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Week-long homage begins for Belgian queen Fabiola

Belgium began a week of homage to Spanish-born Queen Fabiola on Monday when her body was moved to the castle where her nephew King Philippe lives.

Police motorcyclists accompanied the slow-moving hearse carrying the body of Fabiola, who was queen consort to king Baudouin between 1960 and 1993, from Stuyvenberg Castle, where she died on Friday at 86, to the nearby chapel of Laeken Castle in the north of the capital Brussels, AFP journalists said.

A dozen other cars followed the hearse, including those of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde as well as of former king Albert and his wife Paola.

Fabiola will rest in the chapel until Tuesday afternoon when her body will be taken to the royal palace in the centre of Brussels.

The public will be able to pay their final respects to the late queen on Wednesday and Thursday. The funeral will be held Friday morning in the hilltop Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula in Brussels.

Fabiola, who was born Dona Fabiola de Mora y Aragon on June 11, 1928 in Madrid into an aristocratic Spanish family, was the fifth queen of the Belgians from her marriage in 1960 to King Baudouin until his death in 1993.

She was best remembered for her 30-year union with Baudouin, the lonely king to whom she brought much-needed spark.

Weakened by illness, she had not been seen in public since July 2013.

Belgium, which is holding seven days of national mourning from Saturday until Friday, is flying flags at half mast.

The couple never had children.

Fabiola sparked uproar in 2012 with the creation of a private foundation that was widely perceived as a way to avoid paying Belgium’s 70-percent inheritance tax.

She later dissolved the charitable vehicle, and her annual income from the state was reduced from 1.4 million euros ($1.8 million) to around 900,000 euros.