As the country celebrates National Day on 21 July, King Philippe has revealed a new hobby: painting. Philippe apparently taught himself how to paint, and when his chief of staff Frans Van Daele left his service, he was presented with a self-portrait of the king instead of the traditional signed photo. Currently, two portraits of the king’s mentor and uncle, the late King Baudouin, are on display in an exhibition in the royal palace in Brussels.
One shows the late king, Philippe’s father’s elder brother, in pensive mood with walking stick and dog. The other is a more straightforward and less atmospheric portrait of a smiling Baudouin without his familiar glasses.
The exhibition, which opens tomorrow 22 July, also includes a photo of Philippe with one of the portraits. Baudouin died 25 years ago this year.
The king, who today marks five years on the throne following the abdication of his father, Albert II, is known for a number of more active hobbies, including kitesurfing, running and piano-playing. With four children and his official functions, however, not much time is left for leisure pursuits.
Meanwhile the crown princess Elisabeth, now aged 16, prepares to begin a new term at the Atlantic College in Wales, where she will spend two years. The princess, who turns 17 in October, has spent her education so far at the Dutch-speaking Sint-Jan-Berchmans college in Brussels, and in the occasional speech has shown herself by far the royal with the best bilingual qualities so far.
She will now be studying in English, sharing a room in the college with three other girls and, like other students, obliged to take part in volunteer work. She aims to obtain her International Baccalaureate, along not only with students from the top of society prepared to pay the £25,000 annual fees, but also students who have passed the exams and study on a scholarship intended to allow access to the school to less wealthy families.