After a 20-year reign, 79-year-old King Albert of Belgium voluntarily abdicated the throne Sunday, passing down the crown to his son Philippe and Phillippe’s wife, Mathilde.
The first Belgian-born queen of the country, Mathilde hails from Bastogne, from a family of nobility: her father was the late Count Patrick d'Udekem d'Acoz, and her mother, Countess Anna Maria Komorowska. As the oldest of five children, Mathilde worked to establish herself early on. She studied speech therapy at Institut Libre Marie Haps and then held her own practice from 1995 until her marriage in 1999.
Mathilde has been recognized not only for her philanthropic work (in 2001 she founded the Princess Mathilde Fund, which promotes "solidarity among young people—reconnecting youngsters with life"), but also for her political involvement: she serves as the honorary president of UNICEF Belgium.
The new 40-year-old queen's fashion is similar to that of Kate Middleton, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, Princess Letizia of Spain, and Belgium's own Queen Fabiola: she integrates playful patterns and bright colors while maintaining a classic and polished look.
Mathilde has been in the fashion spotlight since she married Philippe in 1999 in a winter-coat-style wedding gown with long sleeves and an oversize collar by Belgian designer Edouard Vermeulen of Natan. Since then she has demonstrated an overwhelming passion for wild color and patterns, architectural hats, and decadent jewels.
Images of the couple and their four children recall those of JFK, Jackie, and their family, with Philippe's polished suits; Mathilde's pillbox hats, high-collared suits, and short, coiffed hair; and the children's dainty yet adorable outfits.
Queen Mathilde, who loves Armani Privé and Natan, even made 2008's Vanity Fair international best-dressed list, which ranked her among other international political fashion players, including Middleton, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and Michelle Obama. While her style may not yet be internationally celebrated—as in having the effect on the fashion economy that both Obama and Middleton have had—Queen Mathilde's eye for patterns and bright colors (as well as appropriately tailored suits) qualifies her to join the ranks of the fashion elite.