Dutch Prince Friso has died, 18 months after he was left brain-damaged by an avalanche while skiing in Austria.

"His Majesty the King announces with great regret that this morning his highness Prince Johan Friso... died at the Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, aged 44," a palace statement said on Monday.

"Prince Friso died from complications as a result of oxygen shortages during his ski accident on February 17, 2012," the statement said.

The prince had "minimal consciousness" and his condition was unchanged, the palace said.

The prince, the middle son of the former queen Beatrix, was skiing off-piste in the Austrian Alps when he was buried in an avalanche.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who was to end his holiday early and return to the Netherlands on Tuesday, said that "despite everything this news still comes as a shock".

"Prince Friso remains in our minds as a man with broad interests who always put his multifaceted talents at society's service," Rutte said in a statement.

'Deeply moved'

Friso was initially treated in a London hospital and was brought back to The Hague last month.

He was skiing with one companion away from marked ski runs when the mass of snow, 30 metres wide and 40 metres long, hit them in the resort of Lech.

"As somebody who, like many Lech residents, had known the prince ever since he was a kid, I am personally shocked and deeply moved," Ludwig Muxel, Mayor of Lech, told the Austria Press Agency.

Friso was buried for 20 minutes before rescuers found him.

It then took nearly 50 minutes to resuscitate the prince after he was pulled from the snow.

The prince gave up his right to the Dutch throne a decade ago when he married a commoner whose past was considered too tainted for her to become a member of the royal house.

When he asked for official permission in 2003 to marry Mabel Wisse Smit, Dutch media published details of her relationship with mobster Klaas Bruinsma, who was shot and killed in 1991 in front of the Amsterdam Hilton hotel.

Following the revelations, the couple decided not to get official permission for their marriage.

Source: Agencies