Prince Claus, 76, the German-born husband of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who employed wit, charm and patience to overcome Dutch hostility and win the affection of his adopted nation, died in a hospital here Oct. 6.

He had Parkinson's disease and heart and respiratory ailments. The prince had been in ill health and battled depression for years. He underwent prostate gland surgery in 1998, suffered urologic disorders and had a kidney removed in 2001. He later required treatment for his remaining kidney.

In a live television broadcast after learning of the prince's death, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende hailed him as "a remarkable man who won a warm place in the hearts of the Dutch people." The prime minister also said that "Prince Claus devoted himself to Dutch society with strength, earnestness and dedication."

The prince's entry into Dutch society was hard fought, because the nation still bore scars inflicted by the German army in which he had served.

It helped when he and the queen produced the first male heir -- Prince Willem-Alexander -- to the Dutch throne in nearly a century. The royal couple had two more sons, Prince Johan Friso and Prince Constantijn.

Prince Claus appeared frail and lacking energy during one of his last television appearances in March 2001, when he and the queen announced the engagement of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander to Argentine investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta. Prince Claus advised his prospective daughter-in-law to learn the Dutch language and customs, as he had done 35 years earlier.

The crown prince's two-year romance and 11-month engagement to Maxima, as she is known, enthralled this sober trading nation of 16 million people and gave renewed luster to the royal family, often perceived as distant, stodgy and unglamorous.

Though born a German aristocrat, Prince Claus showed a humility that appealed to the unassuming Dutch. In 1997, he asked the public to refrain from marking his birthday because it coincided with the funeral of Britain's Princess Diana.

Prince Claus was a low-ranking West German diplomat when he met Beatrix, then the crown princess, on a ski slope during a winter holiday in Switzerland in February 1965. Their romance, kept secret until a Dutch news photographer caught them several months later walking hand in hand, sparked a storm of protest in the Netherlands.

The match nevertheless had the approval of Queen Juliana; her husband, Prince Bernhard, himself a native German; and the Dutch parliament. But for many in the Dutch capital, it was impossible to accept a prince consort who had served, the record showed, in both the Hitler Youth and the German army.

With Beatrix finally his bride, Prince Claus set out to win over the Dutch people. Possessed of a gentle wit and affable manner, he soon made a favorable impression by mastering the Dutch language and learning to speak it with little trace of an accent.

He took an active interest in Third World affairs, carefully steered away from controversy and involved himself in public duties. He was granted Dutch nationality by a special act of Parliament.

An only child, Claus von Amsberg was born Sept. 6, 1926, in Dotzingen in northern Germany. He lived with his parents in Africa for several years before returning to a German boarding school.

Like many German secondary school children from aristocratic families, he joined the Nazi youth organizations Jungvolk and Hitlerjugend. After finishing school in 1944, he served with the German army in Denmark and with the 90th Panzer Division in Italy, but he did not see combat.

He was captured by U.S. forces near Merano, Italy, in 1945 and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp at Ghedi, near Brescia. Later, he was transferred to Britain, where he worked as a driver and interpreter.

After returning to West Germany, Prince Claus studied law and joined the West German foreign service in 1958, working as an embassy official in the Dominican Republic and Ivory Coast before moving to the Foreign Ministry in Bonn in 1963, specializing in sub-Saharan affairs.

After his 1966 marriage, he devoted his energies as a member of the House of Orange-Nassau to Dutch state-sponsored overseas development, visiting India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zambia.

Beatrix became queen in 1980, after her mother, Juliana, abdicated.

Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus, shown at her inauguration in 1980, met on a ski slope in Switzerland.