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Culture

What’s A Prince In Love To Do?

Blue blood isn’t the ticket to fulfilling every desire, as Dutch Prince Johan Friso learned the hard way. After parliament rejected his choice of bride, the noble was forced to choose between love and the throne.

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To wed or not to wed: a difficult choice for a prince.

Just because he’s a prince, doesn’t automatically mean that Johan Friso gets everything he wants. And what he wants most these days is the right to marry his beloved fiancée Mabel Wisse Smit. But the Dutch parliament, which according to law needs to approve the royal match, is not inclined to grant the prince his wish.

On Friday, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende issued a statement saying he would not ask parliament to endorse the prince’s marriage proposal despite written recommendations from the United Nations and European Union diplomats who have worked with the 35 year-old Wisse Smit and respect her work as a human rights activist.

Thus, the love-struck prince was forced to choose between the throne and love. For the 35 year-old prince the decision was easy; after all he’s only second-in-line to the crown following his older brother Prince Willem Alexander. And so Prince Johan Friso announced on Friday that he would give up his right to succession in order to marry the woman of his dreams, just as any normal citizen in the Netherlands has the right to do.

Gangster bride

Mabel Wisse Smit

Dutch prince Johan Friso's fiancée Mabel Wisse Smit, on June 30, 2003, the day of the engagement announcement.

Why didn’t parliament approve of the prince’s choice, certainly Wisse Smit’s resume was befitting of a princess? But the degree in economics and politics and the years as director of the Open Society Institute in Brussels, an organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy and human rights, weren’t enough to cover up a blemish in the fiancée’s past and guarantee parliamentary approval.

Mabel Wisse Smit, it turns out, had an affair with a notorious gangster more than a decade ago while she was still in college. And this fact has come back to haunt her. Only a week after her engagement to Prince Johan Friso hit the media in June, rumors started going around that the future bride had a dark past. When she was pressed about her relationship to Klaas Bruinsma, a drug dealer who was killed in a gang fight in 199, Wisse Smit denied all contacts with the criminal.

Last week, one of Bruinsma’s former body guards came forth saying the future princess and his old boss had been lovers. Wisse Smit then retracted earlier statements and admitted to being an acquaintance of the mobster and even visiting him on his boat. She apologized to the Dutch people for not being honest up front, but it was too late for parliament.

Balkenende had already made his decision. In an open letter, the prime minister regretted he could not approve of her marriage to the prince and said that "trust had been violated."

"Mabelgate"

What’s now being dubbed "Mabelgate" is just the latest in a string of controversies to rock the Royal House of Orange under Queen Beatrix. Although not quite the sensation of their British counterparts, the Dutch royalty has been the subject on tabloids when it comes to love and marriage.

Most recently was the mini-crisis set off by the heir to the throne Prince Willem Alexander in 2001 when he announced his engagement to an Argentinean whose father had served in the military junta. The subject stirred so much discussion and ill feelings that the Dutch parliament even conducted an open debate on whether or not Prince Willem and Maxima could marry. They did and now the two are happily married and Maxima is expecting a child.

Even Queen Beatrix’s choice of partner was hotly debated in the Netherlands. When it was announced that she would marry German-born Claus von Amsberg, a former diplomat, the nation was shocked. Back in 1966, German occupation during World War II was still very much alive in people’s memories. However, the couple’s marriage endured the early hardships and when Prince Claus died in October 2002, the country mourned the loss of the most prominent voice behind Dutch-German ties.

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