In a speech to the nation, King Albert II of the Belgians (79), Belgium’s sixth monarch, announced on July 3, 2013, his intention to abdicate in favor of his eldest son and heir, Prince Philippe (53), after a reign of nearly 20 years. The abdication will take place on July 21st, Belgium’s National Day. This will be the first voluntary abdication of a monarch in Belgium’s history. King Albert’s father, King Leopold III, was compelled to abdicate in 1951 in favor of his son, Baudouin. Upon King Baudouin’s death in 1993, his brother, Albert, succeeded him as king. King Albert has been in ill health, exhausted by his role as mediator between leading politicians in an increasingly fractious Belgium. The Flemish-speaking north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south have been increasingly at loggerheads to the point that the break-up of the country has been feared. Belgium in 2010-11 was without a government for over five hundred days, when no clear winner emerged after elections were held and coalition talks leading to a federal government kept stalling. Citing his “age and health,” King Albert said that “the moment has come to hand the torch to the next generation.” King Albert also added, “I want to tell you now that it was an honor and a joy to devote a large part of my life to the service of this country and its people.” Photos by Getty Images.