BRUSSELS – Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, the eldest daughter of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde and the first in line to the Belgian throne, said on Friday, on the occasion of her 18th birthday, that the country could “count on” her.
“I still have much to learn, I want to try hard in the next few years. I would like to better understand the world. The country can count on me,” the princess said during a speech at a solemn ceremony with her parents visibly emotional in the front row of the audience.
The firstborn of four siblings, and therefore heir apparent, spoke in the Throne Room at the Royal Palace in Brussels.
Addressing the youth-led demonstrations against climate change this year, the future Queen of Belgium said: “I share your concerns for the future, particularly for the climate and the firm response we should bring.”
“I have faith in the future.”
The princess said she would never forget the milestone birthday and thanked her family for their support.
Born in 2001, Elisabeth was educated in Dutch but also speaks French and German – the other official languages in Belgium – as well as English.
She is the older sister of princes Gabriel (b. 2003), Manuel (b. 2005) and Princess Eleonore (2008).
The granddaughter of King Albert II, Elisabeth was joined at the ceremony by 80 other young people who share her birthday.
Her father, King Philippe, who has been head of state since Albert II abdicated in 2013, said a few words, too.
“Your mother and I are very happy to have you as a daughter.”
At the ceremony, Blanche, Belgium’s entry for 2017 Eurovision song contest, brought Queen Mathilde to tears with her rendition of Happy Birthday.
The most notable absence from the ceremony was the leader of the Flanders region, nationalist Jean Jambon, who was absent due to a busy political agenda in the northern Dutch-speaking region of the country.
His counterpart in French-speaking Wallonia, socialist and former prime minister Elio Di Rupo, did attend, however.