AMSTERDAM (AP) — Flags around the Netherlands hung at half-staff on Friday as the Dutch royal family gathered to bury Prince Johan Friso, who died this week at the age of 44 of complications from a skiing accident last year.
Friso, the younger brother of King Willem-Alexander and the second of three sons of former Queen Beatrix, suffered severe brain damage after being buried in an avalanche in Lech, Austria, on Feb. 17, 2012. He was resuscitated, but his brain was gravely injured and he never regained more than minimal consciousness. He died on Monday and is survived by his wife, Princess Mabel, and their two young daughters.
Because Friso gave up his place in the line of succession in 2004 in order to marry Mabel, Friday's funeral was not a state affair. It took place in Lage Vuursche, a small town on the outskirts of Utrecht, near the castle where he grew up — and where Beatrix plans to spend her retirement.
The House of Orange, which jealously guards its privacy, asked the public to stay away from the funeral ceremony, and police closed roads near the church where it took place. They also put up fences to prevent sightseers. Police allowed two Dutch news agencies to photograph and film the ceremony for distribution to media afterward.
Church minister Carel ter Linden addressed Friso's daughters, Luana, 8, and Zaria, 7, reminding them of how their father enjoyed their company, and the games they played together, such as treasure hunts.
National broadcaster NOS reported that Friso's two brothers — King Willem-Alexander and Prince Constantijn — along with four of his childhood friends, carried Friso's casket to his grave.
The guests included King Harald of Norway, Friso's godfather. Although Friso's death did not come as a surprise after the accident, tens of thousands of Dutch have paid tribute to the prince on social media or via online condolence registers over the past week.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friso's death was painful because he was "in the prime of his life" when the accident took place.
Before the dramatic incidents in Lech, Friso had sometimes been known as "Prince Brilliant." He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, the Technical University of Delft, and Erasmus University at Rotterdam, graduating from the Dutch universities cum laude with degrees in engineering and economics. He later earned an MBA at France's prestigious INSEAD school of business.
He worked for the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and the investment bank Goldman Sachs, among other positions.
The pivotal event of his life as a royal came in 2004, when he gave up his claim to the throne in order to marry Dutchwoman Mabel Wisse Smit, in a wedding not sanctioned by the government.
The pair got engaged in 2003. Wisse Smit worked for George Soros' Open Society Institute and was seen by the queen as an ideal daughter-in-law. But during her vetting to join the royal house, she and Friso decided not to disclose the full extent of a friendship she had when she was a college student, with a man she later learned was a drug baron.
Parliament never gave the approval for their marriage needed to sanction it under the country's constitutional monarchy. They married anyway in 2004, an act that meant their exclusion from the Royal House.
The couple remained part of the royal family and retained the honorific titles of prince and princess.
Friso rarely sought the limelight, and after the marriage he moved to England with his family. He said he would always remain available to support his mother and older brother.
In a prerecorded interview published on state broadcaster NOS Friday, Friso's friend Adam Anders eulogized him as a caring father and careful listener, with a playful sense of humor.
"I observed Friso in a similar way with his family as he was with his friends. He was the listener, with a short statement near the end, that would make everyone listen and potentially change their view," Anders said. "But often with that twist that it also makes you laugh."