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Prince gives up throne for love

Dutch royals have a history of facing opposition to their planned marriages.
Dutch royals have a history of facing opposition to their planned marriages.

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- The prince who is second in line to the Dutch throne has given up his right of succession after failing to win government approval to wed his fiancee.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he could not support the marriage between Prince Johan Friso and a woman alleged to have had a relationship with a gangster.

Friso wrote to the prime minister to say he would still marry Mabel Wisse Smit and give up his succession to the throne.

Under Dutch law, royals who aspire to the throne must receive permission from the government and parliament to marry.

"The couple had provided information that was not complete and not correct, which has harmed the confidence (of the government)," Balkenende told a news conference Friday, Reuters reported.

"This is not good for the royal family but I would not call it a crisis."

Wisse Smit, 35, became engaged to Friso in June after a career with the United Nations and human rights organizations.

But reports have surfaced that she had a relationship with Klaas Bruinsma -- a criminal shot dead in a gangland killing in 1991.

In August, nearly two months after their engagement, Wisse Smit issued a statement saying she had known Bruinsma for a few months while she was a student but had parted from him when she learned of "the practices he engaged in."

Last week a former bodyguard to Bruinsma said Wisse Smit had been the mobster's lover, which she denies.

Wisse Smit met with Balkenende last week and conceded she had had a closer relationship with Bruinsma than she had originally said, and that she had maintained contact with him for at least another 18 months, Reuters reported.

But she denied any business or romantic involvement.

Another former Bruinsma employee has attacked the bodyguard's credibility. And a female friend of Wisse Smit said she, not Wisse Smit, had actually been the gangster's girlfriend, Reuters added.

This is the latest Dutch royal match to have caused controversy.

The royal family came under fire when Crown Prince Willem-Alexander married Argentinean Maxima Zorreguieta last year.

The relationship sparked controversy when it emerged that Maxima's father had been a minister during the 1976-83 Argentinean military dictatorship.

Queen Beatrix's own marriage to German-born Claus triggered riots.

Diplomatic dignitaries have come to Wisse Smit's defense, saying she spent a career trying to help the oppressed.

Supporters include billionaire philanthropist George Soros and former French minister and U.N. envoy Bernard Kouchner.

"It is shocking that a person who has done so much for human rights in the world should be treated so badly in her own country because of a dubious accusation about an issue dating back 15 years, when she was in her early 20s,'' the group wrote in an open letter published in Dutch daily De Volkskrant on Thursday.

"As friends and colleagues, we support her totally.''

Wisse Smit, an economics and political science graduate, has worked for the United Nations, the Open Society Institute -- part of Soros' network -- and a non-governmental organization promoting democracy and stability in the Balkans.

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