Crown Prince Philippe was sworn as the King of Belgium on Sunday after his 79-year-old father, King Albert II abdicated the throne in a country where the nation's capital, Brussels, is the seat of the European Union. The new monarch, 53, took the oath of office as the nation’s seventh king, vowing to uphold Belgium’s constitution and resolve any crises arising around that document.
The ceremony came as part of a similar trend in other nations this year, including the Netherlands, where three months ago Queen Beatrix stepped down in favor of her son, Willem-Alexander, and in Qatar, where in June the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani stepped down and handed power to his son.
Belgium’s Philippe is a trained air force pilot, educated at Oxford and Stanford and well-versed in European politcs, married to Mathilde – the first queen actually born in the country and popular due to her charity work and style. The royal couple are parents to four children, including a daughter, Elisabeth, almost 12 – the country’s first female heir to the throne -- and three sons.
He took the oath of office in the nation’s three official languages: Dutch, French and German, following his father’s resignation, timed to coincide with Belgium’s national day.
Told by Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo that he would be a “great head of state” Albert will rule six million Dutch-speaking Flemings and 4.5 million French speakers. Di Rupo noted that the outgoing monarch was “closing an important page in the history of our country” after nearly 20 years as king.
In his final address, Albert II underscored his hope that his nation, split between the French south and Dutch-speaking north, will remain united and a “source of inspiration” to all Europe. Parliamentary elections are to be held next June, and the diverse groups divided by language are seeking more autonomy.
In the abdication ceremony in which his son took the oath of office, King Albert II said, “Philippe, you have all the emotional and intellectual qualities to serve our country well.”
The now ex-monarch thanked political leaders and legislators “for all you have achieved during my reign,” and his wife for her support. Di Rupo thanked the resigning king for his service to the 183-year-old parliamentary democracy.