Prince Claus of the Netherlands (1926-2002)

Claus Georg Wilhelm Otto Friedrich Gert von Amsberg was born in Dötzingen, Germany, on 6 September 1926 as only son and second child of Claus von Amsberg (1890-1953) and Baroness Gösta von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen (1902-1996). He had six sisters: Sigrid (1925), Rixa (1927), Margit (1930-1988), Barbara (1930), Theda (1939) and Christina (1945). He grew up at Dötzingen, the family estate of his mother’s family near Hitzacker. In November 1929 the family moved to Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Africa. In April 1933 his mother brought Claus back to Germany, to Bad Doberan, to live with his grandmothers Von Amsberg and Von dem Bussche-Haddenhausen and his great-grandmother Von dem Bussche-Ippenburg, together with his sisters Sigrid and Rixa. Soon afterwards he had a meeting with Prince Hendrik of the Netherlands during a walk with one of his grandmothers. The Prince asked him what he wanted to be when he was an adult. Claus answered that he would like to become an engine-driver. At the end of 1936 Claus returned to Africa and continued school at a boarding-school in Lushoto. His parents and part of his sisters lived in Mjesani. In 1938 he returned to Germany and continued education at the Balten School in Misdroy (Pomerania). Like all other boys of his age Claus joined the Hitler Youth. At Easter 1943 Claus leaves the school, because of heavy bombings, and goes back to Bad Doberan where he goes to the local gymnasium.

In October 1943 Claus and his class are called up to serve at the anti-aircraft gun artillery in Kiel. After a short stay in Bad Doberan, he was called up for labour service. Claus was sent near Königsberg in Neumark where he was between January and March 1944. After 2 1/2 month he started serving in the 6th armoured division. After an education in Neuruppin and in Viborg, Denmark, he was sent to the front in Italy in March 1945 to join the 90th armoured division. He didn’t fight anymore. The German army in Italy capitulated on April 28. Near Vicenza Claus was taken prisoner by the Americans. He was interned in Brescia, where he worked as interpreter and driver. In September 1945 he was brought to England to act as interpreter in an American camp. On Christmas Eve 1945 he returned to Germany. His family was only able to return from Africa in the Summer of 1947. Claus restarted his education in March 1946 at the Johanneum in Lüneburg. During his study he works among others at the Crown Brewery and the marmelade and cannery-factory Winsenia as well as in a garage. He passes his exams at the end of 1946. In March 1948 Claus starts working at the bank Marcard & Co in Hamburg, where he stays until March 1949. Then he starts studying law at the university of Hamburg. He passes his referendary exam in October 1952 and finishes his study in September 1956. After a sollicitation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he is invited for a course to prepare him for a job. In the meantime he works for the lawyer’s office of Walter Lippmann, that looks after the interest of the Jewish survivors of the war. The course starts in Bonn and after a year he gets a job as a secretary at the German embassy in Santo Domingo. In April 1961 he moves to Ivory Coast. In July 1963 he starts working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bonn at the department of Africa southern of the Sahara.

In 1964 Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Claus meet at a dinner of a cousin of the Princess in Germany. They meet again at the party the evening before the wedding of Prince Moritz von Hessen and Princess Tatjana zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. A week later Claus and Beatrix have arranged a meeting in Bad Driburg and then the hide-and-seek game starts. It is not until May 1st, 1965 that photographer John de Rooij discovers them in the park of Drakesteyn Castle. Some days later the photos are published and the relationship known. Many people still hadn’t forgotten the war and many found it hard to accept that their crown princess would marry a German. A research was done after his past, but nothing wrong was found. The engagement was announced on June 28, 1965. ‘It is good’, Queen Juliana said. The wedding took place in the Westerkerk in Amsterdam on March 10, 1966 and Claus von Amsberg became Prince Claus of the Netherlands. After a honeymoon the couple started living at Drakesteyn Castle. In the following years three sons were born: Willem-Alexander (1967), Johan Friso (1968) and Constantijn (1969).

