Belgium’s King Albert II on Wednesday announced he will abdicate the throne in favor of his son, Crown Prince Phillipe. the move makes the Belgian king the second monarch this year to hand over power to the next generation.
King Albert II, 79, announced the decision in a televised statement on Wednesday, explaining that he will end his 20-year reign because of his age and health issues. He explained:
“… my age and health no longer allow me to carry out my duties as I would like to.”
Reading from notes he prepared ahead of time, Belgium’s king spoke slowly. He explained to his subjects that Prince Phillippe, who is now 53, is “very well prepared” to become the country’s seventh king.
King Albert’s abdication comes just three months after the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix announced the was stepping down from the throne. While Beatrix followed the tradition set by her mother and grandmother, abdications are not normal in Belgium.
Since he inherited the throne in 1993 after his brother’s death, King Albert II has proved to be quite popular. He even mediated the nation when it went more than a year without a government. But his reign has not been without scandal.
In January, the Belgian king’s sister-in-law, Queen Fabiola, was accused of trying to hide some of her fortune from being part of an inheritance tax. And just a few weeks ago, Delphine Boël asked the court to order the king and two of his children to give DNA samples. Boël claims she is the king’s daughter, born after an alleged affair between King Albert II and an aristocrat, Boël’s mother.
While King Albert II’s abdication may have been a shock for many, rumors of the announcement swirled for weeks before it happened. It is unclear if Crown Prince Phillipe wil lbe able to keep the same peace as his father has seen between the Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and the French-speaking Wallonia in Belgium’s south.