1945.

In 1948, Queen Wilhelmina abdicated, and Irene’s mother became the new reigning Queen. Irene continued her education at the Werkplaats Kindergemeenschap. She also received private lessons before attending the Baarnsch Lyceum. She graduated in 1957 and went on to attend the University of Utrecht and Lausanne. In 1963, she graduated with a degree in Spanish, and she became an official interpreter. While studying in Madrid, Irene met Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma, who was the eldest son of the Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne. In the summer of 1963, Irene secretly converted to Roman Catholicism. Her subsequent engagement to Carlos Hugo caused a constitutional crisis, as she was second in line to the throne. Her mother tried to stop the marriage, but it was to no avail. On 9 February 1964, it was announced that Irene would give up her succession rights to marry Carlos Hugo.

On 29 April 1964, Princess Irene and Prince Carlos Hugo were married in Rome, and Irene was no longer a member of the Dutch Royal House. No one from her family attended the wedding in the Borghese Chapel at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The ceremony was broadcast on TV, and the newlyweds were received by Pope Paul VI for a private audience. They went on to have four children together: Carlos, Duke of Parma (born 1970), Princess Margarita, Countess of Colorno (born 1972), Prince Jaime, Count of Bardi (born 1972, twin of Margarita) and Princess Carolina, Marchioness of Sala (born 1974). Their marriage ended in divorce in 1981. Irene and her children returned to the Netherlands, and her children later became part of the Dutch Nobility.

Princess Irene helped establish the NatuurCollege in the Netherlands, and she is the founder of NatureWise. She currently lives in Switzerland. Through her four children, she is currently a grandmother of ten.

  1. Lonely but not alone p. 156

About Moniek Bloks 2740 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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