CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Friday, December 12, 2014

BELGIUM’S QUEEN FABIOLA DIES: A life of privilege and adventure

 

 

 

 

 

Young: An undated portrait of Fabiola taken before her marriage to King Baudoin in 1960

Violet delight: Fabiola pictured at the wedding of Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano at the Almudene Cathedral in Madrid, Spain, on May 22, 2004

A portrait of Ursula, aged 21, taken by Cecil Beaton in 1939

BELGIUM’S QUEEN FABIOLA DIES: A life of privilege and adventure
 

In this exclusive extract from her enthralling memoir, society grande dame Lady Ursula d’Abo reveals her role in the coronation of King George VI, and recollects a life of privilege and adventure cut short by war

Above: Ursula (third from left) with King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on the Buckingham Palace balcony in 1937 after the coronation

Ursula (third from left) with King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on the Buckingham Palace balcony in 1937 after the coronation

I was kingpin until my younger sister Isabel arrived. My brother Charles followed soon after and we three were so close in age we were like triplets. I had pale skin and ink-black hair with a widow’s peak and was constantly asking questions.

My father loathed hunting, although we had the famous Belvoir hunt in the grounds [of Belvoir Castle, the family home], but I loved riding as a child. I was a daredevil on horseback and went like smoke. When we hunted, the Master of Hounds was terrified we would get squashed in the gates and so would hold up the 200 horses behind us with his whip so Isabel and I could go safely through the gate first. The Belvoir hunt was spectacular. Sometimes, in the 1920s and 1930s, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, would join us and we would gallop for 12 miles from Belvoir to Melton Mowbray entirely on grass.

I was always my father’s favourite as well as his eldest. He took me everywhere and involved me in all his interests and activities. My father was an education in himself. My interests in history, homes and objets d’art came from him and the times when he patiently involved me in his work.

Dukes [Ursula’s father was the 9th Duke of Rutland] in those days were thrown into everything happening in the locality. As a tiny girl he took me to Rolls-Royce in Derby when they were testing an engine to go into the first aeroplane. Another time Father took me to a speed test of the Flying Scotsman. There were two coaches at the back and Father and I got on board the flying plate of the engine – the chief engineer, his mate stoking the coal and little me. I was even allowed to pull the whistle as we sped off. No health and safety then.

When I was eight, I was proud to help my father with the restoration of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire [one of the seats of the Duke of Rutland]. We worked together on the mullion windows in the beautiful long gallery. While restoring the chapel at Haddon I discovered some medieval frescoes that had been whitewashed over in the Reformation.

Father had erected scaffolding and we were allowed to pick the whitewash off. I was told to go with my knife to the highest bit at the far end as I was fearless. To my amazement a flake the size of my nail broke off, and then one the size of my hand, to reveal a ship with people in it. We worked on the wall opposite the entrance and uncovered a life-size painting of St Christopher crossing a stream with fish swimming in it. My father was very impressed.

A portrait of Ursula, aged 21, taken by Cecil Beaton in 1939

A portrait of Ursula, aged 21, taken by Cecil Beaton in 1939

In 1934, when I turned 17, a ball was given at Belvoir for me and my sister. Our coming-out dresses were from Worth in Paris. We were dressed as twins in white tulle layered dresses with wide green silk sashes. Father gave me a heart-shaped brooch – a huge pale aquamarine with a garter ribbon and my name written in diamonds. I really minded when it was stolen in a big raid on Carrington, the family jewellers in London.

Suddenly I was launched on the world and expected to be a young lady with great social graces and dressed in the most beautiful clothes. Men started to appear in my world. My first kiss was from one of my father’s friends in my beautiful bedroom at Belvoir. He was much older than me, so it came as a total surprise when he embraced me. He clutched me gently by my cheek and got a little too amorous. It must have been a shock when he realised how young and inexperienced I was, because I jumped away. He said something kind and then left in a hurry. I was 17 and he was 50. I was in a state of bewilderment. On reflection, I decided I must be something exceptional with excessive appeal to the opposite sex. I had the pick of the most fascinating young men in England, but I looked upon them as boys like my brothers [Ursula had three younger brothers]. I was besotted with older men from that moment on.

When the Prince of Wales abdicated, my father refused to have him in the house, even though he had hunted with us many times at Belvoir. Father was shocked at his betrayal of the country, and my parents were great friends with his brother Bertie, the future George VI, and his young wife Elizabeth.

I can remember every detail of the coronation of King George VI on 12 May 1937. All my family were involved. My father carried the orb in the procession into Westminster Abbey. My mother, as Duchess of Rutland, was a canopy bearer to the Queen, along with three other duchesses, Buccleuch, Roxburghe and Norfolk. My brother Charles was Page of Honour to the Duke of Gloucester, and my younger brother Lord John Manners was Page of Honour to Lord Ancaster, the Lord Great Chamberlain. And I, wearing a Norman Hartnell gown, was a Maid of Honour to the Queen. There were six of us, dressed identically.

The colours and music of the coronation and the screaming crowds in Westminster were overwhelming. Thousands of people crammed the streets and perched in the trees, dressed to the nines. I suppose after the ghastly times of the Great War, the Depression and the abdication, this was the release of folly; music and wonder prevailed. The whole of London was en fête and wherever you went you saw people drinking, singing and eating in the streets.

Ursula with Isabel sitting in a 17th-century silver punch bowl

Ursula with Isabel sitting in a 17th-century silver punch bowl

A portrait by Charles Edmund Brock of Ursula, her brother Charles and sister Isabel

A portrait by Charles Edmund Brock of Ursula, her brother Charles and sister Isabel

The Maids of Honour varied in height. My cousin Lady Elizabeth Paget was very tall and I was one of the shortest, which is why I was in the front. It was so exciting being on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, carrying the Queen’s huge ermine-trimmed velvet train, which weighed such a lot she couldn’t dress without our help. We didn’t have loops to hold the train, rather there were openings in the seam into which you slid your hand. We were terrified of dropping it and, because of nerves, became rather giggly. As the train was attached to the Queen, we had to follow her around the Palace. When we finally emerged on to the balcony, I was standing next to the Queen and behind the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

After the coronation I was recognised everywhere and was suddenly popular. I accompanied my mother, my aunt Lady Diana Cooper, her husband Duff, and Winston Churchill and his wife on the first visit by the new King and Queen to Paris, on 19 July 1938.

When the train arrived at Bois de Boulogne station we disembarked into a remarkable pavilion which had been especially constructed for the visit. The Champs Elysées was solid with humanity. There were thousands of people screaming, ‘Why don’t we have a queen?’ There were tapestries hanging in the streets and flowers and feathers everywhere. The French laid on the most lavish entertainment. I suppose they wanted to prove they had tanks and so we went to a military parade. When the tanks appeared they had flags bearing all the suits of a set of cards. Churchill was so excited we had to hold on to him by his coat-tails.

There was a state visit to the opera and I will always remember the Queen standing on the steps of the Opera House while a cortege of hundreds of soldiers riding beautiful Arab horses galloped flat out towards us and then stopped dead. The main horse was wearing a ram’s head in gold as a mascot. It was the most sensational and terrifying thing I had ever seen. Winston kept saying, ‘Where’s the cygnet?’ That was his nickname for me as I was the youngest.

