The bridal couple (photo copyrighted by the Belgian Royal Court)
9.25: Route of the processions: Royal Palace - Paleizenplein - Koningsstraat - Kolonieënstraat - Putterij - Infante Isabellastraat - Agoraplein - Grasmarkt - Heuvelstraat - Grote Markt.
Departure of the first procession from the Palace in Brussels (Royal Motorcycle Cavalcade) with Queen Fabiola and Prince Laurent, The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz, the brother and sisters of the bride.
9.30: Departure of the second procession from the Palace in Brussels (Royal Mounted Escort) with the King and Mrs. Patrick d’Udekem d’Acoz, the Queen and Prince Philippe, Mr. Patrick d’Udekem d’Acoz and the bride.
10.00: Civil marriage ceremony in Brussels Town Hall, leaded by the major of Brussels chevalier Francois-Xavier de Donnéa de Hamoir. The civil service will be held in the three national languages Flemish, French and German.
10.30: The couple and their parents appear on the balcony of the Town Hall.
10:40: Departure of the couple, family and guests to the Cathedral. The route is: Grote Markt - Heuvelstraat - Agoraplein - Infante Isabellastraat - Putterij - Kolonieënstraat - Kanselarijstraat - Cathedral Square.
11.15: Nuptial Mass in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, leaded by cardinal Danneels. The religious service will have a classical character with lots of music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and music of Belgian composers.
13.25: Route of the procession to the Royal Palace is: Cathedral Square - Kanselarijstraat - Kolonieënstraat - Koningsstraat - Paleizenplein - Royal Palace.
Arrival at the Royal Palace in Brussels.
13.30: The couple and their parents appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace.
14.00: Reception for the guests. The official photographs are made at the Royal Palace in Brussels.
15.00: Luncheon at the Royal Palace in Brussels.
17.15: Family photographs are taken at the Royal Palace in Brussels.
18.30: Reception at the Royal Castle in Laeken.
I arrived in Brussels on December 3rd, more than in time to enjoy the wedding. At the central station I met Tanguy from Belgium (who was in fact responsible for my appearance, I promised to go to the wedding of Prince Philippe with him in August - so before the engagement even took place) and Ademar from Portugal. After having found a place to sleep in a very cheap youth hotel, we went into town. We met Alberto from Brazil at the Sint Michiel & Sint Goedele Cathedral. Unfortunately there was no way to enter the cathedral, many people were working on the decoration inside. In the city many shops had a poster or photo of Philippe and Mathilde in the shop windows. We first watched the outside of the royal palace and then visited the Museum of the Dynasty in a wing of the palace. The museum was very interesting and really worth visiting. Later that afternoon we were not able to enter the royal carriages at another museum, better next time. In the evening when the others had gone home/hotel, I went to the cathedral again. A Dutch camera team had just done a short live registration. I walked around the cathedral and was surprised to find out that a guard was so kind to let me in and I had a look at a beautiful decorated church with white flowers and some red on the altar, with green between them. Like a fairytale! I heard by the way I had missed the general rehearsal in the beginning of the evening, and heard also that Queen Paola had been ill all week and hadn't attend it.
On December 4th I woke up at 4:45 in the morning, and soon I was outside. As there were not that many people in front of the cathedral I bought my breakfast at a croissanterie. Back in front of the cathedral there was some time to talk with Belgians who already arrived there at 4:00 in the morning. It was terribly cold but we had the best spots. Also a woman from Paris was sitting on a chair first row. The press was walking around, making interviews and photos. I did one interview and the woman was very surprised to hear that I had travelled for some 5 hours just for the wedding. Later I discovered in the newspapers many people had come from countries far away (probably on a world tour). Suddenly I heard someone calling my name, and saw someone I had met at Prinsjesdag in September. Surprise! Not much later Tanguy, Ademar and Alberto showed up. We had some good places. Now the waiting began: talking, trying to get warm, and watching the work at the front of the cathedral. The (ugly) special roof over the stairs had still to be decorated with plants and the red carpet had to be laid. Interesting to watch it all. The musicians arrived early, also the court people. The first guests already arrived for the civil ceremony had started.
On 9:25 we turned on Ademar's little television set. We saw the first procession leave the royal palace: Queen Fabiola with Prince Laurent, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg, Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz, Prince Amedeo and Princess Maria-Laura, Elisabeth and Hélène d'Udekem d'Acoz and Charles-Henri d'Udekem d' Acoz. Some minutes later the second procession left: first King Albert II, in gala uniform of the land-forces, with Anne d'Udekem d'Acoz, Queen Paola with a nervous Prince Philippe in his uniform of a colonel of the royal air force, and finally Patrick d'Udekem d'Acoz with the bride ... Mathilde. We got crazy just by watching the very little TV-screen. 128 horsemen of the royal horse escort in costumes accompanied the processions from 1914 and also by a motor escort.
The bride wore a beautiful, simple and taut crème-coloured pencil dress with 4,5 metres long train of heavy crepe-silk made by Edouard Vermeulen of the fashion-house Natan. She also wore a veil of Brussels lace of some more than 2 metres long, which came from the family Ruffo di Calabria and was worn by Queen Paola and Princess Astrid on their wedding day also. This was crowned by a diamond diadem, which was given by Queen Elisabeth (the wife of King Albert II) to Queen Astrid in 1935 when the present King Albert II was born. The bride had earrings of pearls and diamonds. The bouquet was very big with white flowers, the same as in the cathedral, with lots of green. Mathilde and her father stepped into the Mercedes Pullman 600 with number plate '1', which had belonged to Pope Paul VI. At that moment 51 gunshots sounded from the park of Brussels. The procession was followed by two helicopters, so we could follow where the procession was.
