Mabel Martine Los was born to Hendrik Los and Florence Kooman in Pijnacker, Netherlands, on 11 August 1968. Mabel has three sisters – two of whom (Nicoline and Eveline) are from her mother’s second marriage. Her father, Hendrik, passed away when she was just nine-years-old from a skating accident, and her mother later remarried to Peter Wisse Smit in 1984. Mabel and her sister chose to take their stepfather’s surname because they were quite young when their father died. Due to her mother’s remarriage, Mabel and her siblings were raised in Het Gooi, Netherlands.
The Dutch Royal Family has not shared Mabel’s early education, but it is known that she graduated cum laude with a degree in economics and political science from the University of Amsterdam in 1993. In 2001, she attended the International Human Rights Law Summer School at the University of Oxford, and in 2008, she attended Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century executive education programme in Boston.
During her time at the University of Amsterdam, she became deeply interested in human rights, Balkan diplomacy, and international relations. During her university years, she also interned at the United Nations, Shell, ABN AMRO, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Her passion for human rights led to her founding the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans in 1994; she held the director position in this organisation until 1997, when she started working at the Open Society Foundations. While there, she was initially the director of the Brussels office until she was named International Advocacy Director, based in London. In 1995, Mabel assisted in creating WarChild Netherlands and later helped create the NGO coalition Publish What You Pay and the International Criminal Court in 2002.
From 2008 through 2012, Mabel was the first director of The Elders – an organisation created by Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African president Nelson Mandela to bring together non-governmental public figures to promote peace, human rights, and justice. In 2011, Princess Mabel initiated Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriages.
Mabel met Prince Friso – the second son of then-reigning Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands – in Brussels in 2000. Their engagement announcement came in 2003, but it was not without controversy. The couple were vague about Mabel’s connection to the Dutch drug lord, Klaas Bruinsma, and Prince Friso admitted in a letter to then-Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende that he and Mabel had given incomplete – but not inaccurate – information. Mabel’s relationship with Bruinsma was close but not romantic. As a result, the couple chose not to seek parliamentary approval for their marriage – meaning Friso was removed from the line of succession. Shortly before marriage, he was granted the surname “of Oranje-Nassau, van Amsberg” and the hereditary title “Count of Orange-Nassau.”
Friso and Mabel married on 24 April 2004 in Delft, Netherlands, and moved to London. Their first child, Countess Luana, was born on 26 March 2005, and their second child, Countess Zaria, was born on 18 June 2006.
On 17 February 2012, Prince Friso was buried by an avalanche while on holiday in Lech, Austria, with the Royal Family. He was deprived of oxygen for 25 minutes before he was rescued and resuscitated but remained comatose.
He was moved to Wellington Hospital in London, close to their family home in March, where Mabel remained by his side. In July 2013, Friso was transferred to Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. At the time, it was said that he had some consciousness; Friso spent his final month surrounded by his family. On 12 August 2013, Prince Friso died at the age of 44.
Mabel and her two daughters continue to live in London. She continues her active role in human rights initiatives and honours her husband’s memory each year at the Prince Friso Engineering Prize.