|Written by Pandora’s Box [my old writing alter-ego]|
|Tuesday, 02 November 2004|
|Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there was a handsome young prince with locks of gold and a smile so bright. He met an attractive, ambitious woman, fell in love and proposed in the most romantic fashion. Dastardly villains did not approve of their marriage, but that didn’t deter the prince. He fought for and married his true love, even though it required him to give up his rights to the throne.
A fairytale? Not exactly. The story of King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor, who gave up his throne for an American divorcée? Non plus.This story involves Prince Johan-Friso, second son to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who heads the immensely popular, rich (or, with over a billion dollar in assets, more than just “rich”) House of Orange. Born in 1968, he was christened His Royal Highness, Johan Friso Bernhard Christiaan David, Prince of Orange, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg. He was second in line to the Dutch throne, behind his older brother, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, and eventually third in line when Willem-Alexander’s wife had a child. Then he met Mabel Wisse-Smit, and he lost it all.
I should tell you at the outset that I dislike Mabel with a passion. I generally try to be fair and understanding in my columns, but I can’t do it when it comes to Mabel. So there is no point in pretending to be objective, because I’m not. Besides, I couldn’t hide my antipathy if I tried.
No, I don’t know “Princess” Mabel personally, but, like any person who reads a lot about a situation, I have a personal opinion. And, in my personal opinion, she is a hard, ambitious, lying, calculating, social-climbing creature who brought down a prince.
Vicious invective? I have no doubt that some of you will think so. Yet, personal opinion aside, the facts show that Mabel Wisse-Smit is an ambitious career woman, who was linked to one of Europe’s most infamous druglords (along with other powerful, successful men), who lied to the government about her past and who led a prince to lose his birthright. Those facts are undisputed. I will leave it up to you to make up your mind about the rest of the tale.
The Early Years
Mabel Martine Los was born on August 11, 1968, to a solidly middle-class family in the town of Pijnacker. Pijnacker is not a cosmopolitan metropolis but a smallish town with a population of 38,000 located in the western part of the Netherlands. When Mabel was nine years old, her father died in a skating accident. A year later, in 1979, her mother remarried a successful businessman called Peter Wisse-Smit. A few years later, Mabel changed her last name from the more middle-class “Los” to the more socially upscale hyphenate “Wisse-Smit.”
Mabel spent her teenage years in Het Gooi in the central part of theNetherlands. She graduated from high school in 1986 and then attended theUniversity of Amsterdam. She studied economics and political science and, in 1993, graduated cum laude. During her university years, she had internships with several hugely important organizations: the Secretariat of the United Nations in New York; Shell Oil Company in Malaysia; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at The Hague; and the multinational ABN-AMRO Bank in Barcelona.
In 1994, only a year after graduating from university, Mabel founded the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans, a non-governmental organization supposedly focused on achieving peace, democracy and stability at the Balkans. The Balkan wars had just broken out, so, at first blush, Mabel’s group would seem to have the most benevolent of intentions. Not so. In my opinion, the group’s theoretical neutrality was a sham because, as I think the subsequent facts will show, the Council defined “peace” solely as a victory by the Bosnians.
Part of that was due to Mabel’s new lover. A year before, in 1993, while working at the UN, Mabel had met the charismatic Bosnian Ambassador, Mohammed Sacirbey. Mabel began a long, passionate, heated affair with him which lasted for several years. She was about 25; he was almost 40. And married. (See e.g., Stephanie van den Berg,“Dutch Prince chooses fiancee over throne,” (Agence France-Presse, 10-Oct-2003), available at http://tinyurl.com/5o8jz)
Mabel and her Action Council became deeply involved with Sacirbey’s political agenda. One of the co-founders of her group was a lawyer, Phon van den Biesen, who represented Bosnia at The Hague. In fact, he gave his speech alongside Sacirbey charging Serbia with genocide.
Their agenda soon became more than mere speeches at the UN or The Hague. In 1995, Sacirbey was appointed Bosnia’s Foreign Minister and, as such, his main goal was to get arms for his country’s forces. The fact that there was an arms embargo by the West didn’t matter. Sacirbey lobbied numerous Muslim countries, seeking both guns and money.
