Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau

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Mabel Wisse Smit
Prinses Mabel in 2015.jpg
Princess Mabel (2015)
BornMabel Martine Los
(1968-08-11) 11 August 1968 (age 53)
Pijnacker, Netherlands
(m. 2004; died 2013)
IssueCountess Luana
Countess Zaria
FatherHendrik Cornelis Los
MotherFlorence Malde Gijsberdina Kooman

Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau (previously Mabel Martine Wisse Smit, born Mabel Martine Los; 11 August 1968), more commonly known as Mabel van Oranje,[1][2] is the widow of Prince Friso and sister-in-law of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. She spends her time in human rights activities such as co-founding War Child Netherlands, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. She has also served as the first Chief Executive Officer of The Elders, a grouping founded by Nelson Mandela and chaired by Kofi Annan. In 2005, the World Economic Forum recognised her as a Young Global Leader. Van Oranje is an advisor to several non-profits, including the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, the Malala Fund, Crisis Action and the Open Society Foundations.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

She was born Mabel Martine Los in Pijnacker, the Netherlands. Her parents were Hendrik Cornelis Los (27 April 1944 – 18 February 1978) and his wife Florence Malde Gijsberdina Kooman (b. 1944). When she was 9 years old, Mabel's father died as a result of a drowning incident after trying to save his neighbor, who fell into a hole in the ice while skating. In 1984, her mother remarried to Rabobank executive Peter Wisse Smit (15 October 1939 – 11 November 2000), after which Mabel and her sister took their stepfather's surname. Princess Mabel has two younger sisters, Nicoline Los, later Nicoline Wisse Smit (b. 1970) and Eveline Wisse Smit (b. 1982).[4] She grew up in the Gooi region in the central Netherlands.

After attending her secondary education at the Gemeentelijk Gymnasium Hilversum, she studied at the University of Amsterdam, where she graduated cum laude with a master's degree in economics and political science in 1993. During her studies she also completed internships at the United Nations, Shell, ABN AMRO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to Dutch, she speaks fluent English, Spanish and French.

During her university years, she showed special interest in human rights situations around the world, and later specialised in Balkan diplomacy and international relations. In 1995 she was present at the peace conference in Dayton, Ohio.

Work and activism[edit]

Wisse Smit was co-founder of the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans in 1994, which was a non-governmental organisation that strove for peace, democracy and stability in the Balkans, and had Margaret Thatcher, Simon Wiesenthal and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing among its members.

In 1995 she was one of the co-founders of War Child Netherlands, she was on the Trustee Board until 1999. In 1997, she was appointed director of EU affairs of the Open Society Institute in Brussels, one of the foundations of Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros.[5] From 2002 to 2008, Princess Mabel worked in the London branch of the Open Society Institute where she was the International Advocacy Director, to help coordinate all international OSI advocacy activities aimed at international policy change.[6]

The World Economic Forum in Switzerland counted her as one of the hundred "Global Leaders for Tomorrow". She is a member of the worldwide Forum of Young Global Leaders, a thinktank and lobby group that aims to tackle global issues.

She is one of the founding members of the European thinktank European Council on Foreign Relations. She is also a member of the Interpeace Governing Council.[7]

From July 2008 till May 2012 she was the first Chief Executive Officer of The Elders, a group of eminent individuals convened by Nelson Mandela to use their wisdom, independent leadership and experience to tackle some of the world's toughest problems. She oversaw the day-to-day operations for the Elders.[8]

In May 2012, Mabel van Oranje resigned as CEO of The Elders, following the February 2012 accident in which her husband, Prince Friso, was caught in an avalanche and remained hospitalised until his death on 12 August 2013.[9] She continues to be involved with The Elders as a member of its Advisory Council, which she sits on in her capacity as Advisory Committee Chair of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

In 2015 she signed an open letter which the ONE Campaign had been collecting signatures for; the letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively, which will start to set the priorities in development funding before a main UN summit in September 2015 that will establish new development goals for the generation.[10]


After announcing the engagement of Prince Friso with Mabel in June 2003, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende wrote in a letter to parliament that Mabel Wisse Smit had given "incomplete and incorrect information" about the duration and extent of her contacts with known drug lord, Klaas Bruinsma,[11][12] and that because of this, the government had decided not to seek permission for the marriage from parliament.[13][14] In a letter to the Prime Minister dated 9 October,[15] Prince Friso stated that the couple had given some incomplete information, but had not given any incorrect information nor did they lie. The couple admitted that the sailing friendship with Bruinsma was indeed closer than had been mentioned, but denied a love or sexual relationship. This was later repeated by Wisse Smit in a number of interviews.[16]

According to Dutch law, the government had to submit the couple's marriage request to parliament for its approval, a prerequisite for succession to the throne. Prince Johan Friso said he would marry Smit regardless, and as a result lost his right to become king. He had been second in the order of succession, after his older brother, Willem-Alexander, the Prince of Orange.