In the 1970s Prince Claus performed tens of functions, especially in the area of development aid. In April 1980 the life of the family changed when Beatrix became Queen of the Netherlands. In 1981 the family moved to Palace Huis ten Bosch near The Hague. In October 1982 Prince Claus was admitted to a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, with a heavy depression. Only in 1984 he resumed his engagements. He became inspector-general development aid. In 1991 he was admitted to hospital again with signs of depression. It became known that the prince had Parkinson’s Disease already since 1987. The past few years Prince Claus got more and more health problems. In 1998 he was operated on his prostate. Also in 2000 he spent several weeks in hospital. In May 2001 one of his kidneys was removed. In March 2002 his health got worse and he was admitted to hospital again. He returned home in May and was able to enjoy the birth of his first grandchild, Eloise in the beginning of June. Since July he has been in hospital most of the time and got a pacemaker in August. He was released from hospital on September 5th, 2002, and was able to celebrate his 76th birthday at home. On Prince’s Day on September 17th he returned back to the Amsterdams Medisch Centrum, where he died at 19:00 on October 6th surrounded by Queen Beatrix, their three sons, Princess Máxima and Princess Laurentien. The Queen will sadly miss her biggest supporter and their sons a father they admire, and Eloise the grandfather who has only been able to enjoy her for a few months.

Some facts and stories In December 1998 Prince Claus came in the news during granting money from the Prince Claus Fund. At the start of an African fashionshow he told the men to liberate themselves from the ‘snake around the neck’ and to put them on the feet of Queen Beatrix. The Prince then removed his tie. Since his youth Prince Claus loved Africa, a love he also tried to pass on to his children. Prince Claus surprised everyone during Queen’s Day 1999 in Houten. He danced with his brother-in-law Pieter van Vollenhoven and cycled through the streets together with Princess Marilène even giving a lift to a girl who had been standing in the public. A recent poll showed that Prince Claus was one of the most popular members of the Dutch royal family. During the presentation of Máxima Zorreguieta as the fiancée of Willem-Alexander Prince Claus said: “I don’t know how it is to be Dutch. I have various loyalties and I am a citizen of the world and European and Dutch. During Queen’s Day in Zutphen some years ago I spotted Prince Claus myself forgetting the other royals and talking to people taking part in the activities. He got an apple which he kindly accepted and he soon started eating it, although royals are hardly spotted eating in public. During the same day a brother of a colleague of my mother, not even a monarchist, was addressed by Prince Claus, who had seen that he had a special kind of camera. The prince, always having been very interested in photography, took his time talking to him and admiring the camera.

My visit to The Hague

On October 12th I went to Palace Noordeinde myself to pay my respect to Prince Claus of the Netherlands. Together with Christine I joined the queue at the back of the palace at 9:00 in the morning. People from all ages, from little children to old people, surrounded us. Sometimes disabled or old people passed us, because they were allowed to go in right away. We thought the queue wasn’t that long, but still we had to wait more than one hour before we could pass the gate to the palace garden. Just before the gate, where a few flowers had been placed near the wall, we got some hot chocolate that was very welcome, as it wasn’t exactly very warm and we had started to get cold feet. Inside the first thing we noticed were the flowers people had laid down along the path together with drawings, personal notes, sweet children’s letters. Following the path we entered the heathed tent where everybody could sign the condolence books. We didn’t stay long and walked on only to reach another queue that went inside the palace, a queue in which people were much more silent than outside the gate. We had passed the fence there when we temporarily were stopped because the guards were changing. Interesting sight and everybody watched. We saw people come out of the palace.

Finally we could go inside. In the hall tens of wreaths and bouquets, most of them from organisations. Just around the corner we found some flowers from Princess Margarita de Bourbon de Parme and her husband Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn. Inside again we had to wait because the guards were changing. Waiting in front of the door going to the chamber where Prince Claus’s coffin was lying in state, I noticed a camera in the corner of that chamber, covered by a very ugly big grey cloth. I don’t know if it was a television camera or a security camera. Inside the room was the coffin with in front the wreath with ribbons saying Queen Beatrix, Alexander, Máxima, Friso, Constantijn, Laurentien and Eloise. On the left wreaths from the Von Amsberg family, I could read the names of his sister Rixa and her husband and one mentioning at least two names of the children (Friedrich and Georgia) of Joachim Jencquel, bridal page of Prince Claus and Queen Beatrix in 1966, and son of Prince Claus’s sister Sigrid. On the right of the coffin in front the wreath of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, Pieter van Vollenhoven and their children with spouses and children: Maurits, Marilène & Anne (as the ribbon said), Bernhard, Annette and Isabella, Pieter-Christiaan and Floris. Behind this wreath the one of Princess Christina and her children Nicolas, Bernardo and Juliana Guillermo; and behind that one the one of Princess Irene and her children Carlos, Margarita, Jaime and Carolina. Leaving the room we passed one of the rooms of the palace with some nice vases. On the way outside we passed the other half of the flowers and wreaths, among others from the King and Queen of Spain, the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Also wreaths from the family Moosbrugger from Lech and the mayor of Lech, Mr Muxel. After two hours we were outside the palace grounds again.

