Surveyor Becomes a Princess

April 12, 2003 at 5:35:52 PDT
Belgian Prince Weds English-Born Commoner
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP)

Surrounded by European royalty, Belgium’s Prince Laurent married English-born commoner Claire Coombs in an elaborate state ceremony Saturday. The wedding put an end to years of speculation in the Belgian press that the 39-year-old prince – known for his love of cars and laid-back style – would remain a bachelor forever. The prince was visibly nervous at a civil ceremony earlier in the day, offering ‘I do’ even before Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans finished saying the vows.

After the ceremony at the historic medieval town hall, the couple made their way to the Saint Michael and Gudula Cathedral, where Cardinal Godfried Danneels officiated. The bride, 29, wore a simple gown by Belgian designer Edouard Vermeulen and a Brussels lace veil first worn by Laurent’s great-grandmother in 1877.

After the church ceremony, the newlyweds and their more than 500 guests headed to the royal national palace to greet royal fans with a traditional balcony appearance – and a possible kiss.
Royalty attending the ceremonies included Grand Duke Henri and his wife, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, of Luxembourg; Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden; Princess Margriet and Pieter van Vollenhoven from the Netherlands; and Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein. Also present were Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and his Cabinet.

Laurent, the youngest son of King Albert and Queen Paola and eighth in line to the Belgian throne, and Coombs announced their engagement in December after months of speculation about the royal romance in the Belgian media.

Coombs holds dual British-Belgian nationality and works as a surveyor with a real estate company in the northern city of Antwerp. She has not said whether she will continue working now that she is a princess. Bilingual in French and English, Coombs has recently been perfecting her Dutch, which is spoken by 60 percent of Belgians.