More gorgeous than Cinderella.

When you hear princess, what do you think of? Do you think of long-haired maidens locked in tall towers, glass slippers, jewels, or tiaras and intricately embroidered gowns? Or do you think of a modern, sleek, Kate Middleton-esque person, with impeccable fashion sense and perfect hair? The definition of Princess is slowly changing, and one Princess helping it along is Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Mabel Van Oranje.

Before she was Princess Mabel, she was Mabel Wisse Smit, a committed, passionate and energetic young woman ready to change the world for the better. Mabel grew up in the central Netherlands, before heading to the University of Amsterdam, where she planned on studying law, but ended up studying political science and economics instead. Throughout her studies, she interned at various corporations, like Shell, ABN AMRO Bank, and even briefly at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But it was her internship at the United Nations in 1993 really influenced Mabel and presented her with a direction for her career. During this time, the United Nations was full of debates on the war that was currently taking place in Bosnia, and she found herself intrigued by the debates that were taking place. She decided, once and for all, where she what she what like to work towards in life. As she told The Gentlewoman magazine earlier this year, “The one thing that I came away with from that internship was the idea that we can all make a difference. Anybody. It doesn’t matter how important you are.”

Mabel went on to set up and work for numerous organizations devoted to peace building and finding solutions to the world’s problems. She has been a director of the Open Society Institute in Brussels, a society that promotes democratic governance, human rights and reform, as well as the founder and executive director of the European Action Council for Peace.

The above all happened before Mabel had even met her future husband, Prince Friso of Oranje – Nassau. The pair met in 2000, while Mabel was working in Brussels at the Open Society Institute. Prince Friso is the second son of the current queen of the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix. They were married in 2004, after some controversy involving Mabel’s association with a Dutch drug lord, Klaas Bruinsma. An investigative journalist in the Netherlands made some allegations about the nature of the relationship – allegations that she denies, but still remain a point of speculation in the Netherlands. All royal marriages must be approved by Dutch parliament, but since the couple hadn’t been completely forthcoming about the association, it was not submitted for approval. This means that while Mabel and Frisoans are still members of the Dutch royal family, they and their children cannot inherit the throne. 

Even after her marriage, Princess Mabel has continued to use her passion and considerable skills to work towards a better world. She is currently the 1st CEO of The Elders, an organization established by Nelson Mandela, which works towards peace building and champions humanitarian causes worldwide. Currently Mabel and the organization are raising awareness about the issue of child marriage, and trying to put an end to this practice. Mabel continues to live a relatively anonymous life in London with her family, although this all changes the moment she flies back over to the Netherlands for royal functions. Her passion for equality, peace, and helping those in need proves that princesses are no longer just figures and characters in fairytales, but real people who, with or without their royal title, strive to make the world a better place for everyone to live in.