Mabel is not exactly a storybook princess. She's been involved with human rights for many years and was the director of the Brussels office of the Open Society Institute, which George Soros founded a few years back; even though she's now a princess, she continues to be OSI's Director of EU Affairs. On behalf of OSI, she went to the global AIDS conference in Bangkok last year and criticized the US there, too, so yesterday's talk wasn't exactly new for her. She was also friends with the Bosnian ambassador to the UN during the worst years of the war and was supposedly considered by the Dutch intelligence agency for a secret mission to Belgrade. Later, during the investigation into the Srebrenica massacre at which Dutch peacekeeping troops were supposed to have been protecting civilians, Mabel and the Bosnian ambassador were identified as the only two people outside the Dutch government who had influence on the management of Dutch policy in the Balkans. The World Economic Forum (you know, those folks who get together every year in Davos) named her one of its "Young Global Leaders." (In fact, as of this writing her picture is at the top of the WEF's home page because of World AIDS Day).
Mabel accomplished almost everything in the preceding paragraph before she turned 30 (don't you hate people like that?).
But when her romance with Prince Johan Friso was revealed, what really made her interesting to the press were rumors of a previous romance. She supposedly had had an affair with the notorious drug kingpin Kluis Bruinsma in the late eighties or early nineties (Bruinsma was shot dead in 1991 by an ex-cop who had gone to work for the "Yugoslavian mafia"; the shooting happened right in front of the Hilton Hotel that John Lennon and Yoko Ono had made famous). Bruinsma wasn't just any old drug dealer: he was Europe's biggest trafficker, and he the organization he ran was one of the most violent in Dutch history. He was known as "the Minister" (in the religious sense) because of his black clothing and his habit of "teaching others lessons." A film about him, based on an earlier book, came out last year; both were titled The Minister.
At the time of the supposed affair, Bruinsma had been in his late 30s and Mabel was a university student of about 20. At first, she downplayed the nature and duration of her acquaintance with Bruinsma. This led to a series of leaks and testimonials, such as the former underling of Bruinsma who claimed to have served the pair breakfast in bed. Mabel and Friso did later admit that Mabel had not been forthcoming about the extent of her relationship with Bruinsma but continue to maintain that the relationship was not sexual.Eventually, all of the fuss made it clear that Parliament would take the unprecedented step of withholding its approval of Mabel's marriage to Friso, so the couple asked the Prime Minister not to submit the matter to Parliament.
That meant Friso had to give up his place in the line of succession to his mother's throne when he married Mabel--shades of Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson, only without the Nazi sympathies. (Johan Friso himself is no intellectual slouch, having picked up, among other degrees, an advanced degree in mechanical engineering at Berkeley, and he studied Dutch law and parliamentary history on the off chance that he might become King someday).
So what's the point of this post? I don't know. I just thought this stuff was kind of interesting. I hope that one of our Dutch commenters will let me know if I've got my facts wrong. One thing I know is this: if Dubya tried to debate Mabel--in English--about AIDS policy, she could beat him without breaking a sweat.