Mabel Martine Wisse Smit was born in Pijnacker on 11 August 1968 as the eldest daughter of Henk Los and Flos Kooman. After her father's death in 1978, her mother married Peter Wisse Smit. In 1984 Princess Mabel officially took his surname.
Princess Mabel studied economics and political science at the University of Amsterdam, graduating (cum laude) in 1993. She holds an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from Glasgow Caledonian University (2018).
She attended the International Human Rights Law Summer School at the University of Oxford in 2001 and the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century executive education programme at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2008.
Marriage and family
Mabel Wisse Smit married Prince Friso in Delft on 24 April 2004. Princess Mabel and Prins Friso (who passed away on 12 August 2013) have two daughters: Luana, born in 2005, and Zaria, born in 2006. The family lives in London.
Princess Mabel is a serial entrepreneur for social change working to advance equality, justice and freedom. During the last decade, she played a catalytic role in the creation and growth of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage (2011), the Girls First Fund (2018) and VOW for Girls (2018). Princess Mabel is currently a board member of Fondation Chanel, the Lego Foundation, the Sigrid Rausing Trust and chair of VOW for Girls. She is also an advisor to Apolitical Academy Global, Co-Impact’s Gender Fund, Global Witness, and The Elders. Mabel is a champion of Girls Not Brides, and a co-founder and chair emeritus of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
In 1994 the Princess founded the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans, of which she was the CEO until 1997. From 1997 to 2008 she worked for the Open Society Foundations, first as director of the Brussels office and subsequently as International Advocacy Director. From 2008 to 2012 Princess Mabel was the first CEO of The Elders, an independent group of eminent world leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, who promote peace, justice and human rights.
The Princess was involved in the creation of War Child Netherlands (1995), the NGO coalition Publish What You Pay (2002) and the Independent Commission on Turkey (2004). She has been actively engaged in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and in promoting international criminal law. Her former (advisory) board positions include the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Crisis Action, Interpeace, the Jo Cox Foundation, Malala Fund, the Open Society Foundations, the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe, and Trust Women.
Together with the late Prince Friso, Princess Mabel is a founding patron of the Dutch Masters Foundation. She is also a patron of The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN).
Princess Mabel is the author of ‘Publishing What We Learned’ (with Henry Parham, 2009); the Dutch pamphlet ‘In vrijheid blijven geloven’ (March 2007); ‘Building Donor Partnerships’ (with Terrice Bassler, 1997); and numerous articles and op-eds. In 2019, she delivered the annual ‘jaarthematekst’ at the request of The National Committee for 4 and 5 May, on the occasion of 75 years of freedom of the Netherlands.
The World Economic Forum named Princess Mabel one of its Global Leaders for Tomorrow (2003) and one of its Young Global Leaders (2005). Princess Mabel received a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2014), the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award (2014) and the ICRW Champions for Change Award for Innovation (2015) for her work with Girls Not Brides. Her work on HIV/AIDS was acknowledged with the World Without AIDS Award from the Deutsche AIDS-Stiftung (2017) and the AmsterdamDiner Award (2018). On behalf of Girls Not Brides, she accepted the Dutch Geuzenpenning (2018). In 2020, she received a Her Hero Lifetime Achievement Award from Huntington National Bank. In 2018 and 2019, she was included in Apolitical’s Gender Equality Top 100.