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The unassuming Dutch monarchy has long had a certain appeal to reform-minded British monarchists. Instead of disgruntled brides turning the media into a public confessional, convoluted sagas of light-fingered butlers and certain royal couples taking Kensington Palace's hospitality for a ride, the attraction of the down-to-earth House of Orange-Nassau is understandable. Queen Beatrix, indeed, is popularly supposed to tour her kingdom on an Amsterdam bicycle.

One might even presume that Beatrix might have glanced across the Channel now and then in gratitude that her own relatives were not in the British habit of offering their family up for dissection by tabloid. If that's the case, the string of revelations blurted out by Princess Margarita of Bourbon-Parma in February 2003 would almost count as Schadenfreude coming home to roost.

Margarita surely counts as minor royalty by any standards, the daughter, born in 1972, of Juliana's younger sister Irene and Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma. Royal soap-opera veterans will have come across her father's dynasty before: one of them married Joseph II of Austria only to have it away with his sister Maria Christina instead, and another was the unwitting patsy in the World War I intrigue that went some way to bringing down the Habsburgs for good.

Carlos Hugo himself became the preferred candidate of one wing of the Spanish Carlists, who have supported a particular Bourbon line for the Spanish throne ever since they lost the nineteenth-century Carlist wars. This family has form; think of it as a crossover in the making.

Although a member of the royal family, Margarita does not count as a member of the slimmed-down royal house, which is confined to the Queen, the former Queen Juliana, the heirs to the throne and their own immediate families. Her resentment of the royal house dates from September 2001, when the Oranges disapproved of her marriage to a commoner, Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn: neither Carlos Hugo or Beatrix attended the wedding. Edwin appears to have styled himself as a baron, although perhaps has simply failed to correct a misconception. A month later, she wrote to the then prime minister Wim Kok asking him to intercede with Beatrix on her behalf.

Margarita went public with her grievances on Valentine's Day, no less, giving a sixty-hour interview to the Dutch news magazine HP De Tijd. She complained that not only other royals but their ladies-in-waiting refused to speak to Edwin, and accused the family of bugging the couple's home and delving into Edwin's financial affairs and even his HIV status in the run-up to his marriage. Her headline allegation at the time complained of Carlos Hugo's double standards in ostracising her husband while having had a secret, illegitimate son with his Dominican housekeeper.

Another section of the interview, published on February 19, dragged into the scandal the Netherlands' much-loved crown princess, Máxima Zorreguieta. The Argentinean banker, whose father had served as a minister under the dictatorial regime - which Máxima has denounced in fluent Dutch - of Jorge Videla, married the heir to the throne, Willem Alexander, the previous year in an elaborate, televised ceremony which could hardly have contrasted more with Margarita's low-key nuptials.

Indeed, Edwin was reported to have been somewhat put out at the family's acceptance of Crown Princess Máxima, and sat in on the De Tijd interview making pointed remarks about Queen Beatrix's tired and emotional state at her own birthday party. More the Royle than the royal family, perhaps.

According to Margarita, Willem Alexander's marriage was only agreed to after two months of bitter argument during which Beatrix seriously considered passing him over in the line of succession in favour of her youngest son Constantijn. Furthermore - if Margarita was to be believed - the Crown Prince was under the impression that Voltaire was a village in France, but at least had not emulated his brother Prince Johan Friso in waving to an adoring crowd while flipping them the bird behind his back..

Not even Margarita's grandfather, the 90-year-old Prince Bernhard, escaped the sharp end of her tongue, as she claimed that the father of the Queen had kept up an affair with his PA Cocky Giles for two decades, even making the young Margarita ask permission from Giles if she wanted to see her grandmother.

Margarita followed up her press interviews with hints that she would launch legal action against the royal family to recoup the €4.5 million Edwin's company Fincentives had supposedly lost when they began a whispering campaign against him directed at potential clients, and repeated her various allegations on national television on March 4, accusing the state intelligence service RVD of secretly taping her meeting with its head Eef Brouwers - and adding that she had also recorded the conversation on her own account.

As prime minister and Harry Potter lookalike Jan Peter Balkenende intervened in 'Margaritagate' to tell the royals to stop bickering, a gleeful Dutch press reported that Margarita's charges against RVD could expose her to a counter-suit from the spooks. Speculation also began that her actions over the last month might amount to the crime of lese majeste, insults to the Queen which are punishable in the Netherlands with a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment.

In practice, the offence normally receives a small fine at most, but a harsher sentence might not be unattractive to the beleaguered Beatrix should the trickle of secrets continue. It might mean locking the bicycles away, but a princess behind bars would certainly give the House of Orange its ticket into royal scandal's premier league.

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