King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium have kicked off their state visit to Portugal. The pair will discover Lisbon and Porto during a three-day state visit. It is already the 8th state visit that Philippe has undertaken as King of the Belgians.
Early on Monday morning, the King and Queen received an official farewell of the Belgian military troops at the airport of Melsbroek, Brussels. The King inspected the troops one last time before boarding the plane to Lisbon.
Upon arrival, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde were welcomed by the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at the Praça do Império. There, the traditional military honours at the beginning of each state visit took place: the playing of the national anthems, a parade of the troops and the review of the Guard of Honour by His Majesty the King.
Next, the pair visited the famous Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, an ancient and renowned monastery. There, Their Majesties laid a wreath at the grave of the poet, Luís de Camões, and they signed the guest book. They received a tour around the church and the cloisters.
After that, it was time for a break. The King and Queen enjoyed a private lunch with the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa.
Next, it was time to meet the Portuguese politicans. The royal couple met with the President of the Assembly, Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues. The King and the President also gave short speeches on the importance of the state visit. Then the Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina invited Their Majesties to join him and the President of Portugal for a tram ride. The ride in authentic trams is a famous tourist attraction in Lisbon. The tram took the pair and the officials to Santa Luzia where the press had a photo opportunity.
During the day, there was also time for a gift exchange between the two countries participating in the state visit. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde presented President de Sousa with several gifts and vice versa. If you look carefully, you can see that Their Majesties both received the highest Portuguese order, the Knight Collar with Star of the Order of Prince Henry. They also received a bottle of Portuguese wine, pins and Queen Mathilde received golden earrings which she wore at the state banquet later that evening. President de Sousa received the highest Belgain order, the Order of Leopold, a leather briefcase and a box of Belgian Godiva chocolates.
In the evening, it was time for the traditional state banquet at the end of the first day of the state visit. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde both wore their given orders, the Order of Prince Henry while the Portuguese President wore the Order of King Leopold. Queen Mathilde opted for the Laurel Wreath Tiara presented to her upon her marriage to then Prince Philippe in 1999.
In his speech at the banquet, King Philippe said: “There is Portuguese blood running through my veins and my grandmother Queen Elisabeth spoke the language fluently.”
This is already the eighth state visit of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde. They will undertake 33 official engagements during their three-day visit. The Belgian delegation of the state visit consists of seven politicians, 61 business people, 23 journalists and academics of the Belgian univerisities. During the visit, 17 contracts between Belgian and Portuguese firms will be signed.