King Albert II of Belgium announces abdication in favour of son Prince Philippe

The King of Belgium announced his abdication on Wednesday evening after months of speculation that he might step down from the throne.

Just a month after his 79th birthday, King Albert II made an announcement that he will abdicate on 21 July due to age and health reasons.

"Age and health no longer allow me to perform my duties," he said. "After a 20-year reign, the time has come to pass the torch to the next generation."




They are the same reasons that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands gave when she abdicated in favour of her son King Willem-Alexander at the end of April.

The sovereign will step down after just shy of 20 years on the throne. His announcement comes one day after his and Queen Paola of Belgium's 54th wedding anniversary.

Following the King's announcement, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was due to address the nation.

Albert's son Crown Prince Philippe, 53, is next in line to the throne.



In May, rumours began to swirl that the monarch might abdicate. His official abdication on 21 July will coincide with the small country's National Day.

Reports have also suggested a date for Philippe's inauguration – 15 November, also known as King's Feast Day in Belgium.

As well as Philippe, Albert and Paola are also parents to Prince Laurent and Princess Astrid.



King Albert II ascended to the throne in 1993, following the death of his older brother, King Baudouin. It was assumed that Baudouin's nephew Prince Philippe would ascend the throne. Baudouin never had children of his own, and Philippe had been groomed as the heir apparent since birth.

However, due to problems arising from the country's linguistic and religious differences, it was decided a more experienced hand was called for.

Parliament named the King's brother, the more politically experienced Prince Albert of Liege, his successor.

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