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Carnival fun for Philippe and Mathilde

February 27, 2006
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Crown Prince Philippe cut a formidable figure last week when he donned military fatigues while visiting a NATO base. Belgium's future king was on rather more light-hearted form at the weekend, however, as he and his wife Mathilde joined in the fun at a local street party in Lanaken, Belgium.

At one point the father-of-three, who was in the picturesque town for its annual children's carnival, hid his face behind a metal-effect mask and was later snapped wearing a traditional hat with golden tassles.

He wasn't the only person turning heads at the colourful event, as many of the locals had donned long golden robes and velvet cloaks. Every year people all over France and Belgium celebrate Carnival by dressing up in vibrant costumes and striking hats and masks in a tradition that goes back centuries.

The festival has its origins in the Christian custom of giving up something for Lent. Also known as Mardi Gras, the annual event is staged to mark the beginning of a 40-day period of abstinence. And although the most famous parades are the ones staged in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, the people of Belgium are also dab hands at creating a spectacle for the yearly celebration.

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Photo: ©
Belgium's Crown Prince Philippe dons some festive headgear to celebrate Mardi Gras. The future king received his colourful new accessory as a welcome gift from the people of LanakenPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
The royal visitor masks his smile as the celebrations get underwayPhoto: © AFP

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