Most Americans know plenty about Queen Elizabeth and the British royal family — marriages, affairs, divorces, corgis, even Pippa Middleton’s now-celebrated rear end. A few keep track of Monaco’s Prince Albert, mostly because his mother was Grace Kelly. The rest of Europe’s monarchs are virtually unknown in this country.
Which brings us to Princess Mathilde of Belgium, who came to D.C. Sunday with her husband, Prince Philippe, and a delegation of 300 Belgian businessmen to drum up investment and trade for their small country. The princess, 38, was a speech therapist when she married into the royal family in 1999 and now lives the life of a low-key modern monarch: Raising four young kids, embracing causes, preparing to be queen one day.
It’s a job — with very nice perks, mind you — but a job nonetheless. Monday’s packed agenda of do-gooding included a ladies’ power lunch at the ambassador’s residence with some of Washington’s heavy hitters: Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s chief of staff (who just returned from Africa); Spain’s Infanta Cristina (currently living in Bethesda); Laura Liswood, secretary general of the Council of Women World Leaders; former assistant surgeon general Susan Blumenthal; female leaders from the World Bank and other policy players.
Mathilde (tall, slender, very pretty, no crown) mingled easily with the guests, then used the opportunity to talk about global violence and female empowerment. “I’m committed to adding my voice to all those who express deep concern about the pervasiveness of violence against women and girls,” she said earnestly in heavily accented English. “No country is immune from this scourge.”
Can a princess make a difference?
“She can talk about anything but chooses to talk about hard topics,” Liswood said. “Monarchy gets press, visibility, respect — they can add credibility and voice to the issue.”