Monday, 30 December 2013

Royal pictures for 2013: Belgium

The abdication of Albert II, King of the Belgians came as a surprise to many and certainly hadn't been predicted at the start of 2013.  Instead, the country began the year by looking forward to the planned celebrations in August for the king's 20th jubilee but on July 3rd 2013 he went on television to tell his fellow citizens that he planned to stand aside in favour of his son on Belgium's National Day, July 21st.  The royal household released an image of the king just before his abdication which gave Albert's departure an emotional touch.

Albert II, King of the Belgians, 1993 - 2013, leaves the stage

King Albert and his consort, Queen Paola, embarked on a farewell tour of the country where they were greeted by huge crowds everywhere they went.  The tour ended in Liege, the city of which Albert was made prince on the day of his birth.  Queen Paola found it hard to contain her tears as the monarchs bade an emotional farewell to their fellow citizens before handing over to a new royal family.

Tears of a queen - Paola of the Belgians says farewell in Liege, the area of which she was princess for decades before Albert's unexpected accession to the throne in 1993

The actual day of abdication and accession was a joyful occassion which began with a Te Deum in Brussels before the outgoing king signed away his kingdom and his successor took an oath of allegiance in front of politicians and family members.  Philippe, King of the Belgians then rode through the streets of Brussels to greet his fellow citizens as their monarch for the first time before a balcony appearance where all eyes were on his consort, Mathilde, the first Belgian born queen of the country.

Mathilde, Queen of the Belgians, with her husband, Philippe, on the day of their accession, July 21st 2013

The new royal family kept a low profile after the accession with the king taking on many new functions while the royal children - including the first heiress to the throne, Princess Elisabeth - carried on with their normal routines.  And at the beginning of September there was a chance to see a king on the school run.

King Philippe of the Belgians takes three of his four children to school on the first day of term in September 2013

Belgium now has two kings and three queens and Fabiola, consort of Baudouin, led the tributes to her late husband in August on the twentieth anniversary of his death.  While the former king and his successor and the two most recent consorts stood by, it was the poignant sight of Fabiola being wheeled towards a giant photo of the man she loved for decades during a religious service to commemorate his life that really stuck in the memory.

A queen remembers her lost love - Fabiola of the Belgians at the memorial service for her late husband, King Baudouin, in August 2013

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