Belgium's King Albert Abdicates

Son Philippe takes oath in fractious nation

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jul 21, 2013 5:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – Belgium's King Albert abdicated today after a 20-year reign, as his son, Philippe, took over as this fractured nation's seventh king later in the day. The 79-year-old Albert signed away his rights as the kingdom's largely ceremonial ruler in the presence of Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who holds the political power in this 183-year-old parliamentary democracy. Less than two hours later, Philippe, 53, took the oath. "Belgium is modernizing itself and it gives me joy," Albert said. He also called for continued "cohesion" between the nation's 6 million Dutch-speaking Flemings and 4.5 million French-speakers.

Under crystal chandeliers in a gilded hall at the royal palace, Di Rupo called Albert "a great head of state" and told the outgoing king, "You are closing an important page in the history of our country." Albert announced his abdication less than three weeks ago, so there was little time to turn the occasion into a huge international event. No foreign royals were at the ceremony. Since the royal transition coincides with Belgium's national day celebrations, a military parade had already been planned. Philippe will face a tough task in coming months. The fractious nation, divided by language, holds parliamentary elections in June 2014. Philippe "is a very wise person, a person who is very well prepared," said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. "He knows the politics of Belgium and Europe very well." The AP has a primer on Belgium's monarchy, which has yet to crown a queen.

Belgium's Prince Philippe and wife Princess Mathilde smile as they leave a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013.
Belgium's Prince Philippe and wife Princess Mathilde smile as they leave a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ezequiel Scagnetti)
Belgium's King Albert II walks with Queen Paola as they leave a church service in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013.
Belgium's King Albert II walks with Queen Paola as they leave a church service in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ezequiel Scagnetti)
Belgium's King Albert II waves to the crowd as he leaves a church service on Sunday, July 21, 2013.
Belgium's King Albert II waves to the crowd as he leaves a church service on Sunday, July 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ezequiel Scagnetti)
King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola laugh as they attend the national ball in the Marolles district of Brussels on Saturday, July 20, 2013.
King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola laugh as they attend the national ball in the Marolles district of Brussels on Saturday, July 20, 2013.   (Benoit Doppagne)
Belgium's Queen Fabiola, front right, looks on as Prince Philippe, center, and his wife Princess Mathilde arrive to attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert II was set Sunday to relinquish the throne in a concession to his...
Belgium's Queen Fabiola, front right, looks on as Prince Philippe, center, and his wife Princess Mathilde arrive to attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21,...   (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert II was set Sunday to relinquish the throne in a concession...
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday,...   (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert II was set Sunday to relinquish the throne in a concession...
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday,...   (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Belgium's King Albert II, Prince Philippe, center, and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013.
Belgium's King Albert II, Prince Philippe, center, and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013.   (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Belgium's Queen Paola, fourth left, and her husband King Albert II, fifth left, arrive to attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert II was set Sunday to relinquish the throne in a concession to his age and health,...
Belgium's Queen Paola, fourth left, and her husband King Albert II, fifth left, arrive to attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert...   (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert II was set Sunday to relinquish the throne in a concession...
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday,...   (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert II was set Sunday to relinquish the throne in a concession...
Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday,...   (Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
« Prev« Prev | Next »Next » Slideshow
My TakeCLICK BELOW TO VOTE
7%
60%
3%
17%
2%
12%
To report an error on this story, notify our editors.

NEWS FROM OUR PARTNERS
Other Sites We Like:   The Street   |   MSN Living   |   PopSugar Tech   |   RealClear   |   24/7 Wall St.   |   Biography   |   Barstool Sports   |   OK!