Later in the afternoon, after some shopping, we decided to lay some flowers at the Queen Wilhelmina monument in front of Palace Noordeinde. When we came there it was surrounded by tens of people and one tv-camera from the NOS. Around the monument people were almost fully silent and only whispered. We started reading messages, watching drawings, looking at ties … The text on the monument ‘Eenzaam maar niet alleen’ (Lonely but not alone) we found very suitable for the present occasion. To my surprise I found being at the monument more emotional than queueing and going inside to pay respect at the coffin. In the evening I went back home, very happy that I had gone to The Hague. On Tuesday I will be in Delft for the funeral.

15 October 2002: The Funeral

Military Ceremonial

Over 9000 members of the Dutch armed forces assisted at the funeral of His Royal Highness Prince Claus of the Netherlands. Approximately 4500 are members of the Royal Netherlands Army. Of the remainder, half represent the Royal Netherlands Navy and half the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The Royal Military Constabulary was involved in a number of crucial tasks. The majority of them, over 6000, formed a guard of honour on either side of the nine-kilometre route.

The guard of honour in the forecourt of Noordeinde Palace was mounted by hundreds of soldiers of the Royal Netherlands Army and the Trumpet Corps of the Mounted Regiments. The guard of honour in Markt square in Delft comprised 525 personnel from various branches of the armed forces including the Royal Marine Corps and the Royal Marine Band.

An escort of honour of 825 personnel took part in the funeral procession, comprising the Cavalry (mounted), the Royal Military Constabulary (mounted) the Royal Military Band, the Royal Air Force Band and two companies of honour representing each branch of the armed forces.

Two saluting batteries of the 11th Horse Artillery were formed up in Delft. The 80 members manned eight 25-pounder cannons. They fired a shot every 60 seconds from the time that the funeral procession approached Delft until the body was interred.

Before the funeral, military personnel took part in the vigil and the torchlit vigil at Noordeinde Palace.

All military personnel assembled at four locations early in the morning of 15 October, the day of the funeral. A fleet of 125 buses took them to their positions from the Feijenoord Stadium in Rotterdam, the sports centre on Brasserskade in Delft, and the Frederik barracks and Waalsdorp complex in The Hague.

The guards of honour at the Brasserskade sports centre and Frederik barracks changed into ceremonial uniform before being taken to their respective positions. The mounted escorts assembled near Waalsdorp.

At that moment many officers were preparing for the event by inspecting routes and calling up units.

The Procession

The funeral procession departed from Noordeinde Palace for the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, by way of the Netherlands Defence College in Rijswijk. The Prince of Orange, Prince Johan Friso and Prince Constantijn started from Noordeinde Palace; Queen Beatrix, Princess Máxima and Princess Laurentien joined the procession in Rijswijk and proceeded from there to the Nieuwe Kerk.

From Noordeinde Palace to the Netherlands Defence College:
– Mounted escort of honour of the Royal Military Constabulary
– Mounted escort of honour of the National Police Services Agency
– Equerry-in-Chief and two equerries, mounted

First carriage (State funeral carriage)
Drawn by a six-horse team of Frisians
This hearse was used for the funeral of Emma, the Queen Mother (in 1934), Prince Hendrik (also in 1934), and Princess Wilhelmina (in 1962). It was decked out in black for the first and white for the latter two funerals. The undercarriage of the hearse was originally part of a Coupé d’Orsay belonging to Queen Emma, made in 1871. The body of the carriage was replaced with wooden boards in 1920. A new superstructure and fresh upholstery were designed in 1993. The hearse is painted grey. At the front is a one-man coach-box, and the superstructure stands on wooden boards. Both superstructure and box are upholstered in purple cloth trimmed with silver thread. The roof is embellished with white ostrich plumes at each corner, and is surmounted by the gilded royal crown that once graced the Glass Carriage.
– Escort of two Aides-de-Camp to HM the Queen

