Queen Mathilde

"A Queen For Prince Philippe" declared one headline when it was announced the 39-year-old heir to the throne of Belgium was to wed. And the country couldn't have been more thrilled with his choice.

When Philippe becomes King on 21 July 2013 following the abdication of his father King Albert II, his wife Mathilde will be the first Belgian-born Queen Consort.

Aristocrat Mathilde was born on January 20, 1973, the daughter of the Count and Countess Patrick d'Udekem d'Acoz.

After completing primary studies in Bastogne, and secondary studies at L'Institut de la Vierge Fidele in Brussels, she went on to study speech therapy at L'Institut Libre Marie Haps in the Belgian capital.

It was when she began working as a speech therapist, while also studying psychology at L'Universite Catholique de Louvin, that she met her future husband during a game of tennis.

For the next three years the relationship went undetected by the press; so much so in fact that when their engagement was announced in 1999, the Prince had to deny rumours the betrothal was "arranged".

Mathilde, however, weathered any short-lived scepticism with grace, and soon proved herself the perfect candidate to help build bridges in a country long divided by language and ethnic differences.

To many, her own life represented the union of Belgium's many cultural facets. Multilingual she speaks Dutch, French, English and Italian fluently. She's Brussels-born of Flemish heritage, while her family seat is located in French-speaking Wallonia.

Mathilde, a music-lover who plays the piano, includes literature among her passions and is an avid sportswoman.

For her engagement announcement, showed she planned to be a modern down-to-earth Princess. she put any overt formality aside, donning a simple linen trouser suit as she and her fiancé were photographed in shots that would be printed in newspapers around the world.

She married her Prince on 4 December, 1999, in the last royal wedding of the 20th century. At the civil ceremony in front of 200 family and friends, formal proceedings were repeated in three languages. And during the religious nuptials that followed, the happy couple pledged their love in both French and Dutch.

Philippe and Mathilde welcomed their first child, Princess Elisabeth, who will one day become Queen, on October 25, 2001. More children followed, with Prince Gabriel arriving in 2003, Prince Emmanuel in October of 2005 and Princess Eleonore in 2008.

In 2013, Mathilde became Queen when her father-in-law abdicated making her husband the reigning monarch.

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