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A round birthday marks new beginnings for the future of the Belgian monarchy

Bas Bogaerts/Belgian Royal Palace

October will be a very busy month for European royalty in the future as three future monarchs celebrate birthdays in the month: Prince Christian of Denmark (15 October), Leonor, Princess of Asturias in Spain (31 October) and Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant in Belgium (25 October). 

With the latter being the oldest out of the three, she has in many ways paved the way for the path of a future monarch. It is not a coincidence that the Princess of Asturias is currently a student at UWC Atlantic, the same college in Wales Princess Elisabeth graduated from in May of 2020, after finishing her high school education there. 

And, in the year that marked her 20th on this earth, we take a look back at what this milestone year was like for the Belgian heir to the throne. 

She celebrated her 19th birthday in October of 2020 already a month into her military training. From September of 2020 to the end of July of 2021, Her Royal Highness was a cadet at the Belgian Royal Military Academy, where she completed the portion of her education that will allow her, one day, to be a more effective and more understanding chief of the armed forces in her country, a role that is bestowed upon the head of state in almost every country in the world. 

©️Royal Palace, Belgium. Photographer: Bas Bogaerts

Despite her public role beginning at a relatively young age, she still had many firsts during her 20th year of life. She gave her first look into her life without her family present, when she invited the press for a photo and video opportunity during a military training exercise. Pictures of it were posted on the Belgian Royal Palace’s social media, and her final rock climb generated a few comments. It was organised on the same rock where her ancestor, King Albert I, died in 1934 during a solitary climb. 

Once the training was completed, she put a bow on her military year with the National Day parade, where she was the first of her cadet class to appear in front of the rest of the Royal Family. Queen Mathilde was seen to be quite emotional as she watched her eldest child parade in front of her for the first time. In a beautiful show of combination of civilian and military roles in the royal world, she took part in the parade just hours after sitting next to her family for the traditional Te Deum, where she took her place as heir to the throne. 

Following the National Day celebrations, which fall on 21 July, it wasn’t clear what Princess Elisabeth would do, although it was rumoured that she would follow in her father’s footsteps and go study abroad. This proved to be true when, on 31 August 2021, the Belgian Royal Palace announced that the Duchess of Brabant was headed to Lincoln College, Oxford University, for a three-year course in history and politics. She left home at the beginning of October, shortly after her younger brother, Prince Gabriel, had also done the same to study in the United Kingdom. 

Bas Bogaerts/Belgian Royal Palace

A 20th birthday is one of the most significant milestones for the younger generation: it’s the round birthday in which you can decide what direction to give to your life, and in which you’re still young enough to change your mind. And while heirs to the throne have the clear final objective of preparing to become monarchs one day, the academic path they choose will undoubtedly influence their view of the world and the way they will do their future job. This is why it is so essential for the public to know what the future looks like for them. 

On her 20th birthday, Princess Elisabeth is on the path to become an educated royal with a broad view of different issues, which will value the history of the institutions and know-how to adapt them to the times she lives in. 

From all of us at Royal Central, a happy 20th birthday to Princess Elisabeth!