Newspaper accounts show that he succeeded in obtaining weapons from the Islamic Republic of Iran and, allegedly, Osama Bin Laden. See, “Iran says Islamic army chiefs to meet on Bosnia,” (Reuters, July 1995) athttp://tinyurl.com/5nktt; “‘War Child’ involved with Arms Lobby,” at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/10/279556.html. For information regarding the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Bosnian Muslims and Osama Bin Laden, see Yossef Bodansky, Offensive in the Balkans: the Potential for a Wider War as a Result of Foreign Intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1995), Some Call it Peace: Waiting for War in the Balkans(1996), and Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America (1999).
The newspapers weren’t the only one to charge the Bosnians (and, by implication therefore, Sacirbey) with using Iran to violate the arms embargo. The United States Senate Republican Policy Committee issued a report in 1997 entitled, “Clinton-Approved Iranian Arms Transfers Help Turn Bosnia into Militant Islamic Base” which detailed the seriousness of the weapons violations.http://www.balkanpeace.org/rs/archive/sept01/rs184.shtml
In July 1995, the massacre at Srebrenica occurred. Dutch peacekeepers were overrun by Serb forces, resulting in the death of thousands of Bosnians Muslims. The Dutch government launched a detailed investigation into the matter. According to one report, “[t]he Dutch inquiry into the Srebrenica massacre later confirmed that the two of them [Mabel and Sacirbey] had direct access to the Foreign Ministry, and influenced Dutch policy, in the run-up to the massacre.” (See, “War Child’ involved with Arms Lobby,” supra, at http://tinyurl.com/67emp) Although the Bosnians were the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, they were the instigators of equally reprehensible activities, both before and after.
Sacirbey didn’t have clean hands in this period, and allegedly neither did his lover and political partner. In fact, it’s been reported that Sacirbey allegedly used Mabel as a go-between with Egyptian arm dealers, as well as the infamous Adnan Khashoggi, a relative by marriage of Mohammed Al-Fayed, and one of the biggest gun dealers to the Bosnian Muslims. Sacirbey has since denied Mabel’s role in arms smuggling and claims that she was merely involved in a “strong lobby” for Bosnia’s right of self-defense. (See, Royal News for October 30, 2003,http://www.nettyroyal.nl/newsoct03.html)
The truth of the charges is up for debate. What’s undisputed, however, is the fact that Mabel was the subject of investigations involving those arms dealers and illicit weapons sales. (See e.g., Expatica article, dated 22 October 2003, previously available at http://www.expatica.com/index.asp?pad=2,18,&item_id=35127, reproduced at http://tinyurl.com/5d2wm). Reports of the investigations continued until shortly before her marriage into the House of Orange but, since there, there has been absolute silence on the matter.
Mabel wasn’t the only one under investigation. Sacirbey was recently arrested for embezzling millions from the impoverished Bosnian state.He’s currently sitting in a New York jail awaiting extradition to Bosnia. However, his relationship with Mabel had ended far before then.
In fact, it ended soon after Sacirbey lost his position as Foreign Minister in 1997. After the Dayton Peace Accords ended the Balkan conflict in 1995, Sacirbey’s international significance had steadily diminished. The loss of his government job seemed to mark the complete end to his influence. And like a rat leaving a sinking ship, Mabel moved on. Onwards and upwards.
That same year, she began working for a man with truly global influence, power and prestige: the billionaire financier, George Soros. Mabel became the director of Soros’ Open Society Institute in Brussels. The Institute works on behalf of the Soros Foundations Network in Western Europe, to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
All very charitable, noble concerns, for which Mabel has been repeatedly and endlessly praised as an altruistic young woman. Personally, I have no doubt that Mabel is genuinely concerned about some human rights issues. I also have no doubt that she’s a responsible, serious woman who would like to effect some good in the world. Taken by itself, her work seems nothing but laudable.
