If ever there was proof needed that the age old adage 'life begins at 40' is true, Princess Mathilde of Belgium might just be it. The royal looks nothing short of stunning in a set of new official photographs to commemorate her milestone year.
Elegant in a monochrome outfit consisting of a flowing white top and black trousers, Mathilde smiles at the camera. As well as the solo pics there are some family snaps of the birthday girl with her children - Elisabeth, 12, nine-year-old Gabriel, Emmanuel, seven, and four-year-old Eleonore – taken in the gardens of Laeken Castle in Brussels.
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Completing the set, which have been posted on the Palace's website, are pictures of the royal with her husband Prince Philippe. The blonde royal will celebrate her birthday on Sunday, though it's not known exactly how she will mark the special day.
The princess was born Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz on January 20, 1973, daughter of Count Patrick d'Udekem d'Acoz and Countess Anna Komorowska. She and her father were members of the untitled nobility.
The future princess grew up at the family estate, Castle Losange in Bastogne, Belgium, the oldest of five siblings. She attended secondary school at the Institut de la Vierge Fidèle in Brussels and went on to study speech therapy at the Institut Libre Marie Haps in Brussels from 1991 to 1994, earning a diploma with high honours.
She then spent the next four years working as a speech therapist in her own practice in Brussels. She also studied psychology at the Université catholique de Louvain and earned a master's degree in psychology with honours.
One of the most difficult years for Mathilde fell in 1997 when she lost her maternal grandmother and her 23-year-old sister Marie-Alix, who both died in a car accident. But after that difiicult time in her life, along came her prince.
On September 10 1999, The Palaceconfirmed that Prince Philippe and Mathilda were dating. Three days later the future princess was presented to the press in the gardens of the royal palace, and on December 4 that year, the pair married.