Second carriage (flower carriage)
Drawn by a pair of Frisians
The flower carriage was in almost daily use until 1994 as a brake to exercise coach-horses in The Hague. When it was made is not known. In 1995 the court had it converted into a flower carriage for use at royal funerals. The two-man coach-box is upholstered in black leatherette. The body, the undercarriage and wheels are painted grey. Mounted on the carriage is a pyramid structure upholstered in purple fabric. It is draped on three sides with a purple cloth edged with silver. Seven chrome stands are arranged behind and on either side of the structure, linked by a chrome chain, from which the floral wreaths are hung.

Third carriage (State berlin)
Drawn by a pair of KWPN horses

HRH the Prince of Orange
HRH Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands
HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands

– Mounted Cavalry escort of honour
– The Crown Equerry will direct the procession

From the Netherlands Defence College to the Nieuwe Kerk:
Military escort of honour on foot, leading section, comprising:
– Royal Military Band
– Commander, leading section
– Honour detachment of the Royal Netherlands Navy (100 personnel)
– Honour detachment of the Royal Netherlands Army (100 personnel, King’s Company)
– Honour detachment of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (100 personnel)
– Mounted escort of honour of the Royal Military Constabulary

– Mounted escort of honour of the National Police Services Agency

– Equerry-in-Chief and two equerries, mounted

First carriage (State funeral carriage)
Drawn by a six-horse team of Frisians

– Escort of two Aides-de-Camp to HM the Queen

Second carriage (flower carriage)
Drawn by a pair of Frisians

Third carriage (glass State berlin)
Drawn by a team of four KWPN horses

HM the Queen
HRH Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands

Fourth carriage (State berlin)
Drawn by a pair of KWPN horses

HRH the Prince of Orange
HRH Princess Maximá of the Netherlands

Fifth carriage (State berlin)
Drawn by a pair of KWPN horses

HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands
HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands

– Mounted Cavalry escort of honour

Military escort of honour on foot, rear section, comprising:
– Air Force Band
– Commander, rear section
– Honour detachment of the Royal Netherlands Navy (100 personnel)
– Honour detachment of the Royal Netherlands Army (100-strong Guards Regiment: Grenadier Guards, Rifle Guards and Commander)
– Honour detachment of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (100 personnel)
– Mounted escort of honour of the Royal Military Constabulary
– The Crown Equerry will direct the procession.

Funeral carriage (first carriage) Trappings with crown
Flower carriage (second carriage) Trappings with crown
Glass State berlin (third carriage) State trappings with the arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
State berlin (fourth carriage) State trappings of the Prince of Orange
State berlin (fifth carriage) State trappings with the arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Please note: KWPN stands for Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland).



  • Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
  • The Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima of the Netherlands
  • Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands and his girlfriend Mabel Wisse Smit
  • Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands
  • Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands
  • Princess Irene of the Netherlands
  • Prince Carlos de Bourbon de Parme
  • Prince Jaime de Bourbon de Parme
  • Princess Carolina de Bourbon de Parme
  • Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and Pieter van Vollenhoven
  • Prince Maurits and Princess Marilène van Oranje-Nassau, van Vollenhoven
  • Prince Bernhard and Princess Annette van Oranje-Nassau, van Vollenhoven
  • Prince Pieter-Christiaan van Oranje-Nassau, van Vollenhoven
  • Prince Floris van Oranje-Nassau, van Vollenhoven
  • Princess Christina of the Netherlands
  • Bernardo Guillermo
  • Nicolás Guillermo
  • Juliana Guillermo

Royal guests

  • Prince and Princess Akishino
  • Duke Max Emanuel and Duchess Elizabeth in Bavaria
  • King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians
  • Prince Ferdinand and Princess Elisabeth von Bismarck
  • Prince Kardam and Princess Miriam of Tirnovo (Bulgaria)
  • Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik of Denmark
  • King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece
  • Prince Hassan bin Talal and Princess Sarvath el Hassan of Jordan
  • Begum Inaara Aga Khan
  • Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein
  • Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxemburg
  • Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxemburg
  • Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla of Luxemburg
  • Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
  • The Duke of Parma
  • Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Princess Benedikte of Denmark
  • Prince Alexander and Princess Gabriele zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn
  • King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain
  • The Prince of Asturias King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden
  • The Prince of Wales

