1) South African President Thabo Mbeki and his wife meet with King Albert II and Queen Paola, Tuesday 16 November 2004 at the Royal Palace. Mbeki arrived Yesterday for a two-day visit to Belgium. Gettyimages
2, 3) King Albert II of Belgium talks to South African President Thabo Mbeki prior to their meeting at the Royal Castle of Laeken, outside Brussels, Tuesday Nov. 16, 2004. Polfoto
Albert II & Paola made a visit to the Belgian village Couvin. After the official welcoming at the town hall, the couple had a chance to meet with the population (the so called bain de foule :)).
Then Albert went to the factory "Saint-Roch" where the economic situation of the region was explained to him, and he visited the factory where cast-iron boilers are made.
After that Albert joined Paola for a visit to the "Albatros", a care center for mentally handicapped people. Then there was a reception at the Albatros with the local authorities and with people who work with handicapped persons.
Within the framework of the 60th Liberation's anniversary, King Albert received at the Palace of Brussels a hundred burgomasters and their Governors for the honour diploma's ceremony as 'City or Town victim of acts of World War II'.
Queen Paola, Honorary President of Child Focus (a Belgian center for abused and missing children), in collaboration with the European Federation for Missing and Exploited Children, organized an academic meeting in Brussels. Queen Silvia of Sweden and her daughter, Princess Victoria, Mrs Bernadette Chirac, wife of the President of the French Republic, Mrs Jolanta Kwasniewska, wife of the President of the Republic of Poland and Princess Astrid of Belgium were also present.
At night there was a concert organised by the European Federation for sexually abused and missing children. The Federation gathers children defence associations of 15 European countries organised around Belgian association Child Focus.
King Albert II was born in Brussels, at the Chateau of Stuyvenberg, on 6 June 1934.
King Albert II, who was given the title of "Prince of Liège" on birth, is the son of King Leopold III nd of Queen Astrid, born Princess of Sweden. He is the grandson of King Albert I and of Queen Elisabeth.
On 29 August 1935, the Prince of Liège lost his mother, Queen Astrid, who died in a car accident at Küssnacht, Switzerland.
On 10 May 1940, at the time when Belgium was being invaded, Prince Albert, his elder sister Princess Josephine-Charlotte and his elder brother Prince Baudouin, left the country for France and later Spain. The Prince and the Princess returned to Belgium on 2 August 1940. They continued their studies until 1944, either at Laeken, or at the Chateau of Ciergnon in the Ardennes. In June 1944, at the time of the Allied landings, Leopold III, Princess Lilian - who he married in 1941 - and the royal children were deported by the Germans to Hirschstein in Germany, and later to Strobl in Austria, where they were liberated by the American Army on 7 May 1945. Due to the political situation in Belgium, King Leopold and his family moved to the villa "Le Reposoir" in Pregny, Switzerland, when they left Austria in October 1945. They would stay there until July 1950. During that time, Prince Albert would continue his education in a secondary school in Geneva.
King Leopold III, accompanied by Prince Baudouin and Prince Albert, returned to Belgium on 22 July 1950.
Prince Albert was asked in 1962 to exercise the function of Honorary President of the Board of Directors of the Belgian Foreign Trade Office, which he performed for 31 years. In this capacity, he presided over a hundred trade missions throughout the world and made many visits to Belgian companies operating in the export field.
To pay tribute to the Prince who made such an active contribution to boosting foreign trade over all those years, a Prince Albert Fund for training foreign trade specialists was set up in 1984.
Moreover, Prince Albert also assumed the Presidency of the Board of the Caisse Générale d'Epargne et de Retraite from 1954 to 1992. He was President of the Belgian Red Cross from 1958 to 1993.
Apart from these various functions, Prince Albert carried out actions in the field of town planning, housing, nature conservation, listed monuments and sites, and in general, management of the environment. In this context, he has presided or attended many international conferences. In 1969, he was invited by the Council of Europe to assume the Presidency of the European Ministerial Conference on the protection of the cultural and architectural heritage.
After the death of his brother, King Baudouin, Prince Albert was sworn in before the combined chambers of parliament on 9 August 1993 as the sixth King of the Belgians.