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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 14:50 GMT
Princess chides Dutch royal family
Princess Margarita
Princess and the commoner
The people of the Netherlands are getting a new insight into their monarchy thanks to an increasingly acrimonious royal family feud.

The quarrel erupted when Queen Beatrix's niece, Princess Margarita, accused the royal household of trying to undermine her husband Edwin because he is a commoner.

Matters came to a head this week when Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende was drawn into the embarrassingly public dispute.

He said he had been unpleasantly surprised by a television interview given by Princess Margarita, in which she alleged that a conversation with a government official about the row had been secretly taped.

Too crazy for words
Jan-Peter Balkenende
Dutch prime minister
"It really is too crazy for words," he said.

"I find this affair painful for the queen and her family, and I sincerely hope it will stop."

Mr Balkenende has in the past acknowledged that the Dutch secret service gained information about Princess Margarita's then husband-to-be.

But he said this was a routine practice carried out on any prospective royal spouse, and the government had been fully within its rights.

Legal writs

The princess has even raised the possibility of suing the House of Orange, as the royal family is known, because she alleges that it ran a smear campaign to thwart her husband's business ventures.

The state and the palace are said to be considering legal action themselves over the princess's allegations.

The feud is unprecedented in the Netherlands, where the queen has in the past declared that she wanted "no English situations" - a reference to the scandals that have beset one of the more prominent European royal families.


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