Outside the castle lodge for a meet of the Belvoir Hunt: 'The Belvoir hunt was spectacular. Sometimes the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, would join us'

Outside the castle lodge for a meet of the Belvoir Hunt: 'The Belvoir hunt was spectacular. Sometimes the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, would join us'

Before the war started you could choose between four great balls every night, rivalling each other in luxury and grandeur. There was a court ball every summer and London tingled. There was little general premonition of the tragedies and disasters that were soon to unfold. There were wonderful weekend parties organised for the young people at country houses such as Cliveden.

I loved being invited by my aunt Lady Diana Cooper. She entertained with great flair the most famous people from all over the world and you were honoured to be asked. She was my father’s younger sister and famed for her beauty. She appeared in all the magazines in the latest fashions, which she adored. She was very nice to me but used to tick me off because I didn’t really care about the way I looked. She would say, ‘Darling, it’s all very well being a wild child in the garden and playing at Mrs Mop, but it’s very selfish because other people have to look at you.’

For a weekend with Lord Dudley at Himley Hall in Staffordshire, his exquisite 18th-century house, I was driven by the chauffeur in the family car with a lady’s maid who was usually French or Italian to improve my language skills. For just one weekend a whole trunkful of glamorous clothes would be packed, along with some of the pretty ornaments and pictures from home to decorate my bedroom.

Ursula with Isabel at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, in 1937, after its restoration by their father; the painting of Haddon above the fireplace is by Rex Whistler

Ursula at home in her Kensington flat in 1997

Ursula with Isabel at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, in 1937, after its restoration by their father - the painting of Haddon above the fireplace is by Rex Whistler; and at home in her Kensington flat in 1997

After unpacking and a big lunch we would swim in the pool inside the house, play golf or tennis or just lie in the sun. Every night we wore long gowns with abundant jewellery for dinner and the gentlemen were in white tie. We had wonderful times at Chatsworth, too, which was just ‘over the garden wall’ from Haddon, and fantastic parties in Scotland, with the Buccleuchs, the Colquhouns and the Tennant relations [Lady Ursula’s mother was a Tennant]. Nearly all the families had eldest sons who were my age, which was fun. Then, in 1939, the war came like a knife going into a piece of butter and changed society completely. 

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During the war, Lady Ursula joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse, and then took charge of 2,000 women making bullets in a munitions factory in Springfield, Grantham. After the war and a brief marriage to Anthony Marreco, Lady Ursula went to India. She married Erland d’Abo in 1951 and settled down to family life at West Wratting Park in Cambridgeshire, with two sons and a daughter. Lady Ursula is now 97 and lives in London. 

 

 

 

Prince Carl Philip of Sweden has proposed to his ex-glamour model girlfriend, four years after the pair controversial began dating.

The 35-year-old royal sparked outrage when he started dating Sofia Hellqvist, a reality TV star, in January 2010.

But today, the Swedish court announced the couple will marry next summer.

 

Engaged: Carl Philip proposed to Sofia Hellqvist this morning after a controversial four-year relationship

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Engaged: Carl Philip proposed to Sofia Hellqvist this morning after a controversial four-year relationship

Ms Hellqvist, formerly a fashion model, is expected to become Princess Sofia of Sweden, although her title will not be officially decided until the ceremony.

'I have the incredible honour of being engaged to this fantastic girl,' Prince Carl Philip told a press conference this afternoon.

Having posed topless in Swedish men's magazines, Ms Hellqvist hit tabloid headlines in 2005 after reaching the final of the scandalous sex and alcohol-fuelled TV show Paradise Hotel. The shows sees five men and five women stay in a hotel together and showed scenes of Sofia kissing pornstar Jenna Jameson.

However, in 2009, after she met Carl Philip - third in line to the throne - in a club, she has softened her image.

Gushing about her fiancé, Ms Hellqvist said: 'Carl Philip is the most humble person I have ever met, which is what made me fall in the beginning.'

 

Controversial: Ms Hellqvist has posed for men's magazines and was a finalist in a racy reality TV programme Controversial: Ms Hellqvist has posed for men's magazines and was a finalist in a racy reality TV programme

Controversial: Ms Hellqvist has posed for men's magazines and was a finalist in a racy reality TV programme

Surprise: Ms Hellqvist said the proposal was a 'fantastic surprise' and gushed about her fiancé to reporters

 

Surprise: Ms Hellqvist said the proposal was a 'fantastic surprise' and gushed about her fiancé to reporters

Wedding: The couple are expected to marry next summer, when Ms Hellqvist will likely become Princess Sofia

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Wedding: The couple are expected to marry next summer, when Ms Hellqvist will likely become Princess Sofia

The proposal was 'a fantastic surprise', she said, and her initial response was apparently: 'oh wow!'

'I expected a totally normal day at work. I was amazed and a little bit shocked,' she added.

The pair refused to give details about the proposal, simply hinting that it was somewhere they both love.

'Sofia has said yes today to sharing the rest of her life with me,' the Prince said in the official statement on the court's webpage.

The pair, pictured here at the StafettVasan Cross Country skiing race in 2013, met in 2009 in a club. They have lived together on the Stockholm island of Djurgarden since 2011

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The pair, pictured here at the StafettVasan Cross Country skiing race in 2013, met in 2009 in a club. They have lived together on the Stockholm island of Djurgarden since 2011

 

Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist in Stockholm in September 2011

The smitten pair, pictured here, refused to give details about the proposal, simply hinting that it was somewhere they both love

As the only son of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, the prince, pictured here with Sofia at a wedding in August 2013, was heir to the throne for a few months after he was born, until the principle of primogeniture was introduced in 1980

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As the only son of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, the prince, pictured here with Sofia at a wedding in August 2013, was heir to the throne for a few months after he was born, until the principle of primogeniture was introduced in 1980

The bride-to-be turned heads in a scarlet dress when she arrived at Drottningholm Palace, where the annoucement was made.

After the press conference, the newly-engaged couple were joined on the lawn by Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI, who spoke of his joy at his son's engagement.

In a statement on the royal family's website, it said: 'The Marshal of the Realm is delighted to announce the engagement between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist.

'After His Majesty The King of Sweden had given his consent to the marriage between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist, His Majesty requested the approval by the Swedish Government, in accordance with the procedures set out in the Swedish Constitution.'

 

Sofia made her name as a model Sofia made her name as a model

Sofia, pictured here in catalogue La Redoute, made her name as a model before appearing on the reality show

The relationship was controversial for a time, as Queen Silvia - The prince's mother - did not entirely approve of the match.

But lately the royal family seems to have welcomed her into the family, inviting her to weddings and christenings in the past year.

The pair have lived together on the Stockholm island of Djurgården since 2011.

Prince Carl Philip has a long withstanding reputation as a playboy who prefers driving race cars and wild parties to royal duties.

The prince's sister Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Duchess of Vastergotland - who is now heir to the throne - married her husband Prince Daniel of Sweden, Duke of Vastergotland, in a lavish ceremony

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The prince's sister Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Duchess of Vastergotland - who is now heir to the throne - married her husband Prince Daniel of Sweden, Duke of Vastergotland, in a lavish ceremony

Queen Sylvia of Sweden was initially not convinced about the pair, but the royal family appears to have now welcomed Sofia Emma Pernald, the former girlfriend of the prince

 

Queen Sylvia of Sweden, pictured left, was initially not convinced about the pair, after the prince broke up with PR executive Emma Pernald, pictured right, in 2009. But the royal family appears to have now welcomed Sofia

Former model and future Swedish princess Sofia Hellqvist

The prince had been with his previous partner, PR executive Emma Pernald, for ten years before they suddenly split in 2009.

