11 APRIL 2003
PAGE ONE >> PAGE TWO >> PAGE THREE
As Brussels prepares for the springtime nuptials of Prince Laurent and British-born princess-to-be Claire Coombs, we take a look at what's in-store for the royal wedding that will make Belgian history.
The bride: When the Bath-born 29-year-old weds the man who is ninth in line to the throne, she will be the first commoner in the country's history to marry a Belgian prince. Claire was born January 18, 1974, in England to a Belgian mum and British father she holds dual nationality but left the UK aged three. Known for being down-to-earth, the land and property surveyor plans to combine royal duties with her career at Brone & Oldenhove, where she became a partner in 1999.
The groom: The youngest son of King Albert II and Queen Paola is famously spontaneous, prefers to go without a bodyguard or chauffer, and enjoys fast cars a passion demonstrated by the 480 speeding ticket he picked up recently. Born on October 19, 1963, Laurent, after finishing his education at the Royal Military Academy in 1985, followed his father into the Belgian Navy. Having worked his way up to the rank of commander he holds both a diver's badge and helicopter pilots wings) in 1994, the prince headed stateside. There he received extensive business training with international firms. He later returned to Belgium, where he became involved with the European Commision in the environmental field. Laurent now presides over a foundation which bears his name for the welfare of domestic and wild animals.
HOW THEY MET