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Europe

Belgium’s King Albert II abdicates throne to son

© Photo: AFP

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-03

Belgium's King Albert II announced on Wednesday that he will abdicate the throne in favour of his son, in a televised address to the nation. His decision comes just six months after the abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Belgium’s King Albert II announced on Wednesday that he will abdicate the throne in favour of his son, Crown Prince Philippe, on July 21.

The move had been rumoured for weeks and will end nearly two decades of steady reign over an increasingly fractious kingdom, one which has been increasingly torn apart by political strife.

Frail at 79, King Albert said his “age and health” no longer allowed him to carry out his functions as he would like.

“After a reign of 20 years I believe the moment is here to hand over the torch to the next generation,” Albert said in an announcement carried by all major broadcasters. ‘’Prince Philippe is well prepared to succeed me,” he added.

Belgium has had six kings since it came into being in 1830; Albert is the first to voluntarily abdicate from the throne.

His abdication comes only six months after Queen Beatrix of the neighbouring Netherlands announced she would vacate the Dutch throne in favour of her son Willem Alexander.

Royal scandal

While the Belgian monarch has no executive powers and plays a largely ceremonial role, Albert II has been a rare uniting factor in an otherwise divided country.

He has overseen the steady unravelling of his kingdom into an increasingly divided nation where northern, Dutch-speaking Flanders has been seeking increasing autonomy at the expense of southern, French-speaking Wallonia.

Albert II ascended to the throne in 1993 when his childless and devoutly Roman Catholic brother, Baudouin, passed away.

He became embroiled in a major royal scandal shortly into his reign when he had to acknowledge the existence of an out-of-wedlock daughter, Delphine Boel, and suffered a major crisis in his marriage with Queen Paola. That issue came to the fore again this spring when Boel opened court proceedings to prove she is the king’s daughter.

At the same time, he brought some earthy charm and easygoing fun to the royalty after decades of stiff formality under Baudouin.

But increasingly he turned from a king known for his love of sleek motorcycles into an elderly monarch sometimes relying on a walking stick.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-03

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