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AHEAD OF JULY 21st (1): OUR NEW KING: PHILIPPE. THE BIOGRAPHY

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A serie of articles about the monarchy and the new King of Belgians

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Youth and education

Born in 1960, the young Prince Philippe was educated bilingually (in Flemish and French) at Belgian state primary and secondary schools, and then at the Belgian Royal Military Academy, a bilingual higher education establishment. Inspired by a passion for flying and space adventure since childhood, he chose to join the Air Force, where he qualified as a fighter pilot. He completed his military training with the para-commando course.

He then left Belgium to continue his academic studies abroad. After one term at Trinity College, Oxford (United Kingdom) he went to Stanford University (USA), where he graduated with an MA in Political Science.

Returning to Belgium in 1985, he began to learn about his country’s political, social and economic realities. His spent eight years meeting Belgium and the Belgians, through numerous visits, meetings, conferences and missions, which led him on a discovery of all aspects of his country’s functioning.

Also during this time, the young Prince Philippe acquired an in-depth knowledge of areas of particular, personal inquiry. He takes a keen interest in history, literature and philosophy. His study tours have enabled him to meet all kinds of committed people, be they leaders or ordinary citizens. He closely follows the European construction process.

Prince Philippe gained various experiences in the humanitarian field.

The death of King Baudouin in 1993 marked a turning point in the Prince’s life. Upon accession to the throne by his father, King Albert II, Philippe became heir apparent to the throne at the age of 33.

Heir to the throne

From this time on, his public role became established. In line with the major issues of the time, his main areas of involvement are international missions at the service of the Belgian economy and Belgium’s image abroad, sustainable development, dialogue between the Belgian linguistic Communities, support for vulnerable people and the promotion of talent.

At the request of King Albert II, he took over the honorary presidency of the Foreign Trade Agency. In this capacity, he has led 85 Belgian economic missions abroad over the past 20 years. Today, the positive impact of these missions is widely acknowledged. Prince Philippe builds bridges between Belgian and foreign companies as well as between Belgian companies.

Another of the Prince’s major concerns is sustainable development. Since 1993, he has presided over the Federal Council for Sustainable Development, which brings together economic, social, environmental and scientific bodies from around the country to formulate recommendations to the government. In the same vein, he also accepted to become Honorary President of the International Polar Foundation.

His action also involves dialogue between Belgium’s three language communities of French, Dutch and German-speakers. The “Fonds Prince Philippe” was created in 1998 to promote dialogue between groups of citizens from the different communities, in order to encourage greater mutual recognition and respect for their individual identities and cultures.

Aware of the many possible forms of marginalisation, Prince Philippe takes up numerous opportunities to meet with its victims. Here also, he visits human fragility in the field, whether it is caused by illness, social exclusion, accidents or natural disasters.

He supports Belgian talent in all its manifestations, be they sportsmen, artists, scientists, explorers or gifted young people, Prince Philippe follows them all with great interest.


Family life

In 1999, Prince Philippe presented to the Belgians the person who, a few months later, was to become his wife. Both undertake their official duties in a complementary manner, inspired by a shared, complicit commitment to their various chosen fields of involvement.

Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde combine their family life with the ceremonial and official demands. They personally supervise the education of their four children, Elisabeth, Gabriel, Emmanuel and Eléonore. The children enjoy a multilingual education and attend school in Dutch.

Holidays are spent with family and friends. In their free time, the Prince and Princess read avidly and play sports. Prince Philippe goes running regularly and took part in the Brussels 20km race in May 2013.

Henry BORZI

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