King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians returned to their official royal engagements on Saturday, the day after Queen Fabiola's funeral. Following the news of former consort Fabiola's death Philippe and Mathilde cancelled their duties until Saturday, when they stepped out in Bastogne for the commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.
Under umbrellas bearing the Belgian flag to protect them from the falling snow, the monarch and his wife greeted the royal well wishes who had lined the town's streets in spites of the bad weather.
Philippe, 54, and his 41-year-old wife then took to the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville, the city hall, to throw bags of nuts to members of the public who were waiting below.
Throwing nuts is a tradition on the anniversary and is a tribute to the general who simply responded "Nuts!"when German emissaries asked for the Americans to surrender during the WWII Battle of the Bulge on 22 December 1944.Taking part in the unique custom brought a welcome smile the royal couple's faces, who laughed as they launched the small bags into the crowd.
Queen Fabiola, who was married to King Baudouin for 33 years, died at the age of 86 on 5 December at Stuyvenberg Catles in Brussels.While no cause of death was given, the Madrid-born royal had suffered from osteoporosis for years and had never fully recovered from a lung inflammation she had in 2009.
Fabiola's state funeral drew royalty from across Europe including:
King Harald of Norway and his sister Princess Astrid, who were cousins of King Baudouin, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Prince Guillaume, Princess Stephanie and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, who is cousin to King Philippe.
Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand, Empress Michiko of Japan and Prince Moulay Rachid El Alaoui of Morocco attended from further afield.