Happy 21st Birthday to Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, the Duchess of Brabant

Princess Elisabeth The Duchess of Brabant

Her Royal Highness, Princess Elisabeth, the Duchess of Brabant, was born Elisabeth Theresia Maria Helena on October 25, 2001, at the Erasmus Hospital, in Anderlecht, Brussels, to then Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, the Duke and Duchess of Brabant. 

She is their first child, and thus, second in line in direct succession to the throne at the time of her birth. The succession law of the Belgian monarchy was altered in 1991 during the reign of King Baudouin, from male-preference to Absolute primogeniture, 10 years before Princess Elisabeth was born. 

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant
HRH Princess Elisabeth, the Duchess of Brabant

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant

Princess Elisabeth attended school at St John Berchmans College in the Marollen district of Brussels. She continued her secondary education at UWC Atlantic College in Wales, United Kingdom, and received her International Baccalaureate Diploma in 2020. She also attended the Yale Young Global Scholars Program at Yale University.

Following her secondary school graduation, it was announced that she would spend a year studying military sciences at the Royal Military Academy in Belgium, where her younger brother, Prince Gabriel, is currently a freshman. The Duchess of Brabant completed her military training in 2021.

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant
Princess Elisabeth and her mother, Queen Mathilde, attending the 18th birthday gala dinner of Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway

After completing her military training, Princess Elisabeth went back to England to enroll at Lincoln College, University of Oxford and currently taking a three-year course, History and Politics. She is now in her second year. The future Belgian Queen speaks Dutch, French, German, and English. She also took classes in Mandarin Chinese.

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant
Princess Elisabeth and her younger sister, Princess Eleanore

Princess Elisabeth is the first Belgian princess to become Duchess of Brabant in her own right. Its male counterpart title, the Duke of Brabant, is traditionally given to the eldest son of the Belgian king since Belgium became an independent monarchy in 1831. 

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant
Princess Elisabeth and her father, King Philippe, during her 18th birthday in 2019

The first Duke of Brabant title holder was the future Leopold II, first cousin of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. It's normally the title of the future Belgian king but changed its provision in 1991 when Belgium switched to the Absolute primogeniture law of succession. 

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant
The young family of then Duke and Duchess of Brabant

All Belgian kings since Leopold II became Duke of Brabant except King Albert II, the father of King Philippe. He did not become Duke of Brabant because he is the youngest son and the heir to the throne was his older brother. He was titled Prince of Liege until he succeeded his childless brother, King Baudouin, to the Belgian throne in 1993. 

Princess Elisabeth, The Duchess of Brabant
Three generations portrait. King Albert II (seated). Princess Elisabeth and her father, King Philippe

Princess Elisabeth enjoys skiing, tennis, sailing, and diving. She has been taking piano lessons since she was a young girl. She likes to read, as she finds it an important source of discovery and inspiration.

The princess began taking public duty since 2019 when she turned 18 years old. And since this year, she has been taking solo engagements in Belgium in her capacity as heir apparent to the Belgian throne. 

Royal bloodlines

Princess Elisabeth is a direct descendant of King Christian IX of Denmark and King Oscar II of Sweden. Her great-great-grandmother, Queen Astrid (the mother of King Albert), was the daughter of Princess Ingeborg of Denmark (granddaughter of King Christian IX) and Prince Carl of Sweden (son of King Oscar II), and thus, a blood relative to most European royals. She is also distantly related to King Charles III of Britain and King Felipe VI of Spain through their common ancestor, Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. 

The Belgian royal family at the National Day celebration this year

The family name of the Belgian royals is Saxe-Coburg, taken from the ducal house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Germany. The first Belgian king was Leopold I, the maternal uncle of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and the paternal uncle of Victoria's husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. 

Leopold was the husband of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only child of King George IV of the United Kingdom. But Princess Charlotte died in 1817 while giving birth to their first child. He was first offered the throne of Greece but turned it down, instead, he accepted the offer to become King of Belgium in 1831 when the country declared independence from The Netherlands.

King Leopold I of Belgium
King Leopold I of Belgium, the maternal uncle of Queen Victoria

Leopold also remarried a French princess, Princess Louise of Orleans. Leopold named his eldest daughter after his first wife, Charlotte. Both the United Kingdom and Belgium have the same house name: Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. 

In 1917, King George V of Britain changed it to Windsor to distance himself from his German relatives due to bitter anti-German sentiments in the United Kingdom during World War I. Three years later, in 1920, Belgium also changed its house name to simply, House of Belgium. However, the Belgian royals retained their family surname of Saxe-Coburg. While the British royals ultimately changed their surname to Windsor.

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