Scandals have rocked many a royal family, the Netherlands’ House of Orange included. And their intrigues are played out in two miniseries known collectively as Crowns & Jewels.

Crowns & Jewels Daan Schuurmans as Prince Bernhard
Crowns & Jewels: Bernhard, Scoundrel of Orange: Daan Schuurmans as Prince Bernhard – Photo courtesy of Eurochannel

With co-funding from the European Union’s Creative Europe Media, Eurochannel has launched the second installment of its inaugural European Prime TV Series with Crowns & Jewels, one of the most popular series from the Netherlands. (The first installment is the French anthology series Suite Noire.)

Crowns & Jewels consists of the miniseries Bernhard, Scoundrel of Orange (Bernhard, Schavuit van Oranje) and Beatrix, Orange Under Fire (Beatrix, Oranje onder Vuur) — of which the former was nominated for several awards, including Best Miniseries at the 2010 Monte-Carlo TV Festival and Prix Europa 2010. Both are based on the true stories and real-life events of the House of Orange, one of Europe’s oldest and richest royal families.

Today’s post focuses on Bernhard, Scoundrel of Orange, which centers on the adult life of Prince Bernhard. It is so intriguing that I binge-watched all four episodes in one sitting, something I only do when a show captures me from the get-go and keeps me rapt.

I admit that I knew next to zilch about Prince Bernhard or the House of Orange until I began watching this series, so I was a tad confused at first about who’s who and how they relate to each other, since scenes alternate between 2003/4 and the decades of the 1930s through 1970s, and the same characters are played by different actors. So, for anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation, here’s a quick run-down of the major characters and the actors who play them:

  • Bernhard, husband/Prince Consort of  Juliana — Eric Schneider (older Bernhard) and Monte-Carlo Outstanding Actor nominee Daan Schuurmans (younger Bernhard)
  • Juliana, Princess/Queen of the Netherlands — Monte-Carlo Outstanding Actress nominee Ellen Vogel (older Juliana) and Lotje van Lunteren (younger Juliana)
  • Beatrix, daughter of Juliana and Bernhard — Marie Louise Stheins (Queen Beatrix), Gijsje Grosfeld (younger Princess Beatrix), Iris Van Geffen (older Princess Beatrix)
  • Willem-Alexander, royal son of Princess/Queen Beatrix — Vincent Linthorst
  • Máxima, wife/Queen Consort of Prince/King Willem-Alexander — Loes Haverkort
Crowns & Jewels: Gijsje Grosfeld and Daan Schuurmans
Crowns & Jewels: Bernhard, Scoundrel of Orange: Gijsje Grosfeld as Princess Beatrix and Daan Schuurmans as Prince Bernhard
Photo courtesy of Eurochannel

The story opens just after the death of Prince Bernhard in 2004, then picks up at some point in 2003, about a year after the Dutch Prince Willem-Alexander married the Argentinian businesswoman Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti. While she is visiting her husband’s grandparents, the former Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard, the latter shares the story of his life to help the Princess adjust to life as a member of the Dutch Royal family.

In the ’30s, the mother, brother, and uncle of German playboy Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld inform him that Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands is interested in him as a husband for her daughter Princess Juliana, and encourage him to go for it. He joins Hitler’s Nazi Party instead. However, his feelings change when he meets the smitten Juliana for the second time and begins his courtship that culminates in their marriage, as shown through filmed segments and archival footage.

Fast forward back to 2003, when Máxima shares a secret with Bernhard and Juliana, the latter of whom also reveals something heretofore unknown to Máxima. Bernhard tries to play it off as the ramblings of an old woman with dementia, but Máxima insists he tell her the truth. What she learns shocks her to her core. Clearly, neither the Netherlands nor the House of Orange are for her.

Episode 2 alternates between 2003, when Bernhard gives an interview to two journalists and upsets his daughter, the reigning Queen Beatrix, and the early 1940s, when World War II is devastating much of Europe. For their safety, the Royal Family leaves the Netherlands, with Bernhard living in London while Juliana and their children settle in Canada.

During the war years Bernhard meets British Royal Navy officer Ian Fleming, who’s inspired by Bernhard’s “shaken, not stirred” vodka martinis for his future James Bond character. And with Bernhard’s former lover showing up unexpectedly on his plane, his playboy ways return when he is in Argentina, where he meets Máxima’s father while plotting a coup.

The birth of Bernhard and Juliana’s youngest daughter Marijke (Princess Christina of the Netherlands) in February 1947, followed by the abdication of Queen Wilhelmina and the ascent to the throne of Queen Juliana in September 1948, and the birth of Máxima and Willem-Alexander’s first daughter Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange, in December 2003, are the main Royal events of the third episode.

As the post-war rebuilding of the Netherlands continues in the ’50s, Bernhard travels again to Argentina to negotiate a deal with Juan and Eva Perón. Back in the Netherlands, Juliana grows increasingly under the spell of a faith healer, which puts a rift in Juliana and Bernhard’s marriage and rattles members of the government. The couple’s relationship is strained even further by the birth of Bernhard’s fifth daughter, Alicia, born of one of his dalliances. In 2003/4 Queen Beatrix refuses to abdicate the throne and tries to stifle her father in certain activities, and their heated conversation is quickly followed by his collapse.

The final episode begins with the death of Juliana at the age of 94 in March 2004. Decades earlier, throughout the late ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, the marriage between Bernhard and Juliana degenerates to the point where the two communicate mostly by letters (or screaming). Not surprisingly, playboy Bernhard has another, much younger lover and his sixth daughter, Alexia. As Beatrix gets older, she gets wise (thanks to the Prime Minister and the press) to more of her father’s indiscretions as well as his corrupt business dealings.

Bernhard, Scoundrel of Orange comes full circle and to a close with the death of Bernhard at age 93 in December 2004, and Queen Beatrix and Princess Máxima’s toasting the man who was “the greatest rascal the House of Orange ever saw.”

As mentioned above, Bernhard, Scoundrel of Orange is intriguing and riveting, giving viewers a fly-on-the-wall look at the ins and outs, ups and downs of Prince Bernhard and the House of Orange. And the oh-so dishy Daan Schuurmans is brilliant as the charming, seductive, and scheming younger Bernhard.

Lastly, the series is also (dare I say it) edutainment for those who aren’t up on their Dutch Royal Family history. It’s a fabulous program, not just for Royal watchers and Euro history buffs, but for anyone who’s up for a rich story filled with real-life characters who did what they believed best to save and continue with honor the House of Orange.

Bernhard, Scoundrel of Orange, shown in Dutch and German with English (or other) subtitles, is an exclusive Eurochannel program, streaming now across the globe at the Eurochannel website and the company’s Dailymotion channel.

In an upcoming this post: a review of Beatrix, Orange Under Fire, the second half of Crowns & Jewels.

European Prime TV Series

For additional information about the scandals of the House of Orange, visit this page on the Eurochannel website.

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Crowns & Jewels: Riveting Drama About the Royal House of Orange in Dutch Miniseries