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Belgium’s king, queen trace family roots in Germany

The Belgian royal couple, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, traced their family’s roots at the start of a two-day trip to Germany on Tuesday.

In the city of Gotha in the eastern state of Thuringia they were greeted in front of Friedenstein Palace, the seat of the king’s ancestral family, by Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 76, his son Hubertus, 43, and his wife Kelly, 44.

Local children made the traditional presentation of salt and bread to the royal couple at the entrance to the castle.

Mathilde, 46, wore a dove grey shift dress to match the overcast sky, while Philippe, 59, sported a blue tie to match his wife’s outfit.

The house of former duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha provided the first king of the Belgians, Leopold I, who ruled from 1831 until his death in 1865. King Philippe is his direct descendant.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is also a descendant of the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

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The royal couple were welcomed by Thuringian Premier Bodo Ramelow, who presented them with a duplicate of a historic poster made in 1856 for the 25th anniversary of the coronation of the King Leopold I.

“The combination of Belgian fries and Thuringian bratwurst sausage, this is a real marriage of pleasure.

“I can only explain to the Belgian royal couple: Belgian beer is delicious, but the beer purity regulations still come from Thuringia,” he said.

Although the purity regulations for beer were officially ordered by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516, the first document limiting beer exclusively to hops, malt and water dates from the Thuringian town of Weissensee in 1434.

King Philippe is considered a rather plain sovereign, while Mathilde, whom he married in 1999, provides the charm in contrast to her often stiff husband.

Both are considered more restrained and less glamorous than the Dutch royal couple, Willem-Alexander and Maxima, who in 2017 had a similar programme of visits through Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.

The Belgian royal couple plan to commemorate the victims of World War II at the Buchenwald memorial on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Belgian embassy.

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More than 56,000 people died in the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar and in the satellite camps, and nearly 280,000 people were imprisoned in squalid conditions.

In Weimar, they plan to visit the city’s new Bauhaus Museum and the New Museum.

On Wednesday, the royal couple are due to be met in Saxony-Anhalt by Premier Reiner Haseloff in his home town of Wittenberg to follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther, who launched the Protestant Reformation there just over 500 years ago.

For Haseloff it is not the first royal visit this year: in early May he accompanied the British heir to the throne, Prince Charles, on a trip to the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Woerlitz, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Belgian royals do not intend to visit this attraction and instead plan to travel to Dessau to see the local museum and master houses of the Bauhaus art movement, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

The tour ends with a visit to the Leuna chemical works, one of the biggest chemical industrial complexes in Germany. (NAN)