KING ALBERT II OF THE BELGIANS ABDICATES AND KING PHILIPPE IS INAUGURATED AS BELGIUM’S SEVENTH KING

Belgium’s National Day took on special meaning on July 21, 2013 when the nation’s King Albert, after a near twenty-year reign, abdicated in favor of his eldest son and heir, Prince Philippe.  The 79-year-old King Albert had announced earlier in the month that he would be abdicating due to health reasons.  In a speech to the nation, King Albert had called for unity in the deeply divided country.  His son, Philippe, assumes the Belgian throne at a time when divisions between the Flemish speaking northern half of the country and the French speaking southern half are increasing, leading to concerns about the country’s unity.  The new king and queen of the Belgians is 53 and his wife, Mathilde (40), are the the parents of Princess Elisabeth (11), Duchess of Brabant and heiress to the throne; Prince Gabriel (9); Prince Emmanuel (7); and Princess Eleanore (5).  The abdication ceremony took place at the Royal Palace in Brussels before a group of dignitaries and members of the royal family.  A Te Deum was held at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudule.  Thousands of people lined the streets of Brussels to cheer on the royal family on this historic day.  Photos by Getty Images.

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