Other guests

  • Federal President Johannes Rau (Germany) and Mrs Christina Rau
  • Mr and Mrs Mstislav Rostropovich

Order of Service

Order of Service for the Funeral and Interment of
His Royal Highness

Claus George Willem Frederik Geert
Prince of the Netherlands
Jonkheer van Amsberg

in the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft

on 15 October 2002

Dötzingen, 6 September 2002
Amsterdam, 6 October 2002

Officiating minister: Rev. C.A. ter Linden,
Emeritus Minister of the Kloosterkerk, The Hague

Elder on duty: L. Boersma

Tribute: Huub Oosterhuis

Music: Residentie Bach Choir and Residentie Bach Orchestra, conducted by Jos Vermunt

Organists: Liuwe Tamminga and Bas de Vrome

Organ voluntary


Organ choral: ‘Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott’, bwv 721, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 ­ 1750)


We are gathered here to remember a man who was very dear to us, Claus van Amsberg, Prince of the Netherlands. A man who understood from the depths of his soul what inspired others, a man who could never close his eyes to injustice or suffering, a man for whom to believe was to act.

Our thoughts go out first of all to you, our Queen, united with him in love for so many years and who will miss his support so much; our thoughts are also with you, his sons whom he loved so dearly – Willem-Alexander, Friso and Constantijn and with you, who were later welcomed into his family through your love for his sons, and grew so close to him in those last difficult years. And our thoughts are with you, his sisters and your husbands, to whom he remained, always, a much-loved, loyal brother and brother-in-law.

Our thoughts are also with those who have lost in Prince Claus an exceptional son-in-law. Also with her who hasn’t been able to be with us for a long time.

Our thoughts are with all those in this country and throughout the world who knew him and whom he held in his heart. We remember too all who did not know Prince Claus personally, but who felt touched by his life and feel that they have lost someone dear to them.

We are gathered here to remember him now before God and to commend him to God’s care.

Call to worship

Our help is in the name of the Lord
who made heaven and earth
who keeps faith for ever and ever
and does not forsake the work of his hands.

Grace be with you and the peace
of God our Father
and Our Lord Jesus Christ
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.


‘Ich harre des Herrn, meine Seele harret, und ich hoffe auf sein Wort’
From Cantate bwv 131, ‘Aus ter Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir’, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). (I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope)

Opening prayer

O Lord,

We thank You for the life of Prince Claus, who gave love, courage and inspiration to so many. Who, through his unique gifts of heart and intellect, in his quest for truth and justice, served our country and this world so outstandingly, and who, in the final years of his life, had to endure so many ordeals.

Be with us now as we remember this man, whom we came to love so well and whose death grieves us so deeply. O God, our trust is in You. He is safe now with You, even though he is no longer with us. We commend him to Your mercy.

Comfort our hearts with Your word and Your spirit.

First Lesson Ecclesiastes 12: 2-7

(translation by Huub Oosterhuis)

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Or ever the silver cord be loosed or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.


‘Herr, gib, dass ich dein ehre… – Final chorale from Cantate bwv 107 ‘Was willst du dich betrüben’, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750).

Second Lesson Genesis 1: 1-4

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


Song to the light (Lied aan het licht) (words by Huub Oosterhuis, music by Antoine Oomen)

Light, gently touching in the morning,
untimely light in which we stand,
cold, each alone and without shelter,
light, cover me, your fire command.
Keep me from falling, may we never,
so sad and heavy as we are,
fall out of grace with one another,
aimless and lost for evermore.

Light, of my city guard and ruler,
light that prevails and shall endure.
Dear caring light and steadfast shoulder,
bear me, your watching child secure.
Light, child in me, see through my eyes if
somewhere, somehow, the world may dawn
where people bear their names with honour,
where justice reigns and peace is born.

All things shall crumble and be scattered,
all things not measured by the light.
Our words will sow and reap destruction,
our deeds will vanish in the night.
Full singing voice of light, resounding,
in ev’ry beating heart is heard.
Dearest of people, you the first born,
light, you the Living One’s last word.