However, her activities – when taken in conjunction with other parts of her life – lead me to react with scepticism. Perhaps you will see why when the story is complete.
Shortly after dumping Sacirbey and starting work with Soros, Mabel was introduced to Prince Johan-Friso. They began dating and, before long, Mabel was included in a number of activities with the Dutch royal family.The latter seemed very fond of the Prince’s new girlfriend. Mabel was a close friend of Laurentien Brinkhorst, the girlfriend and future wife of Johan-Friso’s younger brother, Prince Constantjin. In fact, it was Laurentien who introduced the couple and who ensured her acceptance by the royal family. Mabel was included with the family on such momentous occasions as the death of Prince Claus, Johan-Friso’s father, as well as the wedding of the Crown Prince.
I may be a cynic but I think the Royal Family’s open-armed reception of Mabel wasn’t due solely to her serious credentials. Obviously, every parent is overjoyed to see their child happy but, in the case of Prince Johan-Friso, the relationship had added benefits.
For years, the Prince had struggled with rumours of being gay. It had become such a problem that he’d felt the need to make a public statement, protesting his heterosexual orientation. News of the Prince’s relationship with Mabel, a tall, leggy, attractive blonde, effectively squashed those rumours once and for all.
Personally, I don’t see Mabel’s appeal. She’s been compared to a blonde siren but, in all honesty, I think she looks rather like a rabbit. (To see a photo of “The Rabbity One” in some of her better moments, go to http://tinyurl.com/58dpn and http://tinyurl.com/6fhoc)
In 2003, the Prince proposed. A sweet, somewhat shy man with a good sense of humour, he arrived at her door in a white Mexican outfit, accompanied by flowers and champagne. She accepted.
A few months later, in June 2003, she was interviewed by the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende. By law, the Dutch Prime Minister must meet with and interview future members of the royal family. The interview is usually the culmination of the security screening process begun by the Dutch security forces. After the interview, the Prime Minister asks permission from Parliament for the marriage to proceed. If he does not submit his request to Parliament or if approval is not granted, then the royal loses his right of succession to the throne. That does not mean his or her marriage is forbidden by law. It merely means that he cannot maintain his right to the throne without first getting approval from parliament for his marriage.
In the case of Prince Johan-Friso and Mabel, the interview went swimmingly well. Then, a few months later, an investigative journalistic broke a story which shed a whole new light on the affair.
In October 2003, a famous Dutch investigative journalist called Peter R. de Vries reported that Mabel had been the lover of a mobster called Klaas Bruinsma. This was an extremely seriously allegation because Bruinsma was no smalltime crook. To the contrary, he was considered to be the “Godfather” of the Dutch drug trade and one of the most notorious men in all Northern Europe. Bruinsma was assassinated in brutal fashion in 1991 but by then he’d already left his stamp on the narco-trafficant business. It’s been said that every single druglord in the Netherlands today owes some debt of gratitude toward Bruinsma’s pioneering efforts, and many have some sort of actual connection to him.
Bruinsma was not just a mere druglord; he was also so ruthless as to conjure up mental images of Al Pacino’s “Scarface.” He allegedly hired hit men to assassinate his rivals but, like everything else in his flamboyant life, they weren’t supposedly to go quietly. Thus, one unfortunate opponentwas found upside down in a barrel of cement, having had his penis and his legs cut off while he was still alive. (Anthony Browne, “Is fairytale princess really just a gangster’s moll?,” (London Times, October 7, 2003) at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-844915,00.html.)
Bruinsma’s passion for the limelight is reminiscent of John Gotti, the infamous head of the Gambino crime family who obsessively courted the limelight without concern for the legal ramifications. Unlike Gotti, however, Bruinsma was much more socially active in legitimate society.He was a passionate about sailing and frequently organized sailing events with exclusive yacht clubs. The rich, the social and the wannabes attended his events in droves.
It was there that he met the young university student, Mabel Wisse Smit. De Vries’ investigation had led him to South America and Bruinsma’s former bodyguard, Charlie de Silva. According to De Silva, Mabel and “the Godfather” had had a heated affair, and he was a witness.
