Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness

When it was announced that Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz was engaged to marry Belgium's heir apparent Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant, in 1999 the country was, to put it mildly, taken by surprise*; the Prince had never been romantically linked in public to any woman before, despite then being nearly forty years old...

PhotobucketOne further surprise concerned his future bride's heritage; a noblewoman of Walloon heritage and descendant of Poland's Sapieha family, when she one day becomes Queen she will be the first Belgian-born woman to fulfill that role.

Following their December 1999 marriage, the Duke and Duchess set about increasing the size of the Belgian Royal Family, which they have done (so far) by four... Princess Elisabeth, born in October 2001, is poised to be the country's first queen regnant, following a change to the country's laws of succession in 1991; she was followed into the nursery by Prince Gabriel (in August 2003), Prince Emmanuel (in October 2005), and Princess Eléonore (in April 2008).

In addition to a regular schedule of royal duties, Her Royal Highness works on behalf of the Princess Mathilde Fund, which was established by donation of the monetary gifts the couple received upon their marriage. The Foundation's special focus is on aiding the most vulnerable in Belgian society, and annually (since 2001) has awarded the Princess Mathilde Prize in order to support special initiatives toward that end.

*Or inasmuch as such a thing is possible, at least, the Belgians being renowned for their unflappability.
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