This born stranger
raised on enemy soil
flanked by sparkling sons,
nephews, chosen beauties
he shows his wounds speaks
without words
poet without national language

This white black white man
elder brother to millions
this born king.

The light turns black as pitch and the clouds hang heavy and alas the olives taste no more. That is what happened to him.

He said something of the sort in front of the television cameras – which he disliked – when he turned sixty, in 1986. He described depression as ‘the most dreadful thing that can happen to a person’. You could see it in him, and that he knew well, but he was unable to hide it, he said. Nor did he wish to. He quoted the German proverb, ‘lies have short legs’. Rather tell the truth out of respect for those who share your sorrow, and in solidarity with others suffering from the same affliction. He knew well that he was one of many.

On 15 May 1991, he addressed the World Conference of the Society for International Development, saying: ‘There can be no future for mankind worth living that is not built on true international solidarity’. “Solidarity”, he repeated; it then seemed that the word had vanished from the Dutch language as if no one remembered what it meant. But he remembered.

The liturgy of this funeral service consists almost entirely of extracts from the Bible, fragments of that beautiful, difficult, Judaic book, the source of every variant of Christianity, the yardstick against which all should be measured. For that is the church tradition: to read and sing from the Bible. So too on this occasion.

Claus was not a great churchgoer. The word ‘God’ rarely passed his lips. He was a man not given to dogmatic assertions. He had more questions than answers, as do many Christians who are not closely associated with the Church. He did not speak of any religious experiences he may have had. And all his life he had mixed feelings about the Lutheran Church of his youth. Only in adulthood did he encounter the then so called Jewish Old Testament. Officially, it did not exist in the German Third Reich between 1933 and 1945. The churches – and not only those in Germany – suppressed the fact that Jesus himself was a Jew. Later in life, Claus sought out the book he had been denied, and discovered and recognised the grandeur of its message.

‘In the beginning was the Word’, we heard. What word was in the beginning? According to the Jewish interpretation of the Bible, in the beginning the Torah was with God, even before he created heaven and earth. The meaning of Torah is ‘the word that gives guidance’, enabling us to lead a life worth living.

‘In the beginning was the Word’ is not a philosophical statement, but a prophetic voice that enjoins us to respect one another, to treat one another with dignity, in short, to love our neighbour. Love, not as a glowing sentiment, but as practical solidarity – not abandoning another human being, not allowing him to suffer hunger or torture, to disappear. Love the stranger , that is the essence of the word. The stranger is your equal, do not push him aside, do not chase her away, the stranger has the same rights as you have. ‘The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself’ So it is written. The stranger is your equal, a person like you. When the Bible talks of a stranger it equates him with your neighbour. (Leviticus 19:34).

Without the Torah there can be no future for mankind worth living. ‘Light’ is the symbol of that future, of a world in which people can live in dignity. In the beginning, God said ‘Let there be light’.

We sometimes use the name of God too easily in our church services. But whom precisely do we mean? We could agree that we mean the One and Only, who in both the Old and the New Testament is the champion of the refugee, the exile, the wronged. The One who prefers to see solidarity and justice rather than hear adoration and songs of praise. For so it is written in Amos 5:21-24, in the book that all forms of Christianity should recognise as their source and measure. Claus understood perfectly well why the voice of this book was stifled in the years of his youth. And he thought it a miracle that it still exists, that book, that vision of righteousness and justice. He spent his life trying, with infinite resourcefulness, to put these great words into practice.

He suffered the most dreadful thing that can happen, he said in 1986: darkened was the sun. And he suffered the same fate later, when both his health and his power of speech deteriorated. Yet even in his darkest months his spirit rose above bitterness and cynicism; and never did he inspire pity. There was something else, it seemed, something stronger than the pain. And that was his attachment to life and the bond of unconditional devotion with his wife and children. We watched the events of the Queen’s Birthday this year on television in his hospital room. The Royal Family were visiting Hoogeveen and Meppel. The volume was low. ‘Look there they are,’ he said, ‘they’re doing it well. And that’s where I would stand,’ he pointed, ‘that was my place, by her side.’ He was beaming. ‘When I was young,’ he said, “I wasn’t sure where I belonged: in Germany, in Africa, and then the Netherlands in addition to that. But now I belong with them.’

