Dutch Love A Scandal, Too

Just days after Holland's latest royal romance came to light, a potential scandal has the Dutch wondering whether the new woman in the crown prince's life is really fit for a king.

The Netherlands is abuzz over revelations that Prince Willem-Alexander's new love interest is the daughter of a prominent Argentine businessman who served as a Cabinet minister during Argentina's seven-year military dictatorship, infamous for its brutal Â"dirty warÂ" campaign against anyone who stood in its way.

Even Parliament was preoccupied Wednesday with questions of propriety amid a national debate over whether Willem-Alexander -- heir to the throne and one of Europe's most eligible royal bachelors -- is involved in a politically dangerous liaison.

Prime Minister Wim Kok, concerned about a public relations problem, met privately with the prince on Wednesday to discuss the relationship, Royal House spokesman Eef Brouwers disclosed. He declined to elaborate, characterizing the matter as private and personal.

Â"It's a justifiable question: Where do her political sympathies lie?Â" said lawmaker Jan Marijnissen of the opposition Socialist Party.

The Dutch have long been fond of following the love life of Willem-Alexander, a part-time pilot for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and the eldest son of 61-year-old Queen Beatrix and her German-born consort, the popular Prince Claus.

Many Dutch were dismayed when the prince broke up last year with his longtime girlfriend, Emily Bremers, the daughter of an orthodontist. She was seen by many people as prime queen material despite rumors that Beatrix frowned on the prospect of the future King Willem IV marrying a commoner.

Word of the prince's latest romance came Monday, when the daily De Telegraaf giddily described how he met Maxima Zorreguieta several months ago while vacationing at a chic Argentine resort. Willem-Alexander, 32, was said to be smitten with Zorreguieta, 28, who lives in New York and works for a bank, prompting the Royal House to issue a statement denying an engagement was imminent.

By Wednesday, the honeymoon -- for the public, anyway -- was over.

Dutch newspapers devoted their front pages to accounts of how Zorreguieta's father, Jorge Horacio Zorreguieta, served for two years as Agriculture Minister in the 1976-83 regime led by former Argentine President Jorge Videla. The elder Zorreguieta is now a wealthy bank director and sugar exporter.

Although Argentine human rights groups said there was no evidence linking Jorge Zorreguieta to the repression and kidnappings that marked the junta, they said anyone in public service at that time had a certain moral responsibility to stand against the regime.

In the Netherlands, known for its intolerance of social injustice, the slightest hint of such impropriety touched a nerve.

Â"I'm speechless. It's unbelievable that the Royal House could have anything to do with a murderous rgime responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people,Â" said Mies Bouhuys, a noted illustrator of children's books who heads a grassroots group trying to help Argentine women whose husbands or children disappeared.

Nonsense, counters Peter Rehwinkel, a Labor Party lawmaker: Â"You can't hold a 28-year-old woman responsible for the behavior of her father 20 years ago.Â"

Willem-Alexander, who has seemed mildly amused at the uproar, has been going about business as usual this week, touring a cargo shipping company and doing his best to ignore the love-life questions fired at him by both reporters and curious dock workers.

Arriving home each evening, though, his good humor is being put to the test: Paparazzi have been packing the quiet cobblestone neighborhood in The Hague where he has a luxury apartment not far from the U.S. Embassy.

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