Mabel’s response to the allegations was to scoff and insist that she barely knew Bruinsma. She admitted that she’d met him in the yachting circles but denied any sexual relationship. According to her, she’d only known him briefly for a few months, and in the most cursory fashion. She insisted that, once she found out what he did, she broke off all contact.
De Silva’s response was essentially to roll his eyes He retorted that, not only did Mabel know Bruinsma well, but she’d known him so well as to spend nights on his yacht. He said that Bruinsma was so utterly and completely besotted by Mabel that she became the only woman allowed to do so. And her stays weren’t platonic tea parties either.
De Silva wasn’t alone in his charges. Bruinsma’s former bookkeeper, a man referred to for safety reasons as “Ed S.,” said he was “almost certain” that Mabel had an intimate relationship with Bruinsma and that she knew of his illegal activities. He admits that he never physically witnessed the two in a compromising position but insists that he has more than enough reason to believe the two were intimate.
His statements may seem suspiciously generic and uninformative but I believe much of that has to do with security reasons. Decades after his tenure as Bruinsma’s accountant, the man still can’t reveal his real name in public. He certainly isn’t going to risk giving detailed information on Bruinsma’s activities. One might think that a mere girlfriend would be an exception but the fact that “Ed S.” refuses to get into details makes one wonder what he knows. After all, the man was in charge of Bruinsma’s financial matters and he insists he has cause to think there was an intimate relationship. What sort of financial information would give rise to that impression?
Confronted by all this detail, Mabel was forced to admit that she had, in fact, continued her “acquaintanceship” with Bruinsma far later than she’d initially claimed. As subsequent reports showed, Mabel remained in contact with Bruinsma for 18 months after she’d purportedly ended their “friendship” in disgust. Not only that, but Mabel was forced to admit that she had, in fact, slept on Bruinsma’s boat on several occasions. Still, she insisted that she’d never been involved with him sexually.
A friend of hers came to the rescue and valiantly told the press that it was she, not Mabel, who’d had the affair with Bruinsma. Another one of the mobster’s cohorts also stepped forward to absolve Mabel of all charges and to attack De Silva as a man who loved the spotlight.
Perhaps. But if De Silva loved the spotlight, he would have come forth on his own accord to rain on Mabel’s parade. He didn’t. One may argue that he didn’t know of Mabel’s connection with the Prince, as he was living inSouth America at the time. That’s possible, but I don’t buy it. I personally saw online reports of the Prince’s engagement surface in newspapers of such distant countries as the People’s Republic of China and Russia. I have no doubt that the AP newswire would have carried and repeated such reports in South America metropolitan cities. Yet, De Silva still did not volunteer to come forward. If he was someone who cared purely and solely about media attention, he would not have waited to be contacted by an investigative reporter.
Whatever De Silva’s motivation, additional evidence began to corroborate his claim. Reports surfaced that Mabel had repeatedly stayed with Bruinsma in a number of different expensive hotels, including the four-star Amstel Hotel. In addition, women –who weren’t Mabel’s closest friends – began to step forward to confirm the affair. According to these uninvolved, unbiased witnesses, it was more than clear from their social interaction that Mabel was intimately involved with Bruinsma. So much for her best friend’s attempt to take the heat.
It got worse. Allegations soon arose that Mabel had found out the details of her personal security file before her meeting with the Prime Minister. According to political sources, Mabel had somehow obtained “insight” into the security dossier compiled on her by the AIVD, the Dutch equivalent of the FBI or MI5. The inside sources claimed that, when Mabel’s screening interview with the Prime Minister finally took place, she informed him only of those things which were in the file and already known to the government. Events, as they occurred, seem to substantiate the charges.
The fact that Mabel obtained her AIVD file was shocking in and of itself; to this day, it’s still unclear how she managed that feat. But that’s not really the point. The point is premeditation. Mabel seems to have carefully and deliberately found out just how much the government knew about her; and then intentionally hid the rest.