The God who commands and entreats us to be charitable to one another is Himself described in the Bible as the fount of all mercy, as faithfulness and compassion incarnate. This is the same God in the hymn chosen for today’s funeral. We are singing it in German, though there is a Dutch version to the same melody, as a tribute to one who, as a German, was able to heal the wounds that the war inflicted on our nation.

‘O take my hand dear Father and lead Thou me, Till at my journey’s ending I dwell with Thee.’ Claus hoped that this is what would await him hereafter.



O Take my hand dear Father (Text: Julie Hausmann 1862, Music: Friedrich Silcher 1842)

O take my hand dear Father and lead Thou me,
Till at my journey’s ending I dwell with Thee.
Alone I cannot wander one single day,
So do Thou guide my footsteps on life’s rough way.

O cover with Thy mercy my poor, weak heart,
Lest I in joy or sorrow from Thee depart.
Permit Thy child to linger here at Thy feet,
Thy goodness blindly trusting with faith complete.

Though oft Thy power but faintly may stir my soul,
With Thee, my Light in darkness, I reach the goal.
Take then my hand, dear Father, and lead Thou me,
Till at my journey’s ending I dwell with Thee.

Introduction to the interment

Now that Claus George Willem Otto Frederik Geert van Amsberg has departed this life, we lay his body to rest in this church. We give him from our hands into the keeping of the living God, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

‘None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. Whether we live or die, we live or die to the Lord, we belong to Him.’

Interment in the royal vault

Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna from Requiem KV 626 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart(1796-1791), version Franz Xaver Süssmayr Choir and Orchestra

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi:
Dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi:
Dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi:
Dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.

Organ voluntary – Toccata – Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583- 1643)

Prayers, followed by silent prayer

O Lord,

Now that we have committed the body of Prince Claus to the bossom of this church, we come before You, commending him to You, the Everlasting God, in a church where generation upon generation has borne witness that humanity is safe in Your keeping, that You have a plan for its future.

We thank you for the exceptional man who came into the life of our Queen, and so into the lives of us all, to whom we grew close because of who he was and because of his willingness to give himself to a people that became his own. Because he used his many gifts to serve the people of our country, and gained so much respect through his commitment to justice and humanity. We remember too the courage with which he took the blows that gradually sapped his strength and vitality, with all that that demanded of him and not of him alone.

We commend to You our Queen, to whom he gave so much support in her life and her work and who will miss him so much, and we pray you to grant her the strength to continue to discharge the unique responsibility entrusted to her.

We pray for their sons, for Willem-Alexander, Friso and Constantijn, and for Máxima and Laurentien too, who experienced so much joy with him and so much sorrow for him, their father and their father-in-law.

And lastly we pray that amidst the pain of our loss, we may never lose the inspiring memory of the savoir-vivre, social commitment and conscience of this man who became so dear to us all.

We pray that his life may be given a place in the history that You and humanity are writing together, on the way to Your Kingdom, a world where people and nations will finally understand one another, and where Your peace and justice will be all in all.

Choir a capella

From the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, opus 31: Tebye Poyem (no. 12) – Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)

We praise Thee
We bless and praise Thy name
Humbly, we thank Thee.
Lord our God, hear us,
Hear our prayer.
We praise thee
Hear our prayer, O Lord our God.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy Kingdom come;
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom,
the Power and the Glory
for ever and ever,

Hymn – A Toi la Gloire

(All rise)

À toi la gloire, O Ressuscité!
À toi la victoire pour l’éternité!
Brillant de lumière, l’ange est descendu,
Il roule la pierre du tombeau vaincu.
À toi la gloire, O Ressuscité!
À toi la victoire pour l’éternité!

Vois-le paraître: C’est lui, c’est Jésus,
Ton Sauveur, ton Maître, Oh! ne doute plus!
Sois dans l’allégresse, peuple du Seigneur,
Et redis sans cesse: Le Christ est vainqueur!
À toi la gloire, O Ressuscité!
À toi la victoire pour l’éternité!

Craindrais-je encore? Il vit à jamais,
Celui que j’adore, le Prince de paix;
Il est ma victoire, mon puissant soutien,
Ma vie et ma gloire : non, je ne crains rien!
À toi la gloire, O Ressuscité!
À toi la victoire pour l’éternité!


The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto You.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.


Dona nobis pacem (Give us peace) from the Mass in B Minor bwv 232, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Organ voluntary

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