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Who is Princess Claire of Belgium?

Claire Louise Coombs was born on 18 January 1974 to Nicholas John Coombs, a British-born businessman, and his Belgian wife, Nicole Eva Gabrielle Thérèse (née Mertens). She has an older sister, Joanna and a younger brother, Matthew.

The family moved to Dion-le-Val, near Brussels in Francophone Wallonia in 1977 when Claire was 3-years-old. After completing her primary and secondary education at the Institut de la Providence, in Wavre, Claire went on to study as a land surveyor, completing her training in 1999. She then worked for Brone & Oldenhove, a surveying firm in Wavre where she had also worked as an intern during her education.

The engagement between Claire Coombs and His Royal Highness, Prince Laurent of Belgium, the youngest child of King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians, was announced from the Royal Palace of Brussels in December 2002. The couple had first met in 2000 at the home of a mutual friend. Claire received the title Princess of Belgium in her own right from the King ten days before her marriage, by Royal Decree of 1 April 2003; however, this was only to come into effect upon the wedding (on 12 April 2003). Due to the fact Prince Laurent does not hold a personal title such as Count of Flanders or Prince of Liège, as cadet Princes of Belgium’s Royal Household used to, Claire (as his consort) received no other title upon their marriage.

The couple were married civilly at Brussels’ gothic Town Hall, before being religiously married that same morning at the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula by Cardinal Godfried Daneels. The bride wore a simple satin and lace dress designed by Natan’s Édouard Vermeulen. Her Royal Highness wore an antique veil worn by her sister-in-law, Princess Mathilde, Duchess of Brabant before her as well as her mother-in-law, Queen Paola. This was anchored by a diamond tiara gifted to her by the King and Queen as a wedding present. It is believed that the wedding dress designed for the fictional Princess Mia (portrayed by Anne Hathaway) in the movie, Princess Diaries 2, A Royal Engagement was based off of Princess Claire’s dress. Guests at the wedding services included Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Madeleine of Sweden, as well as the groom’s first cousin, Grand Duke Henri and his wife, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg.

Following their wedding, the couple moved into Villa Clémentine in Tervuren. Their Royal Highnesses have three children: Princess Louise (born 6 February 2004) and twins, Prince Nicolas and Prince Aymeric (born on 13 December 2005).

In a first for the Belgian Royal Household, Princess Claire was chosen to serve as an assessor at a polling station in Tervuren during the regional and European elections of 2004. This act was hailed as a sign of the modernisation of the monarchy.

Unlike her two sisters-in-law, Queen Mathilde and Princess Astrid, Archduchess of Austria-Este, Princess Claire has no defined official role. Her Royal Highness occasionally appears in public accompanying her husband, generally in support of environmental causes or animal charities. Princess Claire is also a leading patron of the Brussels Choral Society, which sang at the religious part of her marriage ceremony as well as the patron of Green Spaces and Garden Arts. The Princess also serves as Honorary President of the Pro Renovassistance Foundation. Her Royal Highness is quite active in organisations related to the United Kingdom in Belgium, such as at the British School of Brussels of which Princess Claire is a member of the Board of Trustees. The Princess actively attends charitable and commemorative events hosted by the British Ambassador to Belgium. Princess Claire also attended the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling in 2010, the wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Olympian Charlene Wittstock in 2011, and the wedding of Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy in 2012.

In 2013, Princess Claire was appointed administrator-delegate of Rec Arlon 67, a real estate company created to buy, renovate and rent properties located at 63, 65 and 67, Rue d’Arlon in Brussels.

Her Royal Highness speaks English, French and Dutch fluently.

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