Before that, it was widely believed a wedding was on the cards.

In 2012, the prince hit headlines over his 'Wild Summer' which included him being slapped during a night out in Cannes, hitting the Swedish party scene wearing an alien mask, losing his Gucci wallet and hitch-hiking his way to a motoring competition where he crashed his car in the first race.

As the only son of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, the prince was the heir to the throne for a seven months after he was born in May 1979.

But in January 1980 the rules were changed and the principle of primogeniture was introduced, meaning the throne would be inherited by the monarch's eldest child, Crown Princess Victoria.

She will then be succeeded by her daughter Estelle, who was born in February 2012.

Sweden is a constitutional monarchy in which the royals primarily serve as figureheads. The King is the country's head of state, but his powers are limited to ceremonial duties.

Carl Philip's father, Carl XVI Gustaf, has been King of Sweden since 1973.

Public support for the royal family has weakened slightly in recent years, but remains fairly broad in otherwise egalitarian Sweden.

 

 

Keeping with recent tradition, former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated the throne  in favor of her son, Willem-Alexander, who has now become the first Dutch king in more than a century. Though the position has little political power, the Royal Family enjoys broad popularity and symbolic significance. Tuesday, tens of thousands dressed in orange and gathered in Amsterdam's Dam Square next to the Royal Palace to view the accession of King Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand of the Netherlands.

Newly-crowned Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace with their children, from left: Catharina-Amalia, Ariane, and Alexia in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

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A man wearing orange shades displays a t-shirt depicting Dutch Queen Beatrix in a souvenir shop in Amsterdam, on April 29, 2013.(Reuters/Cris Toala Olivares) #

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Reina Reyes and Asdrubal Medina from Venezuela pose for a photograph outside the Royal Palace in downtown Amsterdam, on April 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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A billboard image of Dutch Queen Beatrix, viewed from the window of an empty room in downtown Amsterdam, on April 29, 2013, the day before her abdication. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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A man dressed in orange drinks on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, on April 29, 2013. The Netherlands was preparing for Queen's Day on April 30, which will also mark the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the investiture of her eldest son Willem-Alexander.(Reuters/Cris Toala Olivares) #

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Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands signs an act of abdication next to her son Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Crown Princess Maxima, during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (Reuters) #

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Princess Alexia of the Netherlands attends the Act of Abdication in the Moseszaal at the Royal Palace, on April 30, 2013.(Michel Porro/Getty Images) #

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People celebrate in their boats sailing along a canal in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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Two men pose for a photo outside the Royal Palace in downtown Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tuesday April 30, 2013. Around a million people are expected to descend on the Dutch capital for a huge street party to celebrate the first new Dutch monarch in 33 years. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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A crowd gathers in Dam Square, waiting for King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Princess Beatrix to appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Manoocher Deghati) #

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People watch Queen Beatrix's abdication ceremony, handing over to her eldest son Willem-Alexander on a giant screen in Amsterdam's Dam Square, on April 30, 2013. (Reuters/Kevin Coombs) #

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Dutch King Willem-Alexander is greeted by his mother Princess Beatrix on the balcony of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza) #

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Alex carries his son Abel on his shoulders, as they stand outside the Royal Palace in downtown Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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People, one of them holding a picture of Princess Beatrix, react as King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Princess Beatrix sign the act of abdication outside the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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Two women wearing orange inflatable wigs walk along the street in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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The crowning ceremony inside the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (Reuters/Lex Van Lieshout) #

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Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel arrive at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, prior to the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) #

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Netherlands Globus cruciger (a Christian symbol of authority) is put in place before the religious ceremony at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (Reuters/Robin Utrecht) #

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Former Queen, now Princess Beatrix, is joined by her grandchildren, from left: Catharina-Amalia, Alexia and Ariane at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Robin Utrecht) #

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King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands and HM Queen Maxima of the Netherlands at the inauguration ceremony at the Nieuwe Kerk, on April 30, 2013. (Robin Utrecht/Getty Images)

 

Tears for a beloved aunt: Belgium's royals joined by European monarchs as they bid farewell to Queen Fabiola 

  • 11-year-old Prince Gabriel of Belgium burst into tears as Queen Fabiola's coffin was carried past him
  • He was comforted by his tearful mother Queen Mathilde who clutched King Philippe's hand during the service
  • The dowager queen died peacefully at home last Friday following months of ill health
  • Mourners at the funeral included Denmark's Margrethe II, Sweden's Carl XVI Gustaf and Norway's Harald V
  • The Belgian royal family was also joined by Empress Michiko of Japan and former Dutch queen, Beatrix
  • None of the British royals were able to attend, with ambassador Alison Rose representing the UK instead
  • After the funeral, Queen Fabiola's coffin was driven away to Laeken Palace outside Brussels for burial

Royals and politicians from across Europe gathered in Brussels today to pay their last respects to the late Queen Fabiola who died at her Laeken home outside the Belgian capital last Friday.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians were among a group who stood in sombre silence as the funeral cortege of the former queen pulled up outside the imposing Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

They were joined by royals from around the world, among them Japan's Empress Michiko, Denmark's Queen Margrethe II, Morocco's Prince Moulay Rachid El Alaoui and Sweden's Carl XVI Gustaf  and Queen Silvia.

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Upset: 11-year-old Prince Gabriel burst into tears and had to be comforted by his mother during the funeral

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Upset: 11-year-old Prince Gabriel burst into tears and had to be comforted by his mother during the funeral

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Tearful: 11-year-old Prince Gabriel, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde's oldest son, had clearly been close to his great-aunt Fabiola

Tearful: Queen Mathilde of Belgium and her husband King Philippe look upset as the funeral of Queen Fabiola gets underway

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Tearful: Queen Mathilde of Belgium and her husband King Philippe look upset as the funeral of Queen Fabiola gets underway

Saying goodbye: Former King Albert II, his son King Philippe (centre) and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians during the funeral

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Saying goodbye: Former King Albert II, his son King Philippe (centre) and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians during the funeral

Saddened: Queen Mathilde wipes away a tear as the funeral service for Queen Fabiola continues around her

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Saddened: Queen Mathilde wipes away a tear as the funeral service for Queen Fabiola continues around her

Sad day: The funeral party included former Queen Paola and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde's four young children (right)

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Sad day: The funeral party included former Queen Paola and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde's four young children (right)

Tragic: King Philippe of the Belgians wipes away a tear during the funeral service for his aunt Queen Fabiola

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Tragic: King Philippe of the Belgians wipes away a tear during the funeral service for his aunt Queen Fabiola

Heartbreak: Prince Laurent, the younger brother of King Philippe, looks distraught during his 10-year-old daughter Louise's eulogy

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Heartbreak: Prince Laurent, the younger brother of King Philippe, looks distraught during his 10-year-old daughter Louise's eulogy

Well done: He gives the little girl a thumbs up from his seat beside his wife, British-born Princess Claire

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Well done: He gives the little girl a thumbs up from his seat beside his wife, British-born Princess Claire

Together: A visibly upset Prince Laurent gives his little girl a kiss on the hand following her tribute to Queen Fabiola

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Together: A visibly upset Prince Laurent gives his little girl a kiss on the hand following her tribute to Queen Fabiola

Also at the service were Norway's elderly Princess Astrid and King Harald V, Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand and the former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Fabiola's native Spain was represented by former King Juan-Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia, but none of the British royals were able to attend the funeral and the United Kingdom was represented by the British ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, instead.

