11 FEBRUARY 2004

Prince Laurent of Belgium and his wife Claire have released the first pictures of their new baby Louise Sophie Mary. The little princess, who is 11th in line to the throne, was born on Friday night at Saint-Lucas hospital in Brussels. Both mother and child are said to be doing well.

Laurent married British-born Claire Coombs last April, and the princess' pregnancy was confirmed six months later.

Princess Louise's birth marks something of a baby boom in the royal household. Crown Prince Philippe and Princes Mathilde welcomed the arrival of little Gabriel last August, while Princess Astrid gave birth to her fifth child, Laetitia Maria, earlier in the year.

The Belgian people are now awaiting news on who will be the child's godparents. It was widely reported that the late Shah of Iran's son would be godfather, after Laurent let slip that he had "someone of Islamic confession" in mind. Reza Pahlavi is one of the prince's oldest and closest friends, but Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said this would be an "uncomfortable" choice for the country.

Photo: ©
The Prince and Princess leave hospital with their new arrival. The people of Belgium are now eagerly awaiting news about who will be little Louise's godparentsPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
Prince Laurent and Princess Claire's little bundle of joy was the third Belgian royal birth in the space of 12 monthsPhoto: © AFP

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