Queen Mathilde of Belgium (born Mathilde Marie Christiane Ghislaine d’Udekem d’Acoz on 20 January 1973) is the wife of King Philippe, who ascended the throne following the abdication of his father, King Albert II, on 21 July 2013. She is the first Belgian-born Queen consort of the Belgians, and the only member of the nobility (though not royalty) by birth among the current queens consort of Europe.
Queen Mathilde was born Jonkvrouw Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz in Ukkel on 20 January 1973. Though her grandfather and her uncle were barons, she and her father were members of the untitled nobility.
Mathilde grew up at the family estate, Castle Losange in Villers-la-Bonne-Eau (fr), Bastogne.
Mathilde’s father was Count (formerly Jonkheer) Patrick d’Udekem d’Acoz (Uccle, 28 April 1936 – Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, 25 September 2008), son of Baron Charles d’Udekem d’Acoz (Ghent, 8 March 1885-Proven, 7 December 1968), who was of Belgian noble ancestry; her mother is Countess Anna Maria Komorowska (born 24 September 1946 in Białogard, Poland), daughter of Count Leon Michael Komorowski (Siedliska, 14 August 1907 – 1992) and Polish Princess Zofia María Sapieha of Krasiczyn, Clan Lis (Bobrek, 10 October 1919-Herstal, 14 August 1997). The Komorowski family is well known for Count Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski (1895–1966), Polish Commander-in-Chief and Prime Minister of the Polish government-in-exile and for former President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski.
Upon her marriage to Prince Philippe of Belgium, the Duke of Brabant in 1999, King Albert II of the Belgians elevated the family d’Udekem d’Acoz from the baronial to the comital rank, hereditary in the male lineage. Upon the accession of her husband, Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant to the throne of Belgium she became the first Belgian queen consort of native Belgian nationality.
Mathilde is the oldest of five children. She has three younger sisters and one younger brother:
Jonkvrouw Marie-Alix d’Udekem d’Acoz (16 September 1974 – 14 August 1997). She died in a car crash with her maternal grandmother.
Margravine Elisabeth Pallavicini, née Countess d’Udekem d’Acoz (born 17 January 1977) who is married to Margrave Alfonso Pallavicini with whom she has 2 children; Margravine Olympia and Margrave Adalberto.
Baroness Hélène Janssen, née Countess d’Udekem d’Acoz (born 22 September 1979) who is married to Baron Nicolas Janssen with whom she has a daughter; Baronne Cordelia Janssen.
Count Charles-Henri d’Udekem d’Acoz (born 13 May 1985).
On 29 March 2008, Henri d’Udekem d’Acoz, Princess Mathilde’s uncle, told a Belgian newspaper that his brother, Patrick had been admitted to the Erasmus Hospital in Anderlecht, and was dying. The Count was in an irreversible coma and in critical condition. Henri stated that his brother had been ill since January, and his illness had gradually put him into the coma. Henri noted that Mathilde had visited her father in the hospital, as had other members of the Royal Family. On 25 September 2008, it was announced that the Count had died, aged 72, in Ottignies.
Queen Mathilde attended secondary school at the Institut de la Vierge Fidèle in Brussels. She then studied speech therapy at the Institut libre Marie Haps in Brussels from 1991 to 1994 and earned a diploma with high honours (magna cum laude).
Mathilde then worked as a speech therapist in her own practice in Brussels from 1995 to 1999. She also studied psychology at the Université catholique de Louvain and earned a master’s degree in psychology in 2002 with honours (cum laude).
She speaks French, Dutch, English and Italian. Her mother, who spent most of her life outside of Poland, did not teach her Polish, thinking that it would not be necessary. Therefore, Mathilde knows only a few words in Polish.
The announcement of Mathilde’s engagement to the Belgian heir-apparent Prince Philippe came as a surprise to the country. Mathilde married Philippe on 4 December 1999 in Brussels, civilly at the Brussels Town Hall and religiously at the Cathedral of Saint Michel and Saint Gudula. Mathilde’s bridal gown was designed by Edouard Vermeulen. She was made Duchess of Brabant and a Princess of Belgium on 8 November 1999 (published on 13 November 1999 and effective from 4 December 1999).
The couple have four children:
Princess Elisabeth Thérèse Marie Hélène, Duchess of Brabant, born 25 October 2001
Prince Gabriel Baudouin Charles Marie, born 20 August 2003
Prince Emmanuel Léopold Guillaume François Marie, born 4 October 2005
Princess Eléonore Fabiola Victoria Anne Marie, born 16 April 2008
Princess Elisabeth, the couple’s eldest child, is the first in line to the throne and ahead of her younger brothers and sister, who are second, third, and fourth in line to succeed, owing to a change in Belgian succession laws in 1991, allowing for the eldest child to succeed, regardless of gender.
The Queen is also godmother to two princesses: Princess Alexia of the Netherlands and Princess Isabella of Denmark.
As Queen of the Belgians, Mathilde carries out a number of official roles, including representing Belgium on state visits, receiving state visits from abroad, and as patron of many charities. She takes part in the annual World Economic Forum in Davos; since 2007, the Queen has been a member of the Young Global Leaders group.
With King Philippe, she has led economic missions to the USA in 2011 and to Vietnam in 2012.
Since 2009, Queen Mathilde has been the Honorary President of Unicef Belgium. She serves as the World Health Organisation’s Special Representative for Immunization.
She set up the Princess Mathilde fund in 2001, which promotes the care of vulnerable people and awards an annual prize for good works in a particular sector. The sector changes each year: examples include early years education, women’s health, and protecting young people from violence. She also presides at the ceremony awarding the King Baudouin International Development Prize.