At 9:50 the bride arrived at the Town hall of Brussels where the civil wedding took place in the Gothic Hall. Burgomaster chevalier Francois-Xavier de Donnéa led the ceremony in gala uniform. The ceremony took place in the three languages of the country: French, Flemish and German.
The 'Ja' of Philippe and the 'Oui' of Mathilde sounded clearly through the boxes near the cathedral and on the Grand Square in front of the Town hall. The whole public (4000 on the Grand Square) was cheering loudly which was even heard in the Town hall. Belgian had a new princess: Mathilde. Prince Philippe's witnesses were Hereditary Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and Archduke Simeon of Austria. For Mathilde the witnesses were Elisabeth d'Udekem d'Acoz and Stéphanie de Radiguès de Chennevière. At the end of the ceremony, when the registers were signed, the couple appeared on the balcony and showed the first kiss on the cheek of the day. Queen Fabiola was according to the newspapers the last to leave the Town hall.
Separated the couple drove to the Cathedral, where all guests had arrived. For all The Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Japan and his wife were cheered, as well as all members of the Belgian royal family. Nothing we had noticed on the just in time arriving of the Queen of the Netherlands and two of her sons as the airplane was delayed. Dom Duarte de Braganca was the only one who did some steps towards the public, or better to say the press, whom I think congratulated him with his newborn son. Finally Philippe arrived with his mother, quickly followed by his new wife and her father. It was hard to climb the stairs of the cathedral with that heavy dress, and also the bridesmaids and pages had lots of difficulties handling the train. The bridesmaids and pages were: Princess Luisa- Maria of Belgium Archduchess of Austria-Este, Prince Joachim of Belgium Archduke of Austria-Este, Princess Astrid von und zu Liechtenstein, Chiara van Voorst tot Voorst, Marie-Hedwige Komorowska, Bénédicte de Brabant, Sofia Ricasoli, Flavia Porcari and Adrian Beissel von Gymnich.
More than 1200 guests were waiting in the cathedral, which was decorated with some 25.000 flowers (roses, lilies, amaryllis, green). The bride was welcomed by the Magnificat of Johann Sebastian Bach by organist Jozef Sluys and the Collegium Vocale was conducted by Philippe Herreweghe. The two-hour long mass was further full of music: the Capella Sancti Michaelis with Erik van Nevel, La Choraline with Benoit Giaux and organists Bernard Foccroulle and Xavier Deprez. Playing further cellist Marie Hallynck, harp-player Paola Chatelle, and singing sopranos Anne Cambier and Sophie Karthauser, contralto Andreas Scholl and bass- baritone José van Dam. Prince Lorenz of Belgium Archduke of Austria-Este read an extract from the bible, and the other lectures read were from the Song of Songs (Strong as the death is the love), and the Gospel of John (the marriage at Canaan). The mass was lead by cardinal Godfried Danneels Arch-bishop of Mechelen- Brussels, canon Raymond van Schoubroeck (dean of the cathedral) and abbot Herman Cosijns (dean of the Church of Our Lady at Laeken).
At 12:16 the bride and groom said yes again and changed golden rings. Witnesses for Prince Philippe were this time: Prince Laurent of Belgium, Charles-Henri Count d'Udekem d'Acoz, Christiaen Alting von Geusau and Prince Nikolaus von und zu Liechtenstein. For Mathilde the witnesses were: Hélène Countess d'Udekem d' Acoz, Agnès du Parc and Helene Duchess in Bavaria. The mass was finished with the Brabanconne, the national anthem of Belgium. Finally at about 13:30 we saw the bride and groom again when they left the cathedral. Cheering everywhere! The other guests left before we had even noticed them.
We went in a hurry to the park to see the couple on the balcony of the palace. During our race through the city we heard that they had arrived at the palace as two patrols of Alpha-Jets and F-16's (5 airplanes all together) crossed the sky leaving behind the national colours of Belgium: black, yellow and red. We were just in time to see the couple appear on the balcony together with their parents. 'Un bisou! Un bisou!' (a kiss, a kiss), but it was again a kiss on the cheek. 50 gunshots sounded from the park to mark the end of the wedding. And too quick they left the balcony and left us somewhat disappointed. We waited for a while but they didn't return. We just could see a glimpse of the bride behind the windows of the palace.
The party went on inside the palace. Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal finally found the time to smoke a cigarette together with Princess Märtha Louise of Norway. At about 16:00 the bride and groom finally found the time to eat something. After the reception, lunch and photos the high guests went away. For them the party was over. Next day I got a glimpse of the Polish president leaving his hotel behind the Town hall.
For the bride and groom the wedding was not over yet. At 19:30 they arrived at the Laeken Palace for another reception for the bodies of the government and some other organisations. Also family and friends attended, altogether some 2000 people. But after that Philippe and Mathilde left the palace and travelled to their secret honeymoon destination.
And for us the wedding was over, although.... We managed to enter the crowded cathedral, where everybody wanted to take a look at the decoration. Even policemen had to protect the flowers, as people openly tried to steal them. Afterwards we went into town, and bought the first newspaper on the wedding. We were all tired but we had a great day and got everything we wanted.
On December 5th I managed to buy some more newspapers and even some wedding photos. Tanguy and I first attended the crowded French mass at the Cathedral where the wedding had taken place, and then visited the Church of Our Lady at Laeken with the royal crypt, and watched the Palace of Laeken in the pouring rain, but we didn't care. Soon afterwards I left for the Netherlands again. At home I found out I had missed the opportunity to be interviewed for the Dutch television that had tried to contact me, but I was already on my way to Brussels. Never mind, next time better.