04 December 2019

Jewels in Motion: Philippe and Mathilde's Royal Wedding (1999)

DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images

Twenty years ago today, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians tied the knot in Brussels. Today, we've got a look back at the wedding day -- and the wedding jewels!

As is the case for many Europeans, Philippe and Mathilde had both civil and religious wedding ceremonies. Twenty-six-year old Mathilde arrived on the arm of her father, Count Patrick d'Udekem d'Acoz, for the civil ceremony, which took place at ten o'clock in the monring at the Town Hall in Brussels.

Thirty-nine-year old Prince Philippe, who was then the Duke of Brabant, was waiting inside for his bride. He wore the uniform of a colonel in the Belgian Air Force for both weddings, as well as the purple sash of Belgium's highest chivalric order, the Order of Leopold.

The ceremony was conducted in Flemish, French, and German. When Philippe and Mathilde said their vows, the crowds outside the building cheered so loudly that they could be heard by the amused couple and their guests.

Queen Paola was also highly amused by the audible cheering.

The couple exchanged kisses after the ceremony ended.

All of the guests, including both families, applauded afterward as well. The ceremony concluded with the signing of the marriage registry, both by the couple and their witnesses (Hereditary Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Archduke Simeon of Austria, Elisabeth d'Udekem d'Acoz, and Stephanie de Radigues de Chenneviere)

The halfway-married couple appeared on the balcony of the town hall to wave to the gathered crowds (and shared a kiss on the cheek).

Next, the couple and the families traveled to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula for the religious wedding ceremony. Mathilde again arrived with her father, who helped to arrange her veil and gown as she stepped out of the car. Her dress was made for her by Belgian couturier Edouard Vermeulen, who also designed wedding gowns for Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands and Mathilde's sister-in-law, Princess Claire of Belgium. Her antique lace veil was worn by Queen Paola for her wedding to the future King Albert II in 1959.

Her veil was secured by Queen Elisabeth's Art Deco Bandeau, a sparkling diamond tiara loaned to Mathilde by her new mother-in-law, Queen Paola. The tiara has been worn by four generations of Belgian queens consort, and it was also used as a wedding tiara by Prince Amedeo's wife, Elisabetta.

Mathilde's wedding earrings featured pearl drops suspended from diamond bows.

Those who watched the ceremony on television also got a glimpse of Mathilde's ruby engagement ring on her left hand. (Philippe placed her wedding band on her right hand, where she still wears it today.)

Mathilde also placed Philippe's wedding band on his right hand. She said her wedding vows in Flemish, while he said his in French. The religious ceremony, which lasted two hours, took place in front of 1200 guests.

Television viewers were also able to glimpse some of the jewels worn by the numerous royal guests. (You can read the very extensive guest list on Netty's website!) Queen Paola wore pearl earrings with a pearl necklace and a floral brooch.

Queen Fabiola was regal in a feathered hat and pearls.

Princess Astrid's sparkling brooch was pinned to her fur wrap. Two of her Belgian aunts wore significant jewels as well: Princess Marie Esmerelda donned a gold chain necklace, while Princess Lea wore sparkling earrings.

Astrid's daughter, Princess Marie Laura, wore a very '90s choker necklace.

Like his father and brother, Prince Laurent wore a military uniform with the Order of Leopold.

Several foreign heads of state also attended the wedding, including King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, as well as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Beatrix wore sapphire earrings and one of the fantastic Dutch sapphire and diamond brooches. Silvia wore pearls and a floral brooch. Also in pearls were Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who wore the Connaught Pearl Bar Brooch, and Queen Sonja of Norway. Sonja's daughter, Princess Martha Louise, wore delicate pearl jewels.

Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg (an aunt of the groom) wore pearls as well, including Grand Duchess Maria Ana's Pearl Negligee Pendant. Her daughter-in-law, Hereditary Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, wore pearl earrings. Her daughters also attended the wedding. Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein, chose a pearl choker necklace for the occasion, while Archduchess Marie Astrid wore pearls with a gold brooch.

Queen Sofia of Spain, who attended with her son, Prince Felipe, wore a pearl necklace with a fantastic pendant and a small brooch. Her sister-in-law, Queen Anne-Marie, wore diamonds and rubies.

Monaco and the United Kingdom were represented, respectively, by the heirs to their thrones: Hereditary Prince Albert and Prince Charles.

Several other heirs attended, too. Prince Felipe of Spain sat beside Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan. (She wore gorgeous pearls for the wedding.) On the other side of Felipe is a royal who later became notable for a terrible reason: Prince Dipendra of Nepal. A year and a half after this wedding, he killed his parents, siblings, and other royal relatives (and mortally wounded himself). The massacre led to the abolition of the Nepalese monarchy.

Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco wore a beautiful pair of gold pendant earrings and a jeweled belt.

The guest list included numerous members of non-reigning families as well. Marina of Savoy wore an ensemble that glittered all on its own. Miriam of Bulgaria wore a pair of lovely pink pendant earrings.

After the religious ceremony ended, Philippe and Mathilde rode through the streets of Brussels in a glass-topped Mercedes-Benz limousine that was decked in flowers. They traveled to the Royal Palace in Brussels, where they made another balcony appearance, attended a luncheon, and took official photographs. A second reception was held in the evening at Laeken.


The ensuing decades brought major changes to the couple's lives. They became King and Queen of the Belgians in July 2013, following the abdication of his father, King Albert II. They're also the parents of four children: Princess Elisabeth, Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel, and Princess Eleonore.