Former queen's confidante received death threats

Faith-healer Greet Hofmans in a 1950 picture with two of Prince Bernhard and Queen Juliana's daughters. Princess Beatrix (left) is the current Queen of the Netherlands.
By Bart Funnekotter

Greet Hofmans, the faith healer who became the former Dutch queen’s confidant in the 1950s, was removed from the royal court after threats were received that she would be assassinated if she did not leave “voluntarily”. The revelation is contained in a new book out today.

The controversial faith healer Greet Hofmans left the Dutch royal court in 1956 after receiving a letter warning that both she and Queen Juliana’s private secretary Walraven van Heeckeren would be “assassinated”, according to the book by historian Cees Fasseur.

The existence of the anonymous letter, signed by “the Action Committee”, was unknown until now and has come to light in Fasseur’s book Juliana & Bernhard. Story of a marriage, 1936-1956.

It was, however, known that two members of former Dutch resistance groups had sent a letter to Queen Juliana’s mother, Wilhelmina, suggesting that violence might be used to solve the crisis within the monarchy caused by the Hofmans’ closeness to Queen Juliana.

Two camps

This crisis, which lasted from 1948 to 1956, split the Dutch court into two camps. On the one side were Queen Juliana and other admirers of Hofmans, and on the other Prince Bernhard, his supporters and the children, including the current Dutch queen, Beatrix.

Fasseur says he does not know if Bernhard, who had close ties with the former resistance, knew about the threat to liquidate Hofmans – or if he gave the order to send such a threat himself.

The book’s author is the first person to receive permission from Queen Beatrix to read letters and other documents related to the so-called Hofmans affair. The documents have been kept in the royal archives along with the report of the Beel Commission which was set up in 1956 to investigate how much political influence Hofmans had on the Dutch royal court and how to solve the crisis that had developed within the royal family.

Secret

The commission’s report has been secret until today when it appears as an appendix to Fasseur’s book.

At the time, Juliana was planning to ask politicians to account for themselves in the 1956 parliamentary elections – something that was unheard of. At the same time, Hofmans reportedly received a message “from above”. This said: “From now on the Queen should not discuss anything with the government before she has spoken with Miss Hofmans.”

The first version of the report from the three-man commission, led by former prime minister Louis Beel, was presented to the royal couple on August 8, 1956. Its conclusion was that Hofmans and her associates should be removed from Soestdijk Palace. But Queen Juliana was not prepared to dismiss them.

At the end of October, the former resistance fighters H. Tromp and M. J. Schutte suggested to the queen mother, Princess Wilhelmina, that violence be used to solve the matter. Hand grenades and threatening letters were sent to a number of people in Juliana’s circle, including her private secretary Walraven van Heeckeren who, according to Fasseur, was seen as the evil genius of the faction.

Pressure

The clique surrounding Hofmans succumbed to the pressure. The faith healer received a “message” saying: “Let Walraven van Heeckeren protect himself by temporarily withdrawing.”

This passage is one of the most remarkable in the book by the Leiden professor Fasseur who has also written a biography of the Queen Wilhelmina.

In 1951 Prince Bernhard made a will concerning his children’s schooling in the event that he and Juliana should die: they were to be kept far away from Hofmans’ circle. They were also to be kept from their grandmother, Wilhelmina “seeing that the upbringing of her daughter proves that she is not capable of doing this [raising children] in any kind of reasonable manner.”

Fasseur arrived at the conclusion that Hofmans had no influence at all on cabinet formations or the queen’s speeches. He also discovered that Beel did not speak with Beatrix. And of his discussion with Prince Bernhard, there is no record.

In an initial reaction to the book’s publication on Tuesday, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said: “Her Majesty the Queen deserves a great deal of respect because instead of hiding information, she has given preference to making it public, although some of it is painful for her and her sisters.”

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