After the Second World War, Prince Bernhard played an important part in the economic reconstruction of the Netherlands. He made goodwill visits to many countries to promote Dutch trade relations
From 1954 to 1976 the Prince was chair of the Bilderberg Group, a debating forum for politicians, businesspeople and other prominent figures from Europe, the United States and Canada. The Group meets informally once a year at different venues to discuss current political, economic and social developments. It takes its name from the venue of its first meeting, the Bilderberg Hotel in Arnhem.
Shortly before his marriage, Prince Bernhard swore the oath of allegiance as an officer and was commissioned in a number of military ranks. In 1939 he became Aide-de-Camp Extraordinary to Queen Wilhelmina. During his stay in London, he gained his pilot's wings. In 1941 he became Honorary Air Commodore in the RAF and in 1964 was promoted to Honorary Air Marshal.
In 1944 Queen Wilhelmina appointed him Supreme Commander of the Netherlands Armed Forces and the Netherlands Forces of the Interior (the military resistance). In September 1945 the Prince was honourably discharged from these posts and, at the same time, appointed Inspector-General of the Royal Netherlands Army. For his services during the Second World War, Prince Bernhard was awarded the highest military decoration - the Cross of Commander of the Military Order of William - in 1946. For his achievements as a pilot on active service, he received the Flying Cross. In 1984 he was awarded the Resistance Cross.
In 1946 Prince Bernhard was appointed Inspector-General of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and Inspector-General of the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1953. In 1954 he was appointed General of the Royal Netherlands Army, Air Marshal of the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Admiral of the Royal Netherlands Navy. In 1970 the three posts of Inspector-General were combined into one - that of Inspector-General of the Armed Forces.
In the mid-1970s, American aircraft maker Lockheed approached government officials in several countries in order to help it sell certain products - among them Prince Bernhard in his capacity as Inspector-General of the Armed Forces. A committee appointed by Prime Minister Joop Den Uyl found no proof that the Prince had received any payments.In September 1976, following the enquiry, the Prince retired from military duties.
Prince Bernhard was the founder of the Prince Bernhard Fund, which was set up in London in 1940. The original aim of the Fund was to collect financial contributions for the Allied war effort. The Fund now supports culture and nature conservation projects in the Netherlands through grants, assignments, prizes and scholarships. In 1999 the Fund's name was changed to the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund.
The Prince was also a governor of the Erasmus Prize Trust, which he founded in 1958. Every year, the Trust honours people or organisations for outstanding services to culture in Europe.
From 1956 to 1977, Prince Bernhard was chair of the European Cultural Foundation, which was founded by the Swiss philosopher Denis de Rougemont in Geneva in 1954.
Prince Bernhard was highly committed to nature conservation. In 1961 he established the World Wildlife Fund (now the World Wide Fund for Nature), a global force in nature conservation.
As the WWF's first president, Prince Bernhard regularly visited countries in Asia, Africa and South America. On his retirement in 1977, he was appointed Founder President and remained President of the Netherlands Branch of the WWF.