Queen Fabiola's great nephews and nieces were among the youngest mourners at the funeral but the emotional service proved too much for one, 11-year-old Prince Gabriel, who couldn't hold back his tears.

10-year-old Princess Louise, the daughter of Belgium's Prince Laurent and his British wife Claire, reduced her parents - and Queen Mathilde - to tears as she paid touching tribute to her great-aunt who has been widely mourned in Belgium.

The body of the 86-year-old dowager queen had arrived ahead of the service and was borne into the church on the shoulders of a military guard, followed by the Belgian royals - among them former King Albert II, 80, and his wife, Queen Paola, 77.

Royals arrive for funeral of former Belgian Queen Fabiola

 

Sorrowful: A group of Belgian military pallbearers carry the coffin of Queen Fabiola into the cathedral at the start of her funeral

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Sorrowful: A group of Belgian military pallbearers carry the coffin of Queen Fabiola into the cathedral at the start of her funeral

Much loved: The death of Queen Fabiola has sparked an outpouring of grief from Belgians, who joined their royals to mourn 

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Much loved: The death of Queen Fabiola has sparked an outpouring of grief from Belgians, who joined their royals to mourn

State funeral: Queen Fabiola's funeral brought royals from all over the world flocking to the Belgian capital Brussels

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State funeral: Queen Fabiola's funeral brought royals from all over the world flocking to the Belgian capital Brussels

 

Absent: The huge state ceremony was without British royalty Representative: The UK was instead represented by British ambassador Alison Rose

Absent: The huge state ceremony was without British royalty, with the UK instead represented by British ambassador Alison Rose

Loss: The former King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians were mourning the loss of their sister-in-law

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Loss: The former King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians were mourning the loss of their sister-in-law

Extended family: Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este and his wife Princess Astrid of Belgium (left) also attended the funeral

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Extended family: Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este and his wife Princess Astrid of Belgium (left) also attended the funeral

Much missed: Princess Maria Laura, Prince Joachim and Prince Amedeo of Belgium talk during the funeral service

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Much missed: Princess Maria Laura, Prince Joachim and Prince Amedeo of Belgium talk during the funeral service

Future queen: Crown Princess Elisabeth (left) with Elisabetta Rosboch von Wolkenstein during the sombre funeral ceremony

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Future queen: Crown Princess Elisabeth (left) with Elisabetta Rosboch von Wolkenstein during the sombre funeral ceremony

Sombre: King Philippe of the Belgians was known to be close to his aunt and issued a statement that spoke of his 'sadness' at her death

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Sombre: King Philippe of the Belgians was known to be close to his aunt and issued a statement that spoke of his 'sadness' at her death

Grim: Queen Mathilde looked solemn as she made her way into the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels

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Grim: Queen Mathilde looked solemn as she made her way into the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels

Visibly upset: Philippe and his wife Mathilde, who took the Belgian throne in 2013, both looked visibly upset as they made their way inside

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Visibly upset: Philippe and his wife Mathilde, who took the Belgian throne in 2013, both looked visibly upset as they made their way inside

Comfort: Mathilde and Philippe were joined by his parents, the former King Albert II and his wife, Queen Paola

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Comfort: Mathilde and Philippe were joined by his parents, the former King Albert II and his wife, Queen Paola

 

Upsetting: All the Belgian royals looked devastated Rain-soaked: The emotional occasion took place at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in the centre of rain-swept Brussels

Rain-soaked: The emotional occasion took place at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in the centre of rain-swept Brussels

Saying goodbye: Princess Louise, Prince Aymeric and Prince Nicholas of Belgium were among the mourners

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Saying goodbye: Princess Louise, Prince Aymeric and Prince Nicholas of Belgium were among the mourners

Heirs: The future Queen Elisabeth (centre) was joined by her siblings Princess Eleanore, Prince Gabriel and Prince Emmanuel

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Heirs: The future Queen Elisabeth (centre) was joined by her siblings Princess Eleanore, Prince Gabriel and Prince Emmanuel

Tragic: Queen Fabiola was adored by her nephew, King Philippe, as well as his wife Mathilde and their four children

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Tragic: Queen Fabiola was adored by her nephew, King Philippe, as well as his wife Mathilde and their four children

Mourning: The former King Albert II arrived with his wife Queen Paola, who wore a traditional lace mantilla

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Mourning: The former King Albert II arrived with his wife Queen Paola, who wore a traditional lace mantilla

Upset: Queen Fabiola took a step back from public life after her husband died in order to make sure she didn't overshadow Queen Paola

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Upset: Queen Fabiola took a step back from public life after her husband died in order to make sure she didn't overshadow Queen Paola

After the service, which saw several members of the Belgian royal family burst into tears, the coffin was driven away through the rainy streets to Laeken Palace for a family burial.

Fabiola reigned as Queen Consort for more than 33 years but, tragically, was unable to have children which meant the Belgian throne passed to her husband Badouin's younger brother Albert upon his death in July 1993.

After Badouin's death, the royal, who was born Fabiola Fernanda Maria de las Victorias Antonia Adélaïda Mora y Aragon, took a step back from the limelight and spent her final years championing good causes, among them women's issues and action on disability.

Despite handing over the reins of power, the dowager queen remained an enormously popular member of the Belgian royal family, not least with her nephew King Philippe who is thought to have been left devastated by her death.

A statement released by the Palace following the announcement of her death spoke of the family's sadness at the loss. Their feelings are shared by the Belgian people, with Foreign minister Didier Reynders telling Belgium's RTL television channel that 'all Belgians would mourn her passing'.

'A page in our country's history has turned,' he added.

Although her exact cause of death has not been confirmed, Queen Fabiola had been suffering from osteoporosis for years, and had never fully recovered from pneumonia in 2009.

A look back at the life of Queen Fabiola of Belgium

 

Saddened: Denmark's 74-year-old Queen Margrethe II (right) arrives for the funeral of Queen Fabiola

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Saddened: Denmark's 74-year-old Queen Margrethe II (right) arrives for the funeral of Queen Fabiola

Mourners: Norway's King Harald V arrived for the funeral with his 82-year-old older sister, Princess Astrid (left)

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Mourners: Norway's King Harald V arrived for the funeral with his 82-year-old older sister, Princess Astrid (left)

Upset: Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf (centre) and his wife Queen Silvia (right) were among the mourners

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Upset: Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf (centre) and his wife Queen Silvia (right) were among the mourners

Long journey: Japan's elderly Empress Michiko travelled all the way from Tokyo to be at the funeral

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Long journey: Japan's elderly Empress Michiko travelled all the way from Tokyo to be at the funeral

Devastated: The former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands represented Belgium's neighbours at the funeral

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Devastated: The former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands represented Belgium's neighbours at the funeral

 

Thailand's Princess Sirindhorn Prince Moulay Rachid El Alaoui of Morocco

Paying their respects: Thailand's Princess Sirindhorn (left) arrives for the funeral alongside Prince Moulay Rachid El Alaoui of Morocco

Respectful: Spain's former king, Juan Carlos, and his wife Queen Sofia sat next to the Netherlands' former queen, Beatrix (right)

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Respectful: Spain's former king, Juan Carlos, and his wife Queen Sofia sat next to the Netherlands' former queen, Beatrix (right)

Saying goodbye: Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg (centre) and Grand Duchess Maria Theresa commiserate with Prince Laurent of Belgium

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Saying goodbye: Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg (centre) and Grand Duchess Maria Theresa commiserate with Prince Laurent of Belgium

The former queen, who used a wheelchair, had looked increasingly frail over the past month as she increasingly limited her already rare public appearances.