Just to clarify, Mabel’s “friendship” with one of Europe’s biggest drug lords wasn’t even known before the investigative reporter, De Vries, broke the story. The security forces had absolutely no idea about Bruinsma and they certainly didn’t include it in her file. She knew that, and she was more than happy to keep on lying about it.
And lie she did. Repeatedly. Again and again. First, Mabel insisted she’d barely known the chap. Then, she was forced to admit that she’d known him so well as to sleep on his boat. She claimed she had broken off all ties with him after a few months. Then, she was forced to backtrack and admit that she’d actually been in contact with him for a year and a half after she’d reportedly ended things.
In the overall scheme of things, 18 months may not seem like much. It took longer to build Hadrian’s Wall, to discover penicillin, to break the atom, to win WWII. In this case, however, 18 months were all Mabel and Bruinsma had. Bruinsma was assassinated at the end of that time in a flame of bullets. And, by some accounts, she knew him until the very end.
Mabel’s lies soon became known as “Mabelgate.” The Prime Minister was deeply embarrassed. After all, he’d personally interviewed Mabel as part of her security screening and had been shown up for a fool.
The Prime Minister decided that he was not going to submit the marriage for the requisite parliamentary approval. His decision meant that the Prince had to either give up Mabel or his place within the line of succession. If he gave up the latter, he’d also have to give up his place in the Royal House, which is composed of those individuals who are legally eligible to ascend to the throne. The Royal House is therefore different from the Royal Family which consists of the monarch’s personal, immediate family.
The Prime Minister’s position may seem hugely unfair but he didn’t trust Mabel. And I don’t blame him. She’d already lied to him once or, depending on your interpretation, more than once. He didn’t want to go before his Republican enemies supporting a woman who could be hiding even more and probably felt his political position would be on the line if he did.
The Prince and Mabel issued a written, and very public, apology to the Prime Minister. In a letter dated 9 October 2003, the Prince wrote:
During the conversations with you in the period before the announcement of our marriage we gave the impression that it had been a superficial relationship of about two and a half months in 1989, with afterwards an occasional meeting. The contacts should mainly have to be seen in the range of sea sailing and should have been ended by Mabel after she became aware of Mr. Bruinsma’s activities.
What we should have said in June was that it was more than a superficial relationship and that they have had regular contact with each other for three months in 1989. When Mabel became aware of his activities she decided not to continue her friendship with Mr. Bruinsma in the same way. However she has seen him with some regularity in the following one and a half year. It is also a fact that Mabel has stayed at Mr. Bruinsma’s several times. However the truth remains that there there never business contacts between Mr Bruinsma and Mabel, nor did they ever had a love affair. Besides it has only became fully clear to her after his death with which practises he really was occupied.
In June you have expressed the intention to introduce a bill of consent at the States General. This was according to our wish in view of my connection with the Royal House, our respect for the Queen and her family, and the supporting role which Mabel and I possibly could fulfil.
(See Netty Royal for a translated version of the Prince’s letter, (hereinafter referred to simply as “Letter to Prime Minister”), at http://www.nettyroyal.nl/mabelaffair2.html.)
The couple may have insisted that Mabel’s relationship was completely innocuous but the public clearly disagreed. A poll taken at the time showed that more than 70% of the population thought Mabel had not only lied but was still lying about the real nature of her relationship with Bruinsma.
Still, the Prince insisted on shouldering all the blame. He publicly stated that he’d been the one to advise Mabel to tell only “the important facts” to the government. As he later explained in a televised interview, he’d only thought to inform the government of things that could possibly involve “criminal or blackmailing facts.” See, Netty Royal’s translation of the interview, available at http://www.nettyroyal.nl/frisomabel6.html. In his opinion, Mabel’s relationship with Bruinsma involved neither. By the same token, he felt Mabel’s nights on Bruinsma’s yacht were completely meaningless. He dismissed all queries with the reply, “I think there has been said enough about it… Where someone stays to me is a private thing.”Id.
