Philippe becomes new Belgium king after father abdicates

Belgium’s kings play a more prominent role in political life than other European monarchs

King Albert II (right) of Belgium, watched by his son Crown Prince Philippe (left), wipes his eyes after signing an act of abdication during a ceremony at the Royal Palace on Belgian National Day in Brussels. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

King Albert II (right) of Belgium, watched by his son Crown Prince Philippe (left), wipes his eyes after signing an act of abdication during a ceremony at the Royal Palace on Belgian National Day in Brussels. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

 

Belgium has a new king after Philippe succeeded his father, Albert, following the monarch’s abdication.

Earlier today, 79-year-old Albert, Belgium’s seventh king, signed away his rights as the kingdom’s ruler at the royal palace in the presence of prime minister Elio Di Rupo.

Less than two hours later, the nation got a new king when Philippe (53) pledged to abide the laws and constitution of the nation.

Dressed in the uniform of commander-in-chief of the Belgian army, Philippe swore the inaugural oath in Belgium’s three official languages, French, Dutch and German.

“I swear to uphold the constitution and laws of the Belgian people, to defend national independence and territorial integrity,” he said.

Belgium’s kings play a more prominent role in political life than other European monarchs, as Albert demonstrated in helping break the record 541-day deadlock over the formation of a government after the 2010 elections.

Today’s royal handover, on the annual national holiday, was designed to give Philippe time to settle into his role before the next elections in May 2014.

In protest, one Flemish separatist party boycotted the ceremony while the biggest opposition party, the N-VA New Flemish Alliance, sent only a limited delegation without its leader Bart De Wever.