On Thursday, the King and Queen of the Belgians headed to London to take part in a traditional royal event at the Royal Hospital Chelsea: the Founder’s Day Parade.
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde arrived at the Royal Hospital Chelsea for the 331st Founder’s Day parade, held annually to honor the hospital’s founding as a retreat for veterans in the seventeenth century by King Charles II.
Each year a member of the British royal family, or occasionally a foreign royal, acts as the reviewing officer during the parade. In recent years, the role has been filled by the Princess Royal (2016), the Duke of Edinburgh (then Earl of Wessex, 2017) Prince Michael of Kent (2018), the Duke of Sussex (2019), Queen Camilla (then Duchess of Cornwall, 2020), the Duke of Gloucester (2021), and Sir Timothy Laurence (2022). The last foreign royal to take on the job was Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in June 2007. Why the Belgian royals this year? No official reason has been given, but a Flemish garden was installed on the grounds of the hospital last year by the King’s sister, Princess Astrid.
During the parade, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde stopped to chat with some of the Chelsea Pensioners, a group of 300 retired soldiers who live at the hospital.
Queen Mathilde shakes hands with one of the Pensioners here.
You’ll notice that both the King and Queen wore a spray oak leaves during the parade. The leaves are another reference to the hospital’s founder, King Charles II. From the 1660s until the 1840s, Restoration Day (or “Oak Apple Day”) was a public holiday in parts of the United Kingdom, commemorating the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Those celebrating the holiday wore sprigs of oak leaves, a reference to Charles II hiding in an oak tree to escape the Roundhead Army in 1651. The holiday was held on May 29, and the parade at the Royal Hospital Chelsea is held each year near that date.
Queen Mathilde used the oak leaves as an inspiration for her entire outfit. She wore a white dress with a green leaf print, plus a coordinating Maison Fabienne Delvigne headpiece. Green shoes and a green clutch bag also carried through the color theme.
Mathilde chose green jewels for the occasion, too. She wore a pair of classic diamond and emerald drop earrings that have been in her jewelry collection for more than a decade.
If my notes are correct, one of Mathilde’s earliest appearances in the earrings took place in January 2013, when she wore them for an official portrait celebrating her 40th birthday.
Mathilde became Queen of the Belgians just a few months later, when her father-in-law abdicated in favor of her husband. She repeated the earrings and velvet gown from her birthday portrait for an early diplomatic dinner at the start of King Philippe’s reign: a reception at the Palace of Laeken in honor of the Governor General of Canada.
She also wore the earrings for an official visit from King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain a few weeks later.
In February 2019, Queen Mathilde wore the earrings for a special visit to the Belgian Royal Academy for Medicine in Brussels, where she was made an honorary member of the organization.
And here’s one more look at Mathilde wearing the beautiful earrings on Thursday in Chelsea.