In fact, according to the Prince, every part of Mabel’s relationship with Bruinsma was insignificant. In his eyes, Mabel had been a naïve young girl and the whole thing was fifteen or twenty years ago in the past. The only reason they hadn’t brought it up was to avoid “dragging up painful memories of which Mabel had hoped that they belonged to the past.” (See, Letter to the Prime Minister, supra.)
“Painful” memories? An odd choice of words to describe a supposedly passing acquaintance of the utmost insignificance. In fact, much of Johan-Friso’s explanation is odd or defies common sense.
Let’s start with the Prince’s main line of defense, namely that Mabel was just a young, naive girl who shouldn’t be blamed for the events going back almost 15 years ago. Let’s not forget his postscript that, “[b]esides it has only became fully clear to her after his death with which practises he [Bruinsma] really was occupied.” Id.
With all due respect to the Prince, a man who has much of my sympathies and whom I like, I must say that his generous defense is complete rubbish. Mabel’s alleged naiveté is not only utterly ludicrous but an insult to one’s intelligence. Bruinsma was not someone living in the shadows with a hidden reputation. He was the most notorious drug lord in Northern Europeand his reputation was well-known in his own country. Furthermore, he hardly lived outside the spotlight. He was a big part of the social scene, was involved in society races at the yacht club, and lived in an ostentatious, loud manner replete with several bodyguards. How someone could spend time in close proximity to him — let alone actually sleep over on his yacht — without noticing the bodyguards, hearing the rumours or finding out about his prison sentences, is beyond me.
From personal experience, I can tell you that Mabel’s ignorance is highly unlikely. When I was 20 years old, I was at a party where I met a “businessman” who took an inordinate fancy to me. He was, to put it extremely euphemistically, involved in some shady activities. For all his underworld power, he kept a deliberately low, secretive profile, so his reputation was hardly front-page news. Yet, within less than an hour of meeting him, I was told exactly who he was and what he did. If his sleazy behavior and loathsome appearance didn’t put me off him, his reputation certainly did. But the real point here is that word spread almost immediately regarding this mobster and who he really was. I find it almost impossible to believe that something similar wouldn’t happen in the case of Bruinsma who did have a deliberately high profile and who did lead an active, ostentatious social life. And if Mabel didn’t hear of it the first night, I find it utterly inconceivable that she wouldn’t have heard of it after a few weeks, if not 18 months.
A “Devil’s Advocate” may argue that knowledge about Bruinsma’s activities still doesn’t refute Mabel’s alleged foolishness and naïveté. In fact, they’d probably argue that it supports the claim of Mabel’s foolishness.
Perhaps, but I’m still unconvinced. We’re not talking about some silly prepubescent teenager; Mabel was 21 at the onset of the relationship, and 23 by its end. Nor are we talking about some fatuous, simpering blonde pop star like Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson. In the case of either one of those intellectual giants, I’d probably be the first to argue that the idiocy ruled the day. But even those two morons would probably think twice before hanging around Europe’s version of Scarface.
In fact, no matter how stupid or young the girl, I think they’d all have a moment’s trepidation before cozying up to a man who had one lucky rival’s penis and limbs chopped up while he was still alive. And one thing Mabel has never been called is stupid. No, here we’re discussing a brilliant intellectual who graduated cum laude from an excellent university and who has shown that she has a clear penchant for rich, powerful men.
The constant harping on the timeline also bothers me. Again and again, it’s been repeated that these events occurred fifteen years ago. My reply is, so what? A single, one time mistake in judgment would be something. In the case of Mabel, however, her entire career since Bruinsma has continued the same pattern, even if it meant sleeping with a married, corrupt politician like Sacirbey. Frankly, I think Mabel stopped being naïve and foolish long ago.
Speaking of Sacirbey, it should be noted that Mabel informed the Prime Minister about her relationship with him before “Mabelgate” broke. Her admission means little in my opinion because, again, she knew the contents of her security file beforehand. As it’s already been noted, the Dutch government’s investigation into the Sbrenenica massacre uncovered information about her relationship with Sacirbey and the couple’s connection to the Dutch Foreign Ministry. In other words, her relationship was probably too well documented to conceal.
