HRH Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, who has died aged 44, was second in line to the Dutch throne until being excluded from the line of succession by his choice of a wife; for the past 18 months he had been in a coma after being buried by an avalanche at an Austrian ski resort.
In the summer of 2003 Prince Friso announced his engagement to Mabel Wisse Smit, a beautiful and intelligent blonde who was known for her work in the promotion of human rights. Soon afterwards, however, it was claimed that, 15 years earlier, she had been in a relationship with a Dutch mobster and international drug dealer called Klaas Bruinsma.
The claim was made by one of Bruinsma’s former bodyguards, who said that his boss and Mabel had been lovers and that she had been the only woman allowed on board Bruinsma’s yacht. Miss Smit strenuously denied the allegations, saying that she had been merely an acquaintance of Bruinsma; she admitted that she had spent the night on his yacht on several occasions, but denied that there had been a sexual relationship, insisting that she had known him for only a few months and broke off contact after she found out how he made his money. They had, she said, shared a passion for sailing.Miss Smit had been an expert on the Balkans at the UN, and promoted the cause of human rights for the Open Society Institute, funded by George Soros. She had been vetted by the Dutch secret service and approved as a suitable bride.
Shortly after becoming engaged, however, she issued a statement saying that she had known Bruinsma who was shot dead in a gangland killing in 1991 — for a few months while she was a student, but had broken with him when she learned of “the practices he engaged in”.
Under Dutch law, members of the Royal family must receive permission to marry from the government and parliament if they wish to remain in the line of succession; and the then Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, announced that he could not back the marriage after the Prince and his fiancée admitted that during the “vetting” procedure they had not been entirely frank about her relationship with Bruinsma. The Prince then wrote to the Prime Minister, insisting that Mabel Wisse Smit would still become his wife, and that he would renounce his claim to the throne.
The Prince said afterwards: “We were hoping to prevent what has now happened: the recall of painful memories that Mabel had hoped were long past.” He conceded, however, that this had been “naive and unwise”. The couple married in Delft on April 24 2004.
Prince Johan Friso Bernhard Christiaan David of Orange-Nassau (latterly known simply as Prince Friso) was born in Utrecht on September 25 1968, the second son of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and her husband Prince Klaus. Among his godparents was King Harald V of Norway.
He studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where he drove a humble Volkswagen Rabbit. He then read Aeronautical Engineering at Delft University of Technology, and Economics at Erasmus University, Amsterdam.
After being employed in the mid-1990s by the management consultancy group McKinsey, Prince Friso went to Insead, then worked for Goldman Sachs in London. He was also the London managing director of the investment firm Wolfensohn & Co and chief financial officer for a uranium enrichment company based in Berkshire.
In 2002 Prince Friso’s elder brother, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, married Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti. This union also caused controversy in the Netherlands, since the bride’s father was a minister in the regime of Argentine President Jorge Rafael Videla, which was accused of murdering its political opponents. Willem-Alexander became King in April on the abdication of his mother, and he and his wife have had three daughters.
Prince Friso was buried by a 30-metre wide avalanche on February 17 2012 while skiing off-piste at Lech in Austria. He was dug out of the snow 20 minutes later, but never regained more than “minimal consciousness”.
He is survived by his wife and their two daughters, both of whom are styled Countess
HRH Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, born September 25 1968, died August 12 2013