Fabiola, born Fabiola Fernanda Maria de las Victorias Antonia Adélaïda Mora y Aragon, made her entrance in 1928, and was the sixth of seven children born to an aristocratic family in Madrid.

Her father, Don Gonzalo Mora y Fernández, Conde de Mora and Marqués de Casa Riera, was one of Spain's biggest landowners and the godmother he chose for his daughter was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.

Brought up in a marble-fronted palace in Madrid until the age of three, Fabiola, like the rest of the Spanish royal family, was forced to flee in 1931 when General Franco swept to power.

Moving between Paris, the Basque country and Switzerland, the family lived a nomadic lifestyle for almost a decade before returning to Spain in 1939 to reclaim their palace.

 

Mourning: Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg Solemn: Princess Astrid of Norway (left) and former King Juan Carlos of Spain

Mourning: Jean, former Grand Duke of Luxembourg, pays his respects alongside King Juan Carlos, the former king of Spain (right)

Solemn: Royals, including former Spanish king Juan Carlos (centre), Princess Astrid of Norway and Grand Duke Henri, pay their respects

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Solemn: Royals, including former Spanish king Juan Carlos (centre), Princess Astrid of Norway and Grand Duke Henri, pay their respects

Mourning: Queen Fabiola's coffin is borne on the shoulders of military pallbearers as they prepare for the funeral to begin

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Mourning: Queen Fabiola's coffin is borne on the shoulders of military pallbearers as they prepare for the funeral to begin

Last rites: Queen Fabiola's coffin is carried up the steps of the cathedral by a military guard of honour

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Last rites: Queen Fabiola's coffin is carried up the steps of the cathedral by a military guard of honour

Saddened: Queen Fabiola's coffin was followed into the church by the Belgian royal family, including King Philippe and Queen Mathilde

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Saddened: Queen Fabiola's coffin was followed into the church by the Belgian royal family, including King Philippe and Queen Mathilde

Cold: The chilly December gloom accurately reflected the mood of the Belgian people who are mourning Queen Fabiola

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Cold: The chilly December gloom accurately reflected the mood of the Belgian people who are mourning Queen Fabiola

Grim: King Philippe follows his aunt's coffin up the steps. The two were know to have been close

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Grim: King Philippe follows his aunt's coffin up the steps. The two were know to have been close

 

Salute: A guard salutes as the coffin arrives Tragic: A sombre crowd turned out to pay their last respects

Last respects: A Belgian military guard salutes as the coffin arrives at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gulda in front of a sombre crowd

Escort: The hearse carrying Fabiola's coffin was escorted to and from the cathedral by an honour guard of mounted soldiers

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Escort: The hearse carrying Fabiola's coffin was escorted to and from the cathedral by an honour guard of mounted soldiers

After finishing school, Fabiola trained as a military nurse but resigned herself to spinsterhood after rejecting a series of Spanish aristocratic suitors as being 'insufficiently serious'.

That all changed when the young king of the Belgians, Badouin I, came looking for a wife. The couple, who were introduced by a mutual friend, fell in love and in 1960, the pair married in a lavish ceremony that saw Fabiola proceed down the aisle wearing a fur-trimmed gown by Balenciaga.

Watching from the pews was Britain's representative, the late Princess Margaret.

Despite early problems, including a long-running family feud involving Fabiola and Baudouin's step-mother, Princess Liliane, the couple proved popular with the Belgian people.

Fabiola, who despite her best efforts was never able to have the children she so longed for, threw herself into good causes instead and became famous for her embrace of haute couture, with Chanel among her favourites.

Nevertheless, their lack of children remained painful for both halves of the couple, with King Badouin telling a group of children in 1979 that remaining childless was a constant 'sorrow'.

Honoured: Fabiola was buried after the state funeral, which saw her coffin carried into the cathedral, draped in a Belgian flag

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Honoured: Fabiola was buried after the state funeral, which saw her coffin carried into the cathedral, draped in a Belgian flag

Long reign: Fabiola was enormously popular among the Belgian people and reigned as Queen Consort for more than 33 years

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Long reign: Fabiola was enormously popular among the Belgian people and reigned as Queen Consort for more than 33 years

Connection: Fabiola was born into an aristocratic Spanish family in 1928 and was forced to go on the run when General Franco took power

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Connection: Fabiola was born into an aristocratic Spanish family in 1928 and was forced to go on the run when General Franco took power

Long life: Fabiola died last Friday at her home at Laeken, a country estate just outside Belgian capital Brussels

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Long life: Fabiola died last Friday at her home at Laeken, a country estate just outside Belgian capital Brussels

Saddened: Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of the Belgians look grim as they follow Queen Fabiola's coffin out of the cathedral

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Saddened: Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of the Belgians look grim as they follow Queen Fabiola's coffin out of the cathedral

Tearful: The royals were left sobbing as tributes were paid to their aunt, who died last Friday aged 86

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Tearful: The royals were left sobbing as tributes were paid to their aunt, who died last Friday aged 86

 

Devastated: King Philippe and Queen Mathilde Final journey: They follow the coffin out of the church

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Devastated: King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians follow Queen Fabiola's flag draped coffin out of the cathedral

Burial: The dowager queen of the Belgians will be buried during a private ceremony at Laeken Castle

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Burial: The dowager queen of the Belgians will be buried during a private ceremony at Laeken Castle

'You know that we are childless,' he said. 'For many years we struggled to fathom the meaning of this sorrow. But gradually we came to understand that, having no children ourselves, we have more room in our hearts to love all, truly all, children.'

Fabiola, who suffered five miscarriages during the course of her marriage to Baudoin, also spoke about her losses, telling well-wishers of the problems she had had during a meeting in 2008.

'You know, I myself lost five children,' she said. 'You learn something from that experience. I had problems with all my pregnancies, but you know, in the end I think life is beautiful.'

After her husband Badouin died unexpectedly in 1993, Fabiola withdrew from public life - partly in a bid to avoid overshadowing her sister-in-law, the former Queen Paola.

Nevertheless, she remained popular among the Belgian people, who were horrified when, in 2009, she was hospitalised for 15 days with a bout of pneumonia.

In July 2009, alarming anonymous death threats were published by newspapers which revealed that Queen Fabiola was to be assassinated with a crossbow.

Undaunted, she swiftly responded to the death threats during the Belgian national holiday celebrations later that month when she jokingly waved an apple to the crowd.

The provocative gesture, a reference to Swiss folk hero William Tell who shot an apple off the head of his son, won her much praise.

