In a week, it will be the big day for Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este. She will marry William Isvy civilly at the Brussels City Hall in the privacy and in the presence of only 40 guests. The religious ceremony will be celebrated at 2:30 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule, in Brussels.
Who is Princess Maria Laura who has just turned 32 and who, at birth, was not destined to be in the line of succession to the throne? Marie Laura is the second of five children of Princess Astrid and Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este. The family, then settled in Basel in Switzerland where the Archduke works in the banking sector, made the choice to return to Brussels for the birth of his daughter Astrid of Belgium. Maria Laura was born at the Saint-Luc university clinics in Woluwé Saint Lambert. At that time, Maria Laura was “only” King Baudouin’s great-niece. She does not enter the order of succession to the throne because she descends from a woman of the royal family and the Salic law then applies.
Her first name comes from the deceased elder sister of her grandmother Queen Paola (then Princess of Liège) and Queen Paola’s grandmother who was a Belgian noblewoman: Laure Mosselmans du Chesnoy. In 1991, the Salic law was repealed in favor of the order of primogeniture, namely, that the first child born girl or boy is the heir. This applies directly without a generation jump. After King Baudouin are therefore in order of succession Prince Albert, Prince Philippe, Princess Astrid, Amadeo, Maria Laura and Prince Laurent. Being the daughter of a princess of Belgium now dynast, Maria Laura also became princess of Belgium in addition to her title of archduchess.
The family returned from Switzerland and settled in rue Bréderode in the Porte de Namur district in a house belonging to the block formed by the royal palace in Brussels. The princess is educated in Dutch at the Sint Jan Berghmans college near the Place de La Chapelle.
In 1993, the death of King Baudouin projects Prince Albert on the throne, Maria Laura therefore becomes the granddaughter of a sovereign. On the day of King Baudouin’s funeral, almost 5-year-old Maria Laura can be seen leaning repeatedly towards Queen Fabiola to kiss her. The princess’s children have always been very close to Baudouin and Fabiola. Until his marriage in 1999, the celibacy of the now King Philippe was at the center of all conversations. Polls give increasing popularity to Princess Astrid. Her children appear publicly only on rare occasions, during family photo shoots or on the national holiday.
She is one of the bridesmaids at the wedding of King Philippe. In the book “Princess of Belgium” by Brigitte Balfoort, the journalist returns to Laura’s difficulties at school. Very good student, she is, on the other hand, mocked for her physique inherited from the Habsburgs. She completed her secondary education at St John’s College in Waterloo in English.
As a young woman, Maria Laura took a keen interest in fashion. Her looks do not go unnoticed like the choice of her hairstyles. She likes to wear vintage outfits of Queen Paola, her mother and Queen Fabiola that she adapts with accessories. After high school, she moved to Paris where she studied at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations. She then left for an eight-month internship in China.
Upon her return, she joined her brother Amedeo in London where they shared an apartment. Maria Laura then took courses at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and then returned to China for an eight-month linguistic immersion. The princess, a polyglot, multiplies internships such as at the permanent representation of Belgium at the United Nations in New York, then in an art gallery in Berlin. She is heading back to China with a one and a half year internship for the French luxury group LVMH in Shanghai.
Returning to Europe, she resumed studies this time in political science in London. With her new diploma in hand, the princess is hired as a financial analyst with the EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In 2019, Laura accompanied her mother to China at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Princess Astrid was at the head of an economic mission.
Maria Laura likes to act as a model for a photo shoot, like for the lens of renowned Belgian photographer Régine Mahaux. Although she retains her title of Princess of Belgium, Laura will not be able to pass it on to her children since the abdication of King Albert II. Only the descendants in direct line of the sovereign are princes of Belgium.
After working for the EBRD, the Princess now works for a philanthropic organization where she deals with issues related to sustainable development. After her marriage to William Isvy, of Franco-British nationality who works in finance, the couple will continue to live in London. Princess Maria Laura is the perfect embodiment of societal evolution for a princess: to live her life completely financially independent of the Court.