Today, Belgium gained a new King and Queen. Within weeks before his 20th anniversary on the throne, King Albert II signed a formal act of abdication before his son, Prince Philippe. The naturally, shy and introverted King Philippe was graced with a stunningly, elegant Queen by his side as he took the sacred vow: “I begin my reign with the desire to put myself at the service of all Belgians. I will work for it in perfect agreement with the government and in accordance with the constitution.”
It all began with a surprise announcement from the royal court of Belgium in 1999, announcing the engagement of Prince Philippe to Miss Mathilde Ghislaine. The public were very much unaware of the courtship and even asked the prince if the marriage was arranged? It was with great joy that the Belgium people learned that the twenty-six year old speech therapist had been secretly courting the Crown Prince for over three years previous.
Whilst many of Europe’s future queens such as Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark or Crown Princess Letizia of Spain were born ‘commoner’s’, Queen Mathilde was born into an aristocratic family. Before meeting the prince, she was graduated with the highest honors from the Institut Libre Marie Haps in Brussels. She had her own speech therapy practice from 1995-1999 and was very successful in the field.
Since her winter wedding in 1999 to the Crown Prince, Mathilde has won over the people of Belgium with her warmth and charisma. The King and Queen have welcomed four children into the royal family over the years, including Princess Elizabeth who follows her father to the throne.
Princess has worked extensively with UNICEF and UNAIDS, traveling to such countries as Niger, Mali, Tanzania, China, India, and Senegal. In 2000, she created the “Princess Mathilde Fund,” which awards an annual prize of 10,000 Euros “in recognition of a specific initiative focused on strengthening the position of vulnerable people.” The project was initially funded with donations the couple received as wedding gifts.
As the new King faces challenging times in the coming months he will be blessed to have his strongest supporter standing by his side throughout it all: Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
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