 

Still smiling: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark Saddened: Princess Beatrix (formerly Queen Beatrix) of the Netherlands

End of an era: Denmark's Margrethe II allows herself a smile as she leaves the church while Princess Beatrix (formerly queen) looks sad

Upsetting: The devastated Belgian royal family follows the coffin of Queen Fabiola out of the Brussels cathedral

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Upsetting: The devastated Belgian royal family follows the coffin of Queen Fabiola out of the Brussels cathedral

 

Grand Duke Henry and Grand Duchess Maria Theresa of Luxembourg

Sombre: Grand Duke Henry and Grand Duchess Maria Theresa of Luxembourg (left) and their son Prince Guillaume and his wife Stephanie

Final resting place: The hearse carrying Queen Fabiola's coffin begins its journey to her final resting place

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Final resting place: The hearse carrying Queen Fabiola's coffin begins its journey to her final resting place

Waving goodbye: Mourners appeared along the hearse's route to Laeken where Queen Fabiola will be buried in a private ceremony

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Waving goodbye: Mourners appeared along the hearse's route to Laeken where Queen Fabiola will be buried in a private ceremony

 

On her way: Queen Fabiola is driven out of Brussels for the final time Convoy: The hearse carrying her body was followed by a convoy of mourners

Procession: Queen Fabiola's  coffin, surrounded by motorcycle outriders and followed by a convoy of mourners, is driven through Brussels

Final journey: Queen Fabiola's funeral cortege left the Royal Palace of Belgium this morning, accompanied by a guard of honour

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Final journey: Queen Fabiola's funeral cortege left the Royal Palace of Belgium this morning, accompanied by a guard of honour

Cortege: The late queen's body was driven to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in central Brussels

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Cortege: The late queen's body was driven to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in central Brussels

Procession: Mounted guards accompanied Queen Fabiola's funeral cortege through the almost deserted streets of Brussels

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Procession: Mounted guards accompanied Queen Fabiola's funeral cortege through the almost deserted streets of Brussels

Standstill: The Belgian capital came to a halt as mourners carrying national flags turned out to say goodbye

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Standstill: The Belgian capital came to a halt as mourners carrying national flags turned out to say goodbye

Missed: Queen Fabiola had suffered from ill health in recent years, most notably when she was hospitalised with pneumonia in January 2009

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Missed: Queen Fabiola had suffered from ill health in recent years, most notably when she was hospitalised with pneumonia in January 2009

Happy memories: Queen Fabiola, pictured with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1963, was adored by the Belgian people and her own family

Happy memories: Queen Fabiola, pictured with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1963, was adored by the Belgian people and her own family

 

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Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, attend the inauguration ceremony at the Nieuwe Kerk church in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (Reuters/Peter Dejong) #

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Front row, from left, Japan's Crown Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al Misned of Qatar, Morocco's Princess Lalla Salma and Prince Albert of Monaco attend the inauguration ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) #

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Dutch King Willem-Alexander takes the oath during his inauguration inside the Nieuwe Kerk on April 30, 2013.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong) #

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People celebrate on a boat in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. Around a million people are expected to descend on the Dutch capital for a huge street party to celebrate the first new Dutch monarch in 33 years. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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A man wearing a t-shirt which reads "Alexander is een fokking Koning" (Alexander is a fucking King) walks with his girlfriend in the red light district in Amsterdam, on April 28, 2013. (Reuters/Cris Toala Olivares) #

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A woman celebrates the new Dutch King Willem-Alexander succeeds his mother Queen Beatrix, in Amsterdam's Dam Square, on April 30, 2013. (Reuters/Cris Toala Olivares) #

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People dance In the street in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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People celebrate on a canal boat in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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Newly-crowned Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace with their children, Catharina-Amalia, Ariane, and Alexia in Amsterdam, on April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Robin Utrecht)

 

All eyes will be on The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son Prince George next Tuesday, 22nd July, as the future king celebrates his first birthday.

To commemorate the date, this beautiful set of pictures has been released, depicting Royal babies over the past 87 years.

The oldest photograph from the set dates all the way back to 27th June 1927, and portrays the Duke and Duchess of York with King George V and Queen Mary and the then Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Royal portrait: Queen Elizabeth II holds Prince Edward, surrounded by her family, (left to right) the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne, at Windsor on the occasion of her 39th birthday

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Royal portrait: Queen Elizabeth II holds Prince Edward, surrounded by her family, (left to right) the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne, at Windsor on the occasion of her 39th birthday

An adorable family portrait shows Princess Elizabeth with her children Prince Charles and Princess Anne on her 1st birthday, taken on 15th August 1951.

And 1949, Prince Charles is pictured about to turn one himself. At 11 1/2 months Charles weighed 24 1/2 lbs, had six teeth and could walk a few steps by holding onto the sides of his play pen.

And many from the set show a beaming Queen Elizabeth with her family on her 39th birthday on 21st April 1965.

 

Standing proud! Prince George, pictured here, will turn one on Tuesday Princess Elizabeth with her children Prince Charles and Princess Anne on her 1st birthday, taken on 15th August 1951

Now and then: Prince George, left, at London's Natural History Museum, will turn one next week. Right: Princess Elizabeth with her children Prince Charles and Princess Anne on Anne's first birthday, taken on 15th August 1951

Young Prince: Charles and Diana, The Prince and Princess of Wales play with their first son Prince William on a rug in the grounds of Government House in Auckland, New Zealand, 1, May 1983

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Young Prince: Charles and Diana, The Prince and Princess of Wales play with their first son Prince William on a rug in the grounds of Government House in Auckland, New Zealand, 1, May 1983

 

Heartwarming: Princess Anne in the arms of Princess Elizabeth, with the Duke of Edinburgh, holding Prince Charles, in the grounds of Clarence House, their London residence, 9 August 1951 Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Andrew, 16 January 1961

Heartwarming: Left is a picture of Princess Anne in the arms of Princess Elizabeth, with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh holding Prince Charles in August 1951. Right, Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Andrew on 16th January 1961

 

Prince Charles, now the Prince of Wales, on his his first birthday, 12th November 1949, with his smiling mother, Princess Elizabeth. At 11 1/2 months the baby weighed 24 1/2 lbs and had six teeth and could walk a few steps by holding onto the sides of his play pen Prince Charles, now the Prince of Wales, on his his first birthday, 12th November 1949

First birthday: Prince Charles pictured about to turn one in November 1949. Left, with his smiling mother, Princess Elizabeth. At 11 1/2 months Charles weighed 24 1/2 lbs and had six teeth and could walk a few steps by holding onto the sides of his play pen

On the road: Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Andrew, the Prince of Wales, Princess Anne and the Duke of Edinburgh on 16th January 1961

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On the road: Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Andrew, the Prince of Wales, Princess Anne and the Duke of Edinburgh on 16th January 1961

 

Baby blondes: Zara and Peter Phillips, children of Princess Anne and her husband, Captain Mark Phillips, pictured on 15th November 1982 Diana, Princess of Wales carrying baby Prince Harry on 7th August 1985

Eighties babies: Zara and Peter Phillips, left on 15th November 1982 and, right, Diana, Princess of Wales, carrying baby Prince Harry on 7th August 1985

On the road: Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Andrew, the Prince of Wales, Princess Anne and the Duke of Edinburgh on 16th January 1961

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On the road: Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Andrew, the Prince of Wales, Princess Anne and the Duke of Edinburgh on 16th January 1961

 

Proud mother: Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Edward at Frogmore House on 21st April 1965 Princess Elizabeth, with the Duke of Edinburgh, and their two children, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne, in the grounds of Clarence House, their London residence, 9th August 1951

Proud mother: Queen Elizabeth II with baby Prince Edward at Frogmore House, left, and with the Duke of Edinburgh, and their two children, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne, right, in the grounds of Clarence House 9th August 1951

Happy family: Queen Elizabeth with the Duke of Edinburgh and their children: (left to right) Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew on the lawn at Frogmore House, Windsor

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Happy family: Queen Elizabeth with the Duke of Edinburgh and their children: (left to right) Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew on the lawn at Frogmore House, Windsor

Carefully does it: Duke of Edinburgh keeping a steady hand and eye on baby Prince Edward whilst daughter Princess Anne looks on. Behind is the Queen and Prince Andrew in the Gardens of Frogmore House, Windsor, Berkshire

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Carefully does it: Duke of Edinburgh keeping a steady hand and eye on baby Prince Edward whilst daughter Princess Anne looks on. Behind is the Queen and Prince Andrew in the Gardens of Frogmore House, Windsor, Berkshire

Remarkable: The Duke and Duchess of York with King George V and Queen Mary and the then Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on 27th June 1927

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Remarkable: The Duke and Duchess of York with King George V and Queen Mary and the then Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on 27th June 1927

 

     

Belgium's former Queen Fabiola dies at the age of 86

  • Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said: 'A page in our country's history has turned'
  • The former Queen's cause of death has not been announced, but her health had been ailing since a bout of pneumonia in 2009
  • Fabiola became queen of Belgium when she married King Baudouin in 1960
  • She remained Queen Consort for 33 years - until Baudoin's death in 1993
  • The couple had no children, and Fabiola suffered five miscarriages over the course of her marriage

Belgium's former Queen Fabiola has died at the age of 86 at Stuyvenbergh Castle.

