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Before they were royal: The life of Queen Mathilde of Belgium

In the series “Before they were royal” we are taking a look at their young lives, education, and professional lives before gaining their royal title. This edition focuses on Queen Mathilde of the Belgians or Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz as she was known before her marriage.

Queen Mathilde of Belgium was born as Lady Mathilde Marie Christine Ghislaine d’Udekem d’Acoz on the 20th of January 1973 at Uccle as the oldest child of Earl Patrick d’Udekem d’Acoz and Countess Anne d’Udekem d’Acoz (née Komorowska). Mathilde was born in one of the oldest noble families of Belgium. Her father, Patrick was a Belgian politician, but he resigned after Mathilde married then Prince Philippe of Belgium. Her mother, Anne was a Polish countess who fled the country after World War II, moved to Congo for a while and then ended up in Belgium where she met her husband. Mathilde has three sisters, Marie-Alix, Elisabeth and Hélène, and one brother Charles-Henri.

Lady Mathilde grew up in the small Walloon village Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, close to Bastogne at the Castle of Losange. Her father Patrick was the mayor of Villers-la-Bonne-Eau. The Queen had a very happy childhood. But in 1997 disaster struck when her grandmother and younger sister Marie-Alix lost their lives in a car crash.

Mathilde started her education in Brussels at the Institut Vierge Fidèle where she studied modern languages. She then continued her education at the Haute Ecole Léonard de Vinci. There she graduated with a degree in speech therapy. Working with children has always been a dream of Queen Mathilde.

She started working as a speech therapist soon after graduating with Great Honour. She had her own practice in Brussels and worked part-time at a primary school.

In 1998, she continued her education at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve. She obtained her degree in psychology with Honour.

Lady Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz is multilingual. Her mother tongue is French, but she is also fluent in Dutch, English and Italian. She also has a good basic knowledge of Spanish. Even though her mother Anne is Polish, she never learned to speak the Polish language.

Queen Mathilde has always had a love for music and art. She plays the piano and loves the outdoor life.

On the 11th of September 1999, the engagement of Prince Philippe of the Belgians and Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz was announced at the Castle of Laeken. The announcement was a big surprise for the Belgian press as the couple had managed to keep their relationship of three years a secret. Throughout the years, there has been a lot of speculation about how the King and Queen of the Belgians met. The couple has always stressed that their marriage was not arranged. King Philippe said about their first meeting: “I saw her (Mathilde) from far, and I went to talk to her. I knew right away that she would be my future wife.”

A couple of months later, on 4 December, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde wed in a civil followed by a religious ceremony at the heart of Brussels. The couple has four children: Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant (2001), Prince Gabriël (2003), Prince Emmanuel (2005) and Princess Eléonore (2008).

©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mulugeta Ayene

Queen Mathilde’s passion for children has only broadened since becoming a part of the Belgian Royal Family. She is committed to ending violence against children, rooting for children’s rights and is, therefore, patron of many organisations concerning the destiny of children.

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