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Who is Prince Gabriel of Belgium?

The 20th of August is a day of celebrations in the Belgian Royal Family because King Philippe and Queen Mathilde’s second child celebrates his birthday. 

In 2021, the day will be even more special, as the sovereign couple’s first son will turn 18, which, in Belgium, means reaching legal adulthood.

The young Prince was born on the 20th of August of 2003 at Erasmus Hospital in Anderlecht, Brussels and was named Gabriel Baudouin Charles Marie (or Gabriël Boudewijn Karel Maria in Dutch). Like the rest of Philippe and Mathilde’s children, he bears a first name that is spelt and pronounced similarly in both French and Dutch – not an easy thing to achieve, considering that French is a Latin language and Dutch is a German language. The rest of his names come from his paternal great-uncle, King Baudouin of the Belgians; his maternal uncle and godfather, Count Charles-Henri d’Udekem d’Acoz; and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the latter being a tradition for Roman Catholic boys.

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Prince Gabriel was christened on 25 October 2003, and his godparents (two, according to Roman Catholic rules, generally a man and a woman) were his maternal uncle, Count Charles-Henri d’Udekem d’Akoz and his paternal second cousin, Baroness Maria Christina von Freyberg-Eisenberg, in Ciergnon Castle, one of the Royal Family’s summer residences located in Wallonia.

Philippe and Mathilde tried their best to incorporate Flemish and Wallonian elements in their children’s upbringing as equally as possible. They knew that, in order for the monarchy to remain relevant, they had to prepare a new generation of royals who are equally comfortable with both cultural groups of the country. 

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For that, like all of his siblings, Prince Gabriel was educated in schools that taught equally Dutch and French. Since his entrance into the Belgian equivalent of kindergarten, he studied in Saint Jean Berchmans College. In 2019, following the footsteps of his older sister Elisabeth, he enrolled in an international school – but while Princess Elisabeth travelled to Wales to spend two years in UWC Atlantic College, Prince Gabriel remained in Brussels and enrolled in the International School of Brussels, where he finished his studies in 2021. It is now unclear whether he will undertake military training like his sister did, if he will sign up for a university course or if he will undertake another path entirely. 

Prince Gabriel is an avid sports player and has played football, tennis, ski, sailing, taekwondo and biking. But his favourite sport is field hockey, and he played in the Royal Evere White Star Hockey Club until 2019 when he decided to quit the sport in order to focus on his education. 

Prince Gabriel with his three siblings. © Koninklijk Paleis, Brussel/Palais Royal, Bruxelles/Königlicher Palast, Brüssel/Royal Palace, Brussels Photographer: Bas Bogaerts

Since the 12th of July of 2019, following King Philippe’s decree, His Royal Highness Prince Gabriel has his own Coat of Arms, which is a sable (which, in heraldic, means black) escutcheon with a rampant lion representing Belgium, supported by two rampant lions and laid on an ermine-lined pursuer mantel, surmounted by the Belgian royal coronet. This 2019 decree was issued following the tradition dating back to 1880 that members of the Royal Family have the right to their own coats of arms and that each new monarch will update the heraldic of the family. 

The Prince is also a keen piano player, with a passion for music that he shares with his mother and the rest of his family (his youngest sister, Princess Eléonore, is said to be a proficient cello player). 

Like the rest of his family, Prince Gabriel took the opportunity of lockdown to spend some time on the phone with the elderly people in the Belgian community and with those more vulnerable, making sure that physical distancing didn’t mean that they also felt lonely or abandoned. And he gave proof of his dedication to this cause last month, when, to close the celebrations for Belgium’s National Day, he accompanied his parents and his two younger siblings to two long term care homes and spent time with the residents.

As previously mentioned, the public has no idea what the future will hold for Prince Gabriel now that he has reached legal adulthood. We know that, like his sister Elisabeth, he has renounced his yearly salary from the government until he will be working full time as a member of the Royal Family, which presumably means that he will undertake more education years before fully committing to his role as a Belgian prince. But whatever the future holds for him, he knows his family will be there to support him in his journey.