A statement from the palace today said: 'Their majesties the King and Queen and the members of the royal family announce with great sadness the death of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola in Brussels this evening.'

Foreign minister Didier Reynders said all Belgians would mourn her passing. 'A page in our country's history has turned,' he told Belgium's RTL television.

King Philippe of Belgium said he was left with 'great sadness' when he heard of the death of his aunt.

Scroll down for video

Passed away: Belgium's former Queen Fabiola, pictured in 2008, has died at the age of 86 at Stuyvenbergh Castle, the palace has announced

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Passed away: Belgium's former Queen Fabiola, pictured in 2008, has died at the age of 86 at Stuyvenbergh Castle, the palace has announced

Customary: A flag flies at half mast at the Royal Palace of Brussels to signal a state of mourning 

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Customary: A flag flies at half mast at the Royal Palace of Brussels to signal a state of mourning

Although her exact cause of death has not been confirmed, Queen Fabiola, the childless widow of King Baudouin, had been suffering from osteoporosis for years, and had never fully recovered from pneumonia in 2009.

The former queen, who used a wheelchair, had looked increasingly frail over the past month as she increasingly limited her public appearances.

Fabiola was born in 1928 as Fabiola de Mora y Aragón into an aristocratic family in Madrid, Spain.

Her godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.

She became queen of Belgium when she married King Baudouin in 1960.

Tribute: Floral tributes are placed at the gates of the Royal Palace

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Tribute: Floral tributes are placed at the gates of the Royal Palace

Sad day: A woman brings flowers to the gate of the palace in memory of Fabiola as a police officer looks on

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Sad day: A woman brings flowers to the gate of the palace in memory of Fabiola as a police officer looks on

Fabiola remained Queen Consort for 33 years - until Baudouin's death on July 31 1993. He died of heart failure in the Villa Astrida in the south of Spain.

After Baudouin's death, Fabiola moved out of the Royal Palace of Laeken to take up residence at Stuyvenbergh Castle.

As the couple had no children, the crown passed on to Baudoin's younger brother, King Albert II, who abdicated the throne in 2013 citing health reasons.

He was succeeded by his son, now King Phillippe, on 21 July 2013.

Nephew: King Philippe of Belgium, pictured today with Queen Mathilde Ronse in East Flanders, Belgium, said he was left with 'great sadness' when he heard of the death of his aunt

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Nephew: King Philippe of Belgium, pictured today with Queen Mathilde Ronse in East Flanders, Belgium, said he was left with 'great sadness' when he heard of the death of his aunt

Departure: King Philippe (right), Queen Mathilde (left) and Princess Elisabeth leave Stuyvenberg Castle in Laeken this evening after paying tribute to Fabiola

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Departure: King Philippe (right), Queen Mathilde (left) and Princess Elisabeth leave Stuyvenberg Castle in Laeken this evening after paying tribute to Fabiola

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Mourning: King Philippe leaving Stuyvenberg Castle after the sad news

Declining health: Queen Fabiola pictured July 20 2013 arriving for a concert at Bozar, the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels

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Declining health: Queen Fabiola pictured July 20 2013 arriving for a concert at Bozar, the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels

Wheelchair user: Although her exact cause of death has not been confirmed, Queen Fabiola had been suffering from osteoporosis for years. Pictured in Feburary 2013 at the Church of Our Lady Bruges

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Wheelchair user: Although her exact cause of death has not been confirmed, Queen Fabiola had been suffering from osteoporosis for years. Pictured in Feburary 2013 at the Church of Our Lady Bruges

Fabiola, a devout Roman Catholic, was generally regarded to be a popular monarch, known for her tireless charity work.

I myself lost five children. You learn something from that experience

In 2001, she was awarded the Ceres Medal in recognition of her work to help rural women in developing countries.

Tragically, Fabiola suffered five miscarriages during the course of her marriage to Baudoin.

She openly spoke about this in 2008, stating: 'You know, I myself lost five children.

'You learn something from that experience. I had problems with all my pregnancies, but you know, in the end I think life is beautiful.'

Portrait: Fabiola posing during a family picture session on Janurary 8 2002 at the Royal Palace in Brussels

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Portrait: Fabiola posing during a family picture session on Janurary 8 2002 at the Royal Palace in Brussels

Royal family: Queen Fabiola (left), Princess Eleonore, Queen Mathilde, Prince Gabriel, King Philippe, Princess Elisabeth, Prince Emmanuel, King Albert II and Queen Paola greeting the population from the balcony of the Royal Palace in Brussels on July 21 2013

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Royal family: Queen Fabiola (left), Princess Eleonore, Queen Mathilde, Prince Gabriel, King Philippe, Princess Elisabeth, Prince Emmanuel, King Albert II and Queen Paola greeting the population from the balcony of the Royal Palace in Brussels on July 21 2013

Young: An undated portrait of Fabiola taken before her marriage to King Baudoin in 1960

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Young: An undated portrait of Fabiola taken before her marriage to King Baudoin in 1960

Beauty: An undated portrait of Queen Fabiola in her younger years

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Beauty: An undated portrait of Queen Fabiola in her younger years

Marriage: Fabiola and the late King Baudouin  during their wedding at the royal castle in Brussels on December 15, 1960

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Marriage: Fabiola and the late King Baudouin during their wedding at the royal castle in Brussels on December 15, 1960

It's official: Fabiola and Baudouin, pictured again during their wedding

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It's official: Fabiola and Baudouin, pictured again during their wedding

Fabiola's bout of ill health commenced in January 2009 when she was hospitalised with pneumonia and spent 15 days there, with her condition being described as 'serious'. She subsequently recovered.

In July 2009, alarming anonymous death threats were published by newspapers which stated Queen Fabiola was to be assassinated with a crossbow.

She swiftly responded to the death threats during the Belgian national holiday celebrations later that month when she jokingly waved an apple to the crowd.

The provocative gesture, a reference to Swiss folk hero William Tell who shot an apple off the head of his son, won her much praise.

