Belgium rapt over birth of female heir

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The Independent Online

The birth of Belgium's first female heir to the throne threw the country's media into an orgy of congratulation, providing the royal family with welcome relief from recent poor publicity.

The birth of Belgium's first female heir to the throne threw the country's media into an orgy of congratulation, providing the royal family with welcome relief from recent poor publicity.

Newspapers ran pages of coverage of the event and, undeterred by the lack of a photograph of the newborn royal, La Libre Belgique devoted its front page to a picture-montage of 120 other babies.

The new princess, who was born on Thursday night by Caesarian section after complications, was named Elisabeth Thèrése Marie Hèléne, and is destined to be Belgium's first queen. She is second in line to the throne after her 41-year-old father, Prince Philippe, who soared in the public's estimation when he married the glamorous Mathilde, now 28, in December 1999. Motherhood is certain to buoy her already formidable popularity.

Recently the royal family has had less happy headlines after publication of a book which claims that the king, Albert II, took part in paedophile sex parties before he ascended the throne. Unprecedented action by the royal family in a French court forced the publishing house to include a rebuttal of the claims in each edition.

Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 and has had six male monarchs. The country's so-called Salic law, which banned women from the throne, was amended in 1991.

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