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Who is Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant?

© Royal Palace, Brussels/Koninklijk Paleis, Brussel/Palais Royal, Bruxelles/Königlicher Palast, Brüssel Photographer: Michel Gronemberger

Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, celebrates her nineteenth birthday today, so let’s take a look back at the life of this future Belgian Queen.

Princess Elisabeth Theresia Maria Helena (French: Élisabeth Thérèse Marie Hélène) was born 25 October 2001 at the Erasmus Hospital in Brussels. She is the first child of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium, and the first heiress apparent in Belgian history. Should she ascend to the throne, she will be Belgium’s first queen regnant.

Princess Elisabeth has three younger siblings: two brothers, Prince Gabriel (born 20 August 2003) and Prince Emmanuel (born 4 October 2005), and a sister Princess Eléonore (born 16 April 2008).

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Princess Elisabeth was baptised on 9 December 2001 at Ciergnon Castle, and her godparents are Archduke Amedeo of Austria-Este and Countess Hélène d’Ukekem d’Acoz.

When Princess Elisabeth was born, she was styled as simply Princess Elisabeth, as her grandfather, King Albert II, was on the throne. She became the first heiress presumptive in Belgian history with her birth: her younger brothers could not displace her.

On 21 July 2013, Belgium’s National Day, her grandfather abdicated the throne due to “ill health”, and her father became King Philippe. Princess Elisabeth became first-in-line to the throne on that day and was granted the title Duchess of Brabant, a dynastic title that has traditionally been given to the eldest son (now child) of the monarch.

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In the past, the eldest son of the heir apparent was also granted the title Count of Hainaut, but it was not given to Princess Elisabeth as it was decided to abolish the title.

Princess Elisabeth carried out her first official engagement in 2011 when she officially opened Princess Elisabeth Children’s Hospital at Ghent University Hospital with her parents.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very happy that I can give my name to this new children’s hospital,” the Princess said at the opening when she was only 10-years-old.

“Together with you, I hope that many children will find help here. I know they can count on your daily commitment. The Princess Elisabeth Children’s Hospital now gets a special place in my heart.”

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She gave her first official speech in 2014 on the occasion of First World War commemorations, speaking in German, French and Dutch; and in 2015 she christened the Pollux P902 patrol ship and gave a speech. Her name is also on the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station.

Princess Elisabeth resides with the rest of her family at the Royal Palace of Laeken. According to the Palace, she enjoys creative pursuits such as drawing and reading. She also plays piano and tennis and attends ballet classes. She likes to cycle, swim, ski and sail, as well.

Princess Elisabeth at National Day 2019. Photo: Laura Dekkers

Princess Elisabeth attended Sint-Jan Berchmanscollege, a Dutch-language Roman Catholic school in Brussels until her graduation. Some of her siblings also attend the school, and her elder cousins (the children of Princess Astrid) are alums. In the past, heirs to the throne have been educated in French, so Princess Elisabeth’s Dutch education is a departure from the norm.

Elisabeth graduated from UWC Atlantic College in Wales in May 2020 from the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. She is currently undergoing military training at the Belgian Military Academy.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.