The Belgian media has reported that King Albert informed his cabinet of the decision earlier today. The Belgian Prime Minister will address the nation after the King.
In a country with strong internal divisions, it is often jokingly said that there is only one Belgian: The King. Certainly, during Belgium's recent political crises in 2010-2011, during which it effectively had no active government, His Majesty played an important role as mediator.
The 79 year-old King Albert II succeeded to the throne 20 years ago, upon the death of his much-loved brother King Baudoin in July 1993. I was in Belgium at the time and I was struck by the degree to which the nation mourned King Baudoin and supported the Monarchy. Shop windows were dressed in black crepe, people wore black armbands and every possible flag was lowered to half mast (which is quite a sight in Belgium, a country rich with civic flags and heraldry).
King Albert will be succeeded by his son Prince Philippe, HRH The Duke of Brabant. Prince Philippe is married to Princess Mathilde, HRH The Duchess of Brabant. Princess Mathilde is half-Polish: her mother was born Countess Anna Maria Komorowska and her maternal grandmother was HSH Princess Zofia Sapieha.
|The Future King & Queen of the Belgians with Queen Fabiola.|
Princess Mathilde and Prince Philippe, TRH The Duke and Duchess of Brabant,
are wearing the Grand Cross ribands of the
Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
With the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar and now King Albert II of the Belgians, 2013 may well be regarded as the Year of Abdication.