19 DECEMBER 2005

Click here to send this news item to a friend With Christmas almost upon us people all over the world are buying their last few presents. The Belgian royal family has already indulged in a spot of gift giving, however, in preparation for the 50th birthday of Prince Lorenz' - the husband of King Albert's only daughter, Princess Astrid - on December 18. The Archduke of Austria was photographed along his wife and four of the couple's children as he blew out the candles on his birthday cake. Prince Joachim and his three sisters, Louisa-Maria, Maria-Laura, and Laeticia-Maria, looked on as their father made a wish and took a deep breath on Sunday afternoon.

The Belgian royals have been given plenty of reason for celebration this holiday season as Prince Laurent's wife Claire Coombs gave birth to twins just last week. When reporters asked about the names they have chosen for their new sons, Nicolas Casimir and Emeric Aguste, the proud father responded with his usual good humour.

Nicolas is traditional in both parents' families, though Casimir was clearly dad's choice. Indeed the royal confessed his wife was not entirely taken with the moniker, which the baby shares with a rather overweight cartoon character. "The fat ones are always nicer!" he joked.

The infants, who were born one month prematurely, are still in incubators, but their father gave assurances they are in perfect health. Asked whether he and his British-born wife, with whom he also has one-year-old daughter Louise, might make another addition to their growing brood, he responded with another quip. "I don't like the number three," said the prince, who is himself the third child of King Albert and Queen Paola. "Threes often have a hard time finding their place in society. I'm not talking about me, of course. And in our case, the twins will be our number two."

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Photo: ©
Prince Lorenz - pictured with (from left) Princess Louisa-Maria, Princess Maria-Laura, Prince Joachim, Princess Astrid and Princess Laeticia - turned 50 at the weekendPhoto: © AFPClick on photos for gallery
Photo: ©
Younger members of the family look on as Lorenz - who is married to the Begian king's only daughter - blows out the candles on his birthday cake Photo: © AFP

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