Belgium’s Princess Mathilde spent Tuesday visiting a primary school in Wezemaal as part of the UNICEF project, the ‘Day of Change’. Mathilde is the honorary president of the Belgian branch of UNICEF, so it is her position to attend its events.
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The communal primary school’s teachers and students were very excited by the Princess’ visit, as were local officials. Governor Lode Dewitte, Mayor Dirk Claes, director Marc Didden, and vice president Ingrid Van Boven welcomed her in the morning. Several students acted as honor guards and Mathilde chatted with them for a few minutes.
Inside, Her Royal Highness took interest in the drawings, lectures and dances of the students. But she especially appeared to enjoy her time with the sixth graders, who were free to ask her any question they wanted.
“It previously said that we could draw no questions,” said a student named Julie. “But the Princess insisted. I asked her why she supports UNICEF. She replied that she is interested in everything to do with children.”
When Mathilde left at the end of the day, she was given a basket of local produce. She even stopped to chat with some local residents who waited outside the school to see her. Wezemaal had not seen a royal visit in 50 years.
The school has been taking part in UNICEF projects for a few years, which is why the Princess came specifically to it on Tuesday.
The King of Spain was released from Madrid’s San Jose hospital Wednesday, following surgery after he fractured his hip while he was reportedly hunting elephants in Botswana. Upon his release, King Juan Carlos apologized for his expensive trip while many in Spain are struggling in a recession.
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“I’m very sorry, I made a mistake. It won’t happen again,” he said to the media. This was the first time he had ever gave a public apology.
While it was never confirmed nor denied that the King was hunting an endangered animal, it was enough to spark outrage in Spain. Many are calling him to step down as honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund. Nearly 85,000 people have signed an online petition demanding he resign.
At the same time, there are a few politicians daring to criticize Juan Carlos. The Socialists’ leader in Madrid Tomas Gomez said the King should choose between his “public responsibilities, or an abdication”.
The Spanish media, which used to avoid criticizing the King and other royals, are also writing negative responses to this hunting trip.
“The sight of a monarch hunting elephants in Africa when the economic crisis in our country is causing so many problems for Spaniards does not set a good example,” a commentary in the conservative daily paper El Mundo said.
However, it is being reported by Reuters that a royal palace official insisted that no public funds were used for the trip, and instead King Juan Carlos was a guest of unnamed hosts.
Sources: BBC, Deutsche Welle