In my opinion, Mabel’s relationship with the Netherlands’ “Godfather of Crime” could be easily dismissed if her subsequent actions didn’t make it symbolic of a bigger pattern. She went after a politician — married and with children– until he lost most of his power. She then went to work for one of the most powerful, influential billionaires on the planet. If it was really all about the children and the refugees, she could have stuck with her organization “War Child Netherlands” which was intended to help such groups. Or, she could have rolled up her sleeves and done some serious work in the trenches for those who really needed it. Instead, she followed the money and power by working for George Soros, in an office very far away from the blood and gore.
In Mabel’s defense, she could probably raise more funds or awareness working for a high-profile organization than working in the trenches à la Mother Theresa. Her efforts are probably commendable and there is nothing that says only hardship work is “real” work. I will admit with complete frankness that my bias against Mabel hampers my objectivity and that she must have done some good along the way. Well, at least in so far as the Bosnians, since her earlier work was seemingly indifferent to the plight of the other Balkan groups.
I can only say that my perceptions of Mabel’s power-hungry nature make me highly reluctant to raise her to the level of a saint, the way so many others seem eager to do. Quite frankly, my idea of a saintly, altruistic angel does not involve working with a Palm Pilot and telephone in a gorgeous office, provided by a billionaire, and far away from anything bloody, gruesome or disturbing. It certainly doesn’t involve sleeping with a married man with children, let alone the Dutch equivalent of Scarface. And yes, I absolutely and completely believe that Mabel had a sexual relationship with Bruinsma. Forget the bodyguard or the bookkeeper – people unassociated with either the gangster or Mabel have come forward to corroborate the claims. Whether it was on a yacht, at sporting events or at luxurious hotels, Mabel has been connected to the mobster in an intimate fashion, again and again.
I have no doubt that I’ll be excoriated for my harsh opinions and analysis. In fact, I’m actually preparing myself for a ton of hate mail from Dutch readers. The majority of those will probably be people who feel sorry for the Prince’s renunciation of his birthright. They might be surprised to learn that I share their feelings and that I have nothing but sympathy for the Prince.
That said, I think I’m not alone in my perception that Mabel follows power and money. In the interview shortly before her wedding, a Dutch commentator asked Mabel point blank about her interest “in powerful men.” Mabel gave a terse statement that she loved the Prince and his position was merely incidental. (See, supra, for the Netty translation of the interview.)
“Incidental”? Hmm… I’d like to think so, but I doubt it. In my opinion, there was nothing “incidental” about the Prince’s position. And that’s a pity because I think he’s a good man who deserves true love. I admire his fierce protection of his bride and I wish him nothing but happiness. It’s incredibly unfortunate that he had to lose his birthright and I have no doubt that it’s hurt him. In fact, he admitted as much shortly before his marriage.
One has to wonder how his mother, the Queen, reacted to the story or the subsequent turn of events. The Prince has admitted that he hid the truth from her when Mabel first told him about Bruinsma. His reasoning was that he didn’t want her to tell the Prime Minister, as the law would require. Id.His admission undercuts his insistence that the relationship was much ado about nothing and something that wasn’t worth mentioning. Still, I don’t blame him. By all accounts, his mother was thrilled by his new relationship and, more to the point, the Queen doesn’t seem like the best person to upset.
Queen Beatrix, or “Trix” as she’s fondly called, is a remarkable woman. She is strong and passionate, with endless, beaming smiles and deep laughs, a love of bright colours, and a flamboyant style that includes a passion for eye-raising hats. Unlike more reserved monarchs, she’s often photographed laughing unabashedly and with complete abandon. Her wide, broad grins underneath flaming magenta flying saucer hats have created the image of a jovial, relaxed monarch. Yet, despite the huge smiles and hearty chuckles, there is a strength and steeliness which one would do well not to ignore. Her Majesty is famed for her attention to detail, perfectionism and tendency to be in iron control of every situation. She takes a fierce pride in her family’s name and position; and she does not appreciate anything which may negatively influence them.
