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Who is Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands?

A look at the wife of Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands

Princess Laurentien is the wife of Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, and hence, the sister-in-law of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. She was born on 25th May 1966 in Leiden, the daughter of a former Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Laurens Brinkhorst. Though she is known as Princess Laurentien, her first name is Petra; Laurentien is a portmanteau middle name made from her mother and father’s Christian names – Laurens and Jantien.

Most of her early education was in Holland, though she did spend some time at the Lycée français in Tokyo while her father was there as Permanent Envoy of the European Union. Her tertiary education was at the University of London (Queen Mary’s) and University of California (Berkeley), and she has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Sciences and a Master’s degree in Journalism.

She married Prince Constantijn in 2001 at the Grote of St Jacobskirk in The Hague; they have three children: Countess Eloise (b. 2002), Count Claus-Casimir (b. 2004), and Countess Leonore (b. 2006). Laurentien was not made a Princess but is allowed the title from custom and courtesy by virtue of her husband being a Prince; hence, the children are Count and Countesses.

There are a number issues close to the heart of the Princess, and perhaps, the most well-known is her fight against illiteracy across Europe. She has been working with this since shortly after her marriage in 2001. Stichting Lezen & Schrijven (the Reading and Writing Foundation) was set up on her initiative in May 2004. Its aim was to prevent and reduce functional illiteracy not only across the Netherlands but also worldwide. On 1st January 2014, Princess Laurentien was appointed Honorary Chair of the Reading and Writing Foundation when Maria van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenthart, former Minister of Education, Culture and Science, took over the role of chair.

She has also been recognised for work on illiteracy on the world stage. On 24th March 2009, Princess Laurentien was designated UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development. In this capacity, she acts as an advocate for the cause of literacy all over the world. In February 2011, the Princess was appointed Chair of the European Commission’s High-Level Group of Experts on Literacy. The group have reported and are keen to bring in a cohesive and joined-up approach to tackling illiteracy across Europe.

The Princess has also been a keen advocate for plants and animals and since 2003 has been involved with Fauna & Flora International (FFI). FFI is a nature conservation organisation focusing on the protection of threatened wildlife and ecosystems worldwide. The Princess was originally a member of the Executive Committee, but since late 2012, she has been President. She has also shown a talent for writing children’s stories publishing the first in 2009. They centre on a character called Mr Finney and deal with issues such as sustainability and climate change. The second book in the series was published in February 2011 and the third in November 2013. I wonder if she has ever compared notes with Prince Charles?

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