BELGIUM ROYAL FAMILY
The King Albert II
King Albert II was born in Brussels at the Château du Stuyvenberg on June 6, 1934.
King Albert II, who assumed the title "Prince of Liège" at birth, is the son of King Leopold III and Queen Astrid, born Princess of Sweden, and the grandson of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth.
On August 29, 1935 the Prince lost his mother, Queen Astrid, who died in a car accident in Küssnacht in Switzerland.
On May 10, 1940 when Belgium was invaded, Prince Albert, accompanied by his elder sister, Princess Josephine-Charlotte, and his elder brother, Prince Baudouin, went first to France, then to Spain. The Princes returned to Belgium on August 2, 1940. They pursued their studies until 1944 at Laeken and at the Château royal de Ciergnon in the Ardennes.
In June 1944, when the allied invasion took place, Leopold III, Princess Lilian - whom he had married in 1941 - and the royal children were deported to Hirschstein, in Germany, and then to Strobl in Austria where American forces liberated them on May 7, 1945. Due to the political situation in Belgium King Leopold and his family left Austria in October of the same year to live in Switzerland in the villa "Le Reposoir" in Pregny. They remained there until July 1950. Prince Albert meanwhile continued his studies in a college in Geneva.
King Leopold III, accompanied by Prince Baudouin and Prince Albert, returned to Belgium on July 22, 1950. Upon his return to Belgium, King Leopold III decided to abdicate in favour of Prince Baudouin who took the oath on July 17, 1951 and became the fifth King of the Belgians.
On July 2, 1959 Prince Albert married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria of an Italian family with royal connections. King Albert II and Queen Paola have three children: Prince Philippe (born on April 15, 1960), Princess Astrid (born on June 5, 1962) and Prince Laurent (born on October 19, 1963).
Following the death of his brother, King Baudouin, Prince Albert took the oath before the United Chambers on August 9, 1993 and became the sixth King of the Belgians. Since becoming Head of State the King, accompanied by the Queen, has taken pleasure in going out to meet the Belgian population and the Sovereigns have made what are traditionally called "Joyful Entrances" into the Belgian provinces.
Certain subjects are of special interest to the King such as, for example, the problems of unemployment and social exclusion, or education or social security in general.
Also, the King closely follows all of the private or public projects which aim to find solutions to these problems.
Initiatives in the areas of youth training, the fight against social exclusion, the social services, and investments in companies, in employment and in training are some examples of this.
Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the King holds the rank of Lieutenant General and Vice Admiral. He takes a close interest in the development and restructuring of the armed forces as well as military activities at national and international levels.
The Queen Paola
Born in Forte dei Marmi (Italy) on September 11, 1937, Queen Paola is the youngest daughter of Prince Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, hero Officer-Flyer during W.W.I and of Countess Louisa Gazelli of Piedmont origin. The Ruffo family consisted of seven children: three sons, one of whom died very young in W.W.II and four girls, only two of whom are still alive.
The Queen was raised in Rome, where she finished a classic secondary school programme with Latin and Greek. Her paternal grandmother, Laure Mosselman du Chenoy, was Belgian.
They were married on July 2, 1959 in Brussels. They have three children: Prince Philippe (born on April 15, 1960), Princess Astrid (born on June 5, 1962) and Prince Laurent (born on October 19, 1963).
The Constitution does not provide a specific role for the Queen. In practice, however, she has always participated in many public activities.
She assists the King in the exercise of his duties as a Head of State: working visits of a mainly social nature, official ceremonies in Belgium and abroad, receptions with country representatives and various cultural activities, such as concerts and exhibitions.
The Queen takes a special interest in enhancing opportunities for all children and adolescents, in issues ranging from primary education to problems related to drugs; the recently reformed Queen Paola Foundation strives to support private or public initiatives which help youngsters facing poverty, fighting drug addiction or avoiding crime.
The Prince Philippe
Prince Philippe was born in Brussels on April 15, 1960. He is the first child of King Albert II and Queen Paola and is thus first in line to succeed to the Throne. As such, he also bears the title of Duke of Brabant.
The Prince also attaches particular importance to encouraging private and public initiatives aimed at promoting the image of the country abroad.
In addition to these specific roles, the Prince, as Crown Prince, has to keep himself informed about all aspects of Belgian society.
He therefore maintains a wide variety of contacts, not only with representatives of commercial and economic institutions, but also with students, universities, schools and social or cultural institutions ...
He carries out a self-planned programme of visits to various parts of the country and to major cities. He focuses on being in touch with all sections of the population, in particular young people.
On December 4th, 1999, The Prince Philippe was married with Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz in the Chatedral of Brussels.
The first child of Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, she was born at October 25, 2001 at Erasmus Hospital in Brussels. Elisabeth Therese Marie Helene becomes second in line to succeed King Albert II.
Princess Elisabeth is set to become the first queen to rule the country under a new law granting women equal rights to the throne.
Belgium has a hereditary constitutional monarchy. The King rules without governing, although his role is of vital importance. According to the Constitution, the person of the King has immunity: his ministers are liable for him. Not a single deed by the King can have any consequence without its being countersigned by a minister. This provision places the King above religions and ideologies, above political persuasions and debates, and above economic interest. At the same time the King is the guardian of the country's unity and independence.