A look back at the life of Queen Fabiola of Belgium

Happy couple: King Baudouin (left) and Queen Fabiola (right) posing in the parc of the Royal Castle of Laeken, in Brussels on September 3, 1980

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Happy couple: King Baudouin (left) and Queen Fabiola (right) posing in the parc of the Royal Castle of Laeken, in Brussels on September 3, 1980

Fabiola (left) and Baudouin (right) pictured in 1993 shortly before he died of heart failure on July 31

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Fabiola (left) and Baudouin (right) pictured in 1993 shortly before he died of heart failure on July 31

Devout Roman Catholic: Pope John Paul II pictured receiving a hand kiss by Fabiola during the beatification ceremony of Charles Hapsburg on October 3, 2004, at St Peter's Square in Vatican City

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Devout Roman Catholic: Pope John Paul II pictured receiving a hand kiss by Fabiola during the beatification ceremony of Charles Hapsburg on October 3, 2004, at St Peter's Square in Vatican City

A day in the life: King Albert II (left) and Fabiola  during a Belgian Royal Family photo session at the Castle of Laeken on September 2, 2012

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A day in the life: King Albert II (left) and Fabiola during a Belgian Royal Family photo session at the Castle of Laeken on September 2, 2012

Candid: King Albert II (right) gestures as he enjoys the beautiful weather with Queen Fabiola (left) in the garden of the Royal Palace in Laeken on May 28 2003

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Candid: King Albert II (right) gestures as he enjoys the beautiful weather with Queen Fabiola (left) in the garden of the Royal Palace in Laeken on May 28 2003

Violet delight: Fabiola pictured at the wedding of Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano at the Almudene Cathedral in Madrid, Spain, on May 22, 2004

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Violet delight: Fabiola pictured at the wedding of Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano at the Almudene Cathedral in Madrid, Spain, on May 22, 2004

In memory: Fabiola attending a service commemorating the 60th anniversary of 'Comete',  a World War II escape network, in Brussels on October 21, 2001

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In memory: Fabiola attending a service commemorating the 60th anniversary of 'Comete', a World War II escape network, in Brussels on October 21, 2001

 

 

British royal weddings take place about once a generation and are celebrated in lavish tradition. Fans of the royal family gather early, crowding around London's Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral to catch glimpses of royalty and be a part of these rare occasions. Since the beginning of the 20th century, these massive events have been captured by photographers, allowing close-up views of the royals in their finest attire and a providing record of the times. Many thanks to the fine people at the Corbis Archives, the Associated Press, and more, for letting me dive into their collections of images from royal weddings past -- from Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles in 1922 to Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1981.

Lady Diana Spencer, soon to become the Princess of Wales, shows off her wedding gown for the first time as her bridesmaids set her train on arrival at Saint Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981. (Reuters/Mal Langsdon)

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Police officers restrain a crowd of people who turned out for the wedding of Princess Mary and Henry Charles George, Viscount Lascelles, in February of 1922. (© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)#

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Spectators look on as workmen carry large crowns for Princess Mary's marriage to Henry Charles George, Viscount Lascelles, at Westminster Abbey in 1922. (© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)#

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The Duchess of York leaves her house for her wedding in April of 1923. (© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)#

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Britain's Duke of York and his bride pass crowds of cheering people as they return to Buckingham Palace after their wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey, England, on April 26, 1923. (AP Photo) #

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The royal wedding party, with the Duke of York and his bride at the center in May of 1923. On the left are Lady Mary Cambridge, Lady Mary Thynne, the Hon. Diamond Hardinge, and the Hon. Elizabeth Elphinstone (front). On the right are Lady May Cambridge, Lady Katherine Hamilton, Miss Betty Cator, and the Hon. Cecilia Bowes-Lyon (front). (© Bettmann/CORBIS)#

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From left to right: Lady May Abel Smith, Princess Marie Louise, Princess Beatrice, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone. In foreground, Princess Elizabeth (the future queen), Princess Patricia, Alexander Cambridge (the Earl of Athlone), and Master Alex Ramsey. All watching the departure of the Prince Henry, The Duke of Gloucester and his wife Princess Alice, The Duchess of York formerly Lady Alice Scott, in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, London on November 6, 1935. (AP Photo/Staff/Putnam) #

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Eager hands reach through the bars of the forecourt at Buckingham Palace, London on November 6, 1935, as watchers try to gather the rose petals that fell from all sides upon Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, and his new wife, Princess Alice.(AP Photo/Staff/Putnam) #

9

Britain's Duke and Duchess of Gloucester wave to the huge crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace, London after their wedding on November 6, 1935. (AP Photo) #

10

Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten in September 1947, two months before they were to be married. (AP Photo) #

11

Louisa Sorrell, 17-year-old employee of Warner and Sons, Ltd., begins the second stage in the preparation of the silk for Princess Elizabeth's bridal train on Oct. 10, 1947. Here, Sorrell takes up the slack in the thread where necessary. (AP Photo) #

12

Huddled together on the pavement opposite Westminster Abbey, London on November 20th, 1947, these people made sure of their positions for the Royal procession for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. (AP Photo) #

13

An elevation shot taken from Buckingham Palace shows thousands of Londoners gathered around the Victoria Memorial at the entrance to Buckingham Palace to cheer the newly married Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and members of the Royal family when they appeared on the palace balcony following the wedding in Westminster Abbey on November 21st, 1947.(© Bettmann/CORBIS) #

14

An ocean of humanity in London on November 20th, 1947, as people try to get a glimpse of the Royal Wedding procession of Princess Elizabeth, near South Africa House and St. Martin in the Fields Church. (AP Photo) #

15

The bridal procession carrying Princess Elizabeth and her father King George VI is seen turning into Whitehall in London on November 20th, 1947, with the sovereign's escort of Household Cavalry. (AP Photo) #

16

A London youngster is handed over the heads of spectators in Trafalgar Square, London, in an effort to prevent her from being crushed in the mass of people trying to witness the Royal Wedding procession of Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten, November 20th, 1947. (AP Photo) #

17

The bridal procession, with the sovereign's escort of Household Cavalry, is seen leaving Buckingham Palace in London for Westminster Abbey on November 20th, 1947. (AP Photo) #

18

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh wave to the crowd from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, November 20, 1947. From left to right, King George VI, Princess Margaret, Lady Mary Cambridge, the bride and bridegroom, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. (AP Photo) #

19

Princess Anne, shown with her father Prince Phillip, during her wedding to Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey in London, England on November 14, 1973. (AP Photo) #

20

The wedding of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips at the Westminster Abbey in London, England on November 14, 1973.(AP Photo) #

21

Princes Anne and Capt. Mark Phillips share a laugh on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their wedding.(© Bettmann/CORBIS)#

22

Crowds sleep out in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London on July 19, 1981 to be sure of getting a good view of the Royal Wedding procession of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer the next day. (AP Photo) #

23

A passerby looks at a window display of the royal wedding at the British Airway office on New York's Fifth Avenue on July 27, 1981. The display includes photographs of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and toy soldiers arranged in parade formation.(AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler) #

24

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer are shown on their wedding day at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981.(AP Photo) #

25

With a 7.6 meter (25-foot) sweeping train, the Princess of Wales, former Lady Diana Spencer, leaves St. Paul's Cathedral arm in arm with Prince Charles at the end of their wedding ceremony in London, July 29, 1981. (AP Photo) #

26

Charles, Prince of Wales, and bride, Lady Diana, wave the crowd in coach as they pass through Fleet Street after their wedding at St Paul's Cathedral, on July 29, 1981. (AFP/Getty Images) #

27

Flag-waving wedding enthusiasts, including skinheads, dance atop one of the fountains of Trafalgar Square after watching the wedding procession of Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales in London on July 29, 1981. (AP Photo) #

28

Spectacular effects fill the sky over Hyde Park, London on Tuesday, July 28, 1981, during the fireworks display to mark the Royal Wedding on Wednesday. (AP Photo) #

29

Britain's Prince Charles kisses his bride, Princess Diana on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London, England after their wedding on July 29, 1981. (AP Photo)

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