Exactly two decades after she began her path to a throne, Queen Mathilde put the spotlight on a cause that has been hugely important to her throughout her time as a royal. On the twentieth anniversary of her engagement to the future King Philippe, Mathilde celebrated the centenary of vital work to protect children and mothers in her country.
The Queen of the Belgians was at an event marking 100 years of ‘ONEnfance’, an organisation supporting families and children and the services which look after them and which began life in 1919 as the National Childhood Office in Belgium. The celebrations for this century of organised support for childcare included exhibitions, workshops and discussions and took place at the Brussels Expo.Embed from Getty Images
Mathilde gave the opening speech at the event and praised the ongoing work of the organisation, highlighting how it had begun at a time when infant mortality in Belgium was high and the risk of death in childbirth was an everyday reality. The Belgian queen went on to discuss the work that had gone into ensuring proper care for mothers and children was the norm and talked about the challenges which still face those caring for young families today.
Queen Mathilde also spoke about two issues she wants to underline right now. She talked about the importance of early years vaccination and of caring for mental health at all ages.Embed from Getty Images
Childcare and early years development have been important areas for Mathilde since the moment she began her royal life twenty years ago. On September 13th 1999, the Belgian Royal Palace took many people by surprise when they announced that the heir to the throne, Philippe, was engaged to marry Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz with the couple appearing before the press soon afterwards.
Mathilde, who was then 26 and working as a speech therapist, was an instant hit. Her wedding to Philippe on December 4th 1999 turned her into the first Belgian born woman in line to become queen of her country and she assumed that role on July 21st 2013 when her husband became king on the abdication of his father, Albert II. Mathilde and Philippe have four children and their eldest, Elisabeth, will celebrate her eighteenth birthday this October.
Throughout her time as a princess and then as queen, supporting children has been a large part of her agenda. And on a very special anniversary of her own, she celebrated the work going on to make sure all young people have the best possible start in life.