The son of King Albert II and Queen Paola, Philippe Leopold Louis Marie was born in Brussels on April 15, 1960. The future Belgian King was educated at College Saint-Michel in the Belgian capital, and then the Abdijschool van Zevenkerken in Sint-Andries-Brugge.
This was followed by a four-year stint (from 1978 to 1981) at the Royal Military Academy, and training in the Belgian Armed Forces as both a pilot and paratrooper. Philippe later studied at Trinity College, Oxford, and went on to receive a graduate degree in political science from California's Stanford University.
Having reached the mid-90s still a bachelor, Philippe, now in his late 30s, began to see calls from the general public for him to step aside in the line of succession in favour of his younger sister, Princess Astrid, who had married in 1984 and had children. However, just before he turned 40, the Prince gave the Belgian people their longed-for Crown Princess.
Prince Philippe met 23-year-old aristocrat Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz while playing tennis in 1996. After a discreet three-year courtship, the heir to the throne and the young speech therapist declared they were ready to tie the knot in an engagement announcement which surprised many in 1999. It was not long before she had won the hearts of the Belgian people. They married in December that year.
The then crown prince and princess welcomed their first child, Princess Elisabeth, in October 2001. Elisabeth is her father's heir, and when she eventually ascends to the throne will become the first female Belgian monarch in 171 years, thanks to a law in 1991 that ended exclusively male succession. "I hope that my daughter will be a great Queen," said Philippe not long after Elisabeth's arrival, "and more importantly, a great woman."
More children followed the birth of the couple's first child, with Prince Gabriel arriving in 2003, Prince Emmanuel in October of 2005 and Princess Eleonore in 2008.
In 2013, the couple took on the ultimate responsibility when King Albert abdicated in his son's favour on 21 July. He was sworn in as the Belgian King an hour after his father abdicated.