In a report later issued by the Stichting Nederlandse Nieuwsmonitor (Dutch News Monitor Foundation),[17] it was alleged that the Dutch media had contributed to blowing things out of proportion after the prime minister made 'unnuanced' comments during two news conferences. In this period Wisse Smit also received negative publicity by revelations about her affair, which started circa 1993, with married Bosnian UN Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey.

Marriage and children[edit]

Prince Friso with his wife Mabel and daughters in 2010

Mabel Wisse Smit and Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau married at Oude Kerk (Delft) on 24 April 2004. The couple has two daughters:

  • Countess Emma Luana Ninette Sophie of Orange-Nassau, Jonkvrouwe van Amsberg, born 26 March 2005 in London, her godparents are Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands (paternal uncle), Eveline Wisse Smit (maternal half-aunt), Baroness Sophie von der Recke (paternal first cousin once removed), and Emma Bonino (parent's friend).
  • Countess Joanna Zaria Nicoline Milou of Orange-Nassau, Jonkvrouwe van Amsberg, born 18 June 2006 in London, her godparents are Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands (paternal uncle); Prince Jaime, Count of Bardi (her father's maternal first cousin), Nicoline Wisse Smit (maternal aunt), Ruben Amerling (parent's friend), and Maria Luz Luano (parent's friend).

Because he did not ask the Dutch parliament for permission to marry, Prince Friso ceased being a member of the royal house and forfeited his and his future children's succession rights. Therefore, neither Princess Mabel nor their daughters are members of the royal house. They remained however one of the richest families in the Netherlands. Prince Friso died in 2013.

Titles, style, and names[edit]

Since her marriage, Mabel uses the style of Royal Highness and the courtesy titles of Princess of Orange-Nassau, Countess of Orange-Nassau, and Lady van Amsberg. Although not legally created a princess, it is customary for wives and widows of members of the Dutch royal family to take the titles of their husbands. It was decided that their children each would receive the titles of Count or Countess of Orange-Nassau and Jonkheer or Jonkvrouw van Amsberg.

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ Chair of the Board of Trustees: Mabel van Oranje - website of Girls Not Brides
  2. ^ Advisory Council - website of The Elders
  3. ^ "Mabel vn Oranje chairperson". Girls Not Brides. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Mabel Martine Wisse Smit". Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Mabel Wisse Smit, briljant maar omstreden" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Omroep Stichting. 23 April 2004. Archived from the original on 4 May 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  6. ^ "Osf". Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  7. ^ Interpeace "Governing Council" Archived 1 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 7 February 2012
  8. ^ "The Elders announce their Chief Executive Officer". 30 May 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  9. ^ "Mabel van Oranje resigns as CEO of The Elders". 8 May 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  10. ^ Tracy McVeigh. "Poverty is sexist: leading women sign up for global equality | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  11. ^ "Prinselijk paar loog over relatie Mabel". de Volkskrant (in Dutch). PCM Uitgevers. 11 October 2003. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  12. ^ Gregory Crouch (12 October 2003). "Revelations About Dutch Prince's Fiancée Rattle Royal Family". The New York Times. Netherlands. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  13. ^ "BBC reports about "Mabelgate"". BBC News. 10 October 2003. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  14. ^ "BBC reports about the wedding". BBC News. 24 April 2004. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  15. ^ "Letter by Friso to prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, 9 Oktober 2003". Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  16. ^ Remling, Amanda (20 March 2012). "Dutch Prince Johan Friso: Mabel Wisse Smit Marriage And Other Royal Family Problems". International Business Times. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  17. ^ Press statement Stichting Nederlandse Nieuwsmonitor about Mabel Wisse Smit 'Tegen onwaarheid is geen kruid gewassen' Archived 5 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Nine to be honoured at summer graduations - website of the Glasgow Caledonian University

External links[edit]