Belgian king to abdicate crown
BRUSSELS — Weighed down by the years, Belgium's King Albert announced on Wednesday that he will hand the throne of his fractious kingdom to his son, Crown Prince Philippe, on the country's national holiday, July 21.
The move had been rumored for weeks and will end nearly two decades of steady reign over a country increasingly torn apart by political strife between northern Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking southern Wallonia.
Belying his frailty and 79 years of age, Albert stood upright and confident as he delivered the nationwide message to the cameras. Behind him, a huge portrait of Leopold I, the nation's first king in 1831, looked down on him.
Albert said his age and health no longer allow him to carry out his functions as he'd want to. ‘‘I would not fulfill my duties,” he said, ‘‘if I clung at all cost to my position in these circumstances.”
Belgium has had six kings since independence, and Albert is the first to voluntarily abdicate the throne.
But he was the second European monarch to do so in barely two months. Beatrix of the Netherlands stepped down in April after a 33-year reign in favor of her eldest son, who was appointed King Willem-Alexander.
‘‘After a reign of 20 years, I believe the moment is here to hand over the torch to the next generation,” Albert said in a nationwide address carried by all of Belgium's major broadcasters.
When Albert's brother, King Baudouin, died in 1993, it was widely expected that Philippe would take the throne instead of his father.
Yet he was considered unprepared for the task at hand. Even now, at 53, the silver-haired Philippe has plenty of critics who see him as awkward and reclusive.
‘‘He was always faced with the dictum, ‘He's not up to it.' It still weighs on him,” historian and author Marc Reynebeau said.
Married to Princess Mathilde, the couple has four children.
The kingdom has increasingly become a divided nation, with the 10.5 million Belgians split into distinct Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons.
Belgium is enjoying something of a political lull as it prepares for potentially bruising nationwide and regional elections next spring, with the question of greater division expected to be at the heart of debates.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Antarctica yields life in extremest of conditions, so what about on another planet?
- Boko Haram kills dozens, prevents hundreds voting in Nigeria
- Russians blame Western sanctions for recession fed by oil price drop
- Al-Qaida branch seizes Syrian city
- Copilot’s friends doubt Germanwings crash intentional
- Houthi rebels in Yemen open fire on demonstrators in Taiz, killing 6
- Saudi-led attacks seen as escalating violence in Yemen
- German pilot visited glider field near crash site as a child
- White House says it can’t ‘simply pretend’ Netanyahu remarks weren’t made
- Terrorists strike Libya officials in retaliation
- Assad’s forces claim to have downed U.S. drone over Syria