Dutch royals bury romantic renegade prince who died from skiing injuries

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AFP) - Dutch Prince Johan Friso, who excluded himself from the line of succession in the name of love, was buried in private on Friday after he died from injuries sustained in a 2012 skiing accident.

Prince Friso was laid to rest in an intimate ceremony attended by his widow Mabel, 45, and their two daughters Luana, 8, and Zaria, 7, amid tight security in the hamlet of Lage Vuursche, around 30 kilometres south-east of Amsterdam.

The ceremony was also attended by Prince Friso's godfather, Norway's King Harald V, his brothers King Willem-Alexander and Prince Constantijn, their mother Beatrix, 75, who abdicated as queen in April, and a few dozen friends and family members.

Despite a tight clampdown on media access to the funeral, state broadcaster NOS showed images of the royal family entering the church grounds, all dressed in black except for the children who were dressed in white.

Luana's godmother, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, attended, NOS reported, as did Prince Friso's friend Florian Moosbrugger, who survived the avalanche near the upmarket Austrian resort of Lech that left the prince comatose and brain-damaged in February 2012.

The small Stulpkerk church is a stone's throw from Drakenstyn Castle, where Prince Friso spent much of his childhood and to which his mother plans to retire later this year.

The family moved from the privately-owned castle to The Hague in 1981, when Beatrix became queen.

Following the prince's burial, the royal family went to Drakenstyn Castle to continue mourning, national news agency ANP reported.

The 44-year-old prince, who died on Monday, is the first Dutch prince in generations not to be buried with other members of the House of Orange in the family crypt in the Nieuwe Kerk in the historic city of Delft, outside The Hague.

Dutch media have speculated that he is being buried at a different church because he gave up his claim to the throne as well as his Royal House position to marry Mabel Wisse Smit in 2004.

The government did not give the couple the required permission to marry after it emerged that his future wife had withheld details of her previous relationship with a Dutch drugs baron.

Allowed to keep his title as Prince of Orange-Nassau, he took the decision in good humour, having always referred to himself as a "reserve pretender to the throne."

Prime Minister Mark Rutte nevertheless ordered flags on official buildings around the country to be flown at half-mast.

Despite the prince's comatose state, his death still came as a shock to the Dutch. Tens of thousands of people from the Netherlands and abroad have signed an online book of condolences.

Police closed streets in the hamlet off to traffic and state television showed police sniffer dogs checking flowerpots for explosives.

Since an early age, the prince enjoyed skiing in the exclusive Austrian resort town of Lech, where the Dutch royal family have taken their winter holidays since the late 1950s.

Prince Friso was an experienced skier but nevertheless ventured off-piste in 2012 with his friend Moosbrugger while the avalanche risk warning was at four on a scale of one to five.

His friend was unhurt, but Prince Friso spent around 20 minutes under the snow with his brain deprived of oxygen before rescuers pulled him out.

He was in July transferred from a hospital in London, where he lived, to his mother's residence in The Hague.

In London, he was chief financial director of Britain's URENCO group - dealing with nuclear fuel supply - since 2011, and previously worked with the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

A memorial ceremony will be held for Prince Friso later in the year, the palace said.

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