I simply cannot see a woman as steely or as fiercely protective of her family’s reputation as Queen Beatrix standing approvingly while her son and Mabel lied to the PM about the scope of Mabel’s Bruinsma links. In fact, if she’d known the full extent of Mabel’s rumoured past, I doubt she’d have approved at all. A woman with ties to the Netherlands’ most vicious drug overlord, then a corrupt Baltic politician and, possibly, Middle Eastern arms dealers…. No, I can’t see Her Majesty accepting all that with equanimity.
Some people will note that the Queen approved and warmly accepted her eldest son’s choice, a woman who was equally controversial at the time. Crown Prince Willem-Alexander fell in love with and married Máxima Zorreguieta, an Argentinean whose father was a senior member of the brutal Videla military junta. Personally, I think that was another situation entirely. Máxima had never been personally involved in any disreputable, controversial situations. Her father had been, but she herself was blameless. Mabel was not.
Whatever the Queen’s feelings upon learning of “Mabelgate,” she stood by her son and offered him her full support. She ensured that he would be styled as a Prince, even if it couldn’t be of a Prince of the Netherlands(e.g., of Orange.) With her assistance, Johan-Friso would remain a prince of Orange-Nassau, a lesser title but still a princely one. Mabel would stay a commoner but, since the spouse of Dutch princes are accorded the courtesy of their husband’s title, Mabel would be formally addressed as H.R.H. Princess Mabel. Furthermore, any children they might have would be ennobled and given the titles of Count or Countess of Amsberg.
The couple’s wedding took place on April 24, 2004, in the town of Delft.The event was a subdued affair, in part because the groom’s grandmother, the former Queen Juliana, had died a few weeks before.
The bride wore a gown designed by Dutch couturiers, Viktor & Rolf, with her detailed input. The dress was made of white Duchesse satin and had a form-fitting bodice with a demure boat neckline. It was attractive, from the waist-up. Unfortunately, it was inundated with 248 handmade silk georgette bows, starting on the bodice and small in size before becoming larger and larger on the way down. By the time you got to the train, the bows were so enormous that just one of them alone could have served as a tablecloth or bed sheet. All right, so I might be exaggerating, but not by much. (For a photo of the hideous train, see http://tinyurl.com/44sdp )
It was not a cheap dress either. The dress reportedly cost €65,00 or €72,000, much more than the dresses of some other royal brides. For example, the wedding dress of Crown Princess Letizia of Spain cost approximately €15,000, while that of Crown Princess Matilde of Belgiuma mere €5,000.
The wedding itself was an unusual affair. I watched it with several friends, most of whom had no opinion about Mabel one way or another. Yet they were all uniformly taken aback at the difference between the bride and groom’s demeanor during the ceremony. Mabel went down the aisle looking from side to side with, as one person was surprised to note, a “triumphant” expression on her face.
In contrast, the Prince was exceedingly somber, if not grim. As one of my friends noted, he looked as though he were attending a funeral, not his own wedding. He barely glanced at his bride, who kept turning to him during the ceremony with a big grin on her face. The Prince was undoubtedly troubled by the knowledge that the minute he said, “I do,” he would give up his place in the Royal House.
It clearly was on the mind of other members of his family too. When it came time for his brother to sign the witness statement officialising the marriage, he paused for several long moments and simply looked at Johan-Friso. The implication was so obvious that a nervous titter went audibly through the wedding guests. Johan-Friso just looked pale and gave a weak smile. The paper was signed, the ceremony was soon concluded and Johan-Friso walked out with “Princess Mabel.”
As I’ve said earlier, I admire the Prince for his steadfast devotion to Mabel and I wish him nothing but happiness. If Mabel is his one true love, and if she genuinely reciprocates his feelings, then maybe he’s gained more than he’s lost. I hope so.
Whatever the case, there is finally some good news for the 36 year old Prince: he will soon be a father. It was announced last week that Mabel is pregnant and due to give birth in April 2005. That month also marks the date of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, so the House of Orange and the Dutch people will have a lot to celebrate. Proost and congratulations!