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InsightThe Netherlands

Who is Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau?

In the second edition of “Who Is?”, Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau is the focus.

She was born Mabel Martine Los on 11 August 1968 to Hendrik Los and Florence Kooman in Pijnacker, Netherlands. The Princess has three sisters, in which the youngest two are from her mother’s second marriage. Her father passed away when she was just nine-years-old from a skating accident, and her mother remarried in 1984 to Peter Wisse Smit. Princess Mabel and her sister decided to take their stepfather’s surname. Mabel and her siblings were raised in Het Gooi, Netherlands.

By 1993, Mabel had received her degree in economics and political science from the University of Amsterdam, graduating summa cum laude. It was during her time at university that she became deeply interested in human rights, Balkan diplomacy, and international relations. She also interned at the United Nations, Shell, ABN AMRO, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during her time studying at the University of Amsterdam.

Mabel with Luis Almagro, OAS Secretary General in April 2017. Photo: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/Flickr

In 1994, Mabel founded the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans. She was director of this organisation until 1997 when she began working for the Open Society Foundations. While there, she was initially the director of the Brussels office until she was named International Advocacy Director, based in London. Further, in 1995, the Princess was involved in creating War Child Netherlands. She was involved in the creation of the NGO coalition Publish What You Pay and the International Criminal Court in 2002 and the Independent Commission on Turkey in 2004, as well. The Princess attended the International Human Rights Law Summer School at the University of Oxford in 2001.

By 2007, she had co-founded and was the chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations. In 2008, she attended the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century executive education programme at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. From 2008 through 2012, Mabel had the honour of being the first director of The Elders. This organisation was created by Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African president Nelson Mandela to bring together non-governmental public figures to promote peace, human rights, and justice. It was also during this time that she was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe until 2007. In 2011, Princess Mabel initiated Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriages.

Mabel met Prince Friso in Brussels in 2000. It has been rumoured that his sister-in-law, Princess Laurentien introduced the pair. Their relationship was confirmed in 2002, with their engagement announcement the following year. However, controversy soon surrounded them. It was revealed that the couple had been vague about Mabel’s connection to Dutch drug lord, Klaas Bruinsma. Prince Friso admitted in a letter to then Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende that he and Mabel had given incomplete information, but did not provide any inaccurate information. He admitted Mabel’s relationship had been closer than they had mentioned, but it was not romantic.

Because of this, the couple decided to forgo parliamentary approval of their union. Therefore, Friso was removed from the line of succession to the Dutch throne. They married on 24 April 2004 in Delft, Netherlands. The couple then moved to London. Their older daughter, Countess Luana, was born on 26 March 2005. She was followed by a younger sister, Countess Zaria, on 18 June 2006.

Mabel with her late husband, Prince Friso in 2008. Photo: H G Cladder (CC BY SA 4.0)/Wikimedia Commons

Tragedy struck on 17 February 2012, when Prince Friso was buried by an avalanche while on holiday in Lech, Austria. He was deprived of oxygen for 25 minutes before he was rescued and resuscitated but remained comatose. Emergency services flew him to a nearby hospital. He was moved to Wellington Hospital in London, close to their family home in March, where Mabel remained by his side. On 9 July 2013, Friso was transferred to Huis ten Bosch Palace, in The Hague, Netherlands. He had some consciousness and spent his final month surrounded by his family. The day after Mabel’s 45th birthday, on 12 August 2013, Prince Friso passed away at the age of 44.

Mabel has continued to be active in the fight against HIV/AIDS and promoting international criminal law, as well as continuing to be chairwoman of the board for Girls Not Brides. Also, she has remained as a board member, or member of the advisory council, for the following organisations: Crisis Action, Global Witness, The Elders, the Open Society Foundations, and the Malala Fund. She also has an active Twitter account that she uses to promote awareness for causes close to her heart. Mabel and her two daughters, Luana and Zaria, have continued to live in the United Kingdom since Friso’s passing.

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About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. She's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.

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