He has been in a coma since being involved in a skiing accident last March, now the Netherlands' Prince Johan Friso is showing signs of "minimal consciousness", say officials. The Dutch royal house says that "the prognosis, however, remains very uncertain and the medical team is still very concerned".
They added that "it will take many months before there is more clarity" about the prince's chances of recovery. No further details were given, but the spokesperson urged the media "to continue to respect the privacy of the family".
Princess Mabel, Johan's wife, also thanked the public for messages of support during "the worst period of my life".
Friso was trapped under the snow for 15 minutes while skiing off piste in the resort of Lech – where the Dutch royals traditionally take their winter break.
An avalanche struck, leaving the Dutch royal buried underneath a snow drift measuring 30m wide by 40m long. A beeper he was wearing allowed emergency workers to reach him quickly and airlift him to safety. A childhood friend, who was with him at the time, escaped harm because he was wearing avalanche airbag – which inflates to keep skiiers at the top of a snowfall.
An MRI scan was performed shortly after the accident. It indicated the prince suffered large amounts of brain damage due to lack of oxygen. This also resulted in a heart attack.
Doctors were not able to say when or if the dad-of-two would come out of his coma. But there was a glimmer of hope recently when it was reported that the royal woke briefly. Family friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Mabel, witnessed her husband opening his eyes to smile at her, before losing consciousness again.
Speaking to a Dutch TV channel the Archbishop - who knows Mabel through her time as a human rights activist - added: "It's horrible for her to see her husband in bed inert. I pray for him every day and try to talk to her regularly, so she knows that we support them,"
Friso's mother Queen Beatrix and brother Crown Prince Willem-Alexander have been a constant support to Mabel, with whom Johan has two daughters, Luana, seven, and Zaria, who is six.
Since the accident, the 44-year-old royal has been receiving specialist care in London's prestigious Wellington hospital. He was transferred to Britain, where his family is based.
Until 2003, Friso, who has an MBA, worked in London as vice-president of investment bank Goldman Sachs International. The royal then became Chief Financial Officer of Berkshire-based uranium company, URENCO, where he was working until tragedy struck.
He studied mechanical engineering at the University of California and also has a degree in economics from Erasmus University Rotterdam and an MBA from the European Institute of Business Administration.
The prince has no claims on the Dutch throne after giving up his place in the line of succession to marry. Parliament refused to approve the match after Mabel admitted misleading the government about her alleged relationship with underworld boss Klaas Bruinsma – a well known figure in drug trade.