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King Albert II of Belgium: The unexpected monarch

King Albert II of Belgium announced his intention to abdicate on 21 July, bringing to the end a 20-year reign. HELLO! Online takes a look at the life of the Belgian royal. See photos from his life in the spotlight – from family days out as a young boy, to tender moments with his wife Queen Paola and official engagements as the King of Belgium.

Our gallery also includes photos of King Albert's brother and sister-in-law, Queen Fabiola with her late husband King Baudouin. Prince Albert ascended to the throne when his brother King Baudouin died unexpectedly in 1993.

The Belgian royal family were photographed enjoying a day out at Laeken, a suburb of Brussels, in 1953. Among the party were King Leopold III (1901-1983), Prince Albert (later King Albert II) and Prince Baudouin (1930-1993) who would later become king. They were joined by King Leopald's second wife Princess Lilian (1916-2002) and their children Marie-Christine (born 1951) and son Prince Alexander (1942-2009).

 Photo: © Getty Images

King Badouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium

Queen Fabiola with her late husband King Baudouin of Belgium. The royal couple had no children and the Queen lost five babies through miscarriage. King Albert II of Belgium is the younger brother of King Baudouin, and took to the throne after his brother's unexpected death in 1993.


King Albert II of Belgium pictured sharing a tender moment with his wife Queen Paola.  The King’s announcement to abdicate comes one day after the royal couple celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary.

 Photo: © Getty Images

Puppy love: During a royal visit to the Civil Protection base in Ghlin, near Mons, the popular monarch was greeted by a furry friend

 Photo: © Getty Images

On a ten-day state visit to India, King Albert II inspected a guard of honour of Indian troops during a ceremonial reception in New Delhi

 Photo: © Getty Images

King Albert II was pictured saluting the monument of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels during an armistice ceremony, commemorating the end World War I

 Photo: © Getty Images

King Albert and Queen Paola were were honoured to meet Pope Benedict at the end of a canonisation ceremony at St Peter's Basilica in 2009.  The couple first met in Rome in 1958. The then Prince Albert went to the Vatican to witness the inauguration of Pope John XXIII where he met Italian Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria at a reception at the Belgium embassy. According to the King, they were both shy and didn’t speak much.

 Photo: © Getty Images

The baptism of Albert and Paola's son Prince Laurent in 1963. The family were joined by Prince Albert's brother and sister-in-law, Queen Fabiola and King Baudouin of Belgium, and the Queen Mother, Elisabeth of Bavaria.

 Photo: © Getty Images

Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde have four children together. Mathilde is also godmother to two princesses: Princess Alexia of the Netherlands and Princess Isabella of Denmark. The couple's lives will change forever on 21 July, when Philippe becomes King of Belgium.


A family moment: King Albert II with his son Prince Philippe and his granddaughter, Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, 11



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