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Mathilde, the discreet Queen setting a new template for consorts

King Philippe of Belgium is celebrating ten years on the throne after his father’s abdication in 2013. And throughout the first decade of his reign, his wife, Queen Mathilde, has been by his side. The Queen may not be the most outgoing consort in Europe, but she is a crucial asset for the Belgian Royal Family.

King Philippe ascended the throne in 2013, as did King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde and King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima are often compared with each other. The Dutch King and Queen are both incredibly outgoing and charismatic people who can easily charm and connect with those they meet, while the Belgian King and Queen are quieter. Mathilde has made just as much of an impact as her Dutch counterpart without being as outgoing. 

Mathilde has been popular with the Belgian public since her wedding in 1999. She is the first native-born Queen of Belgium and speaks French, Flemish, Italian, and English fluently. 

The Queen has been dedicated to her chosen causes for over twenty years. She regularly supports organisations and engagements that focus on ending child poverty, intergenerational poverty, increasing literacy, and improving women’s position in society. 

Michel Gronemberger/Belgian Royal Palace

In 2017, 70.8% of Belgians felt that The Queen’s philanthropic work is worthwhile and is favoured among 77.4% of French-speaking Belgians. (As a counterpoint, Prince William is the most popular royal in Britain and only holds a rating of 67% approval.)

Mathilde is a dedicated consort. There are no scandals chasing her or her family of four children. We do not get off-hand comments or ill-timed vacations. She continues to carry out many engagements year after year while balancing time with the family, and she is incredibly thoughtful with her work. 

In 2022, she used her 50th birthday to draw attention to mental health services and the professionals and organisations that support them. She completed walks and bicycle rides across all five Belgian provinces while meeting with different mental health professionals. 

Queen Mathilde’s fashion is also under-celebrated compared with her European counterparts. Many will discount fashion, but fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry and what public figures wear does matter. While the Dutch and Spanish queens are often lauded for their sartorial choices, the Belgian Queen is ignored. Her ensembles often feature bold colours and prints, and she often wears pieces from Belgian designers. 

Mathilde provides needed support for her husband and her family. She is dedicated to her role as Queen and does not detract from her husband as monarch. Given that the previous Belgian monarch, King Albert II, was at the centre of many scandals, Mathilde and Philippe’s steady path has been a needed change for Belgium. 

Other future consorts seem to be taking Mathilde’s approach, which seems to bode well for their futures. Prince Daniel of Sweden works tirelessly to support his wife, Crown Prince Victoria of Sweden, without detracting from her; Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway also works from a more discreet position.

While a popular consort can boost popularity, something must be said for the consort who is happy to work in tandem with their spouse. 

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