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Modern Europe

The Belgian Dynasty

by William Willems, 2 October 2020

King Leopold I of the Belgians
A FOUR PART FEATURE:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Kings 1830-1951
Part 3: The Kings 1951-2020
Part 4: Belgium Today

 

King Baudouin I (1951-1960)

In 1950 King Leopold III, accompanied by his sons, Prince Albert and Prince Baudouin, returned to Belgium, deciding to ask the government and parliament to vote on a law that would allow his powers to be delegated to his son, Prince Baudouin, duke of Brabant.

In 1951, Baudouin became the fifth king of the Belgians. In 1960 he married DoŮa Fabiola de Mora y Aragůn.

On the international scene, in 1951 Belgium signed a treaty which established the 'European Coal and Steel Community'. Later, that institution would form the foundation of the European Economic Community, now the European Union.

The independence of Belgian Congo was officially recognised in 1960 and a Congolese constitution was outlined. On 30 June 1960, the king attended the handover of power in Lťopoldville (now Kinshasa). Congo became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The second half of the twentieth century was marked by rising tensions between the Flemish-speaking and French-speaking populations of the Belgian kingdom, fuelled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. In 1962 the linguistic frontier was formalised by law. Despite the reforms, tensions between the Flemish and French-speaking communities continued to be amplified in the following years, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993.

Also in 1970 the time had come for the first community revision of the constitution in the history of Belgium. The Flemish community and the French-speaking community were granted cultural autonomy, so that they had sole power to deal with cultural issues.

During the following years, several attempts were made to find a response to community tensions. This situation became a growing concern for Baudouin, who was keen to preserve the unity of Belgium. In 1980, another state reform was undertaken by means of a revision of the constitution and special legislation. The powers of both communities were extended, and the German-speaking community gained a directly-elected council, with sweeping powers being granted to the Flemish and the Walloon regions.

Another reform of the state occurred in 1988-1989 and the powers of both communities and regions were further expanded. At the same time, the statute of the Brussels Region was established.

The government addressed the continuation of state reforms and revisions to the constitution were largely implemented in 1993.

Finally, the province of Brabant was divided into two provinces: Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant.

In 1993 Baudouin died during a holiday in Spain.

King Baudouin I of the Belgians
King Baudouin I of Belgium inherited the throne following his father's government-agreed abdication as a way of solving the disagreement over his wartime actions


King Albert II (1993-2013)

Since Baudouin and Fabiola were childless, the unexpected death of the king catapulted his younger brother, Albert, onto the throne. Prince Albert became King Albert II in 1993.

Married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria. Three children: Prince Philippe, Princess Astrid, and Prince Laurent.

The king's constitutional role came into play in 2010-2011 when Belgium's parliament was unable to agree on a government and Albert exercised his authority in mediating between political leaders.

Parliament was in stalemate, leaving Belgium without a government for a total of 541 days after elections failed to find a clear winner. Tensions between the Flemish-speaking and French-speaking communities within Belgium still often run high, with the issue having brought down several governments in the past, but this may have been the first time that a government had failed to be formed at all until the king intervened.

When the crisis was resolved, Albert swore in the new government.

While he entirely fulfilled the duties of his office, immediately preceding the marriage of his son, Prince Philippe, in 1999, it was alleged that King Albert II had fathered a love child during a long affair with Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps.

The alleged child, Delphine BoŽl, and her mother continued to support the swirl of allegations that surrounded Albert, and Delphine's mother revealed that she and Albert had shared a long relationship (between 1966 and 1983) during which Delphine was born. Delphine summoned the former king to appear in court and hoped to use DNA tests to prove that she was the king's daughter. As the king enjoyed complete legal immunity, however, she also decided to summon his elder children, Philippe and Astrid.

In 2013 Albert abdicated the throne, officially for health reasons. Delphine continued to pursue the allegations, although she abandoned her initial suit to introduce a second one, this time against the king alone as he was no longer protected by immunity.

In 2018, the Court of Appeal ordered King Albert to undergo DNA testing, which he finally accepted and at the start of 2020 the results revealed that Delphine BoŽl was indeed Albert's daughter. Albert confirmed this in a press release. Subsequently Delphine was recognised as his biological daughter, but not yet as his legal daughter. The courts would have to decide who had the legal paternity over Delphine but they did confirm, on 1 October 2020, that she was officially allowed the title, 'Princess of Belgium'.

King Albert II of the Belgians
King Albert II was the unexpected ruler of the Belgians, having succeeded his childless elder brother, Baudouin, in 1993


King Philippe I (2013-Today)

Following the abdication of his father, Prince Philippe became the seventh king of Belgium in 2013. Married Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde have four children, Elisabeth, Gabriel, Emmanuel, and Elťonore.

As the first-born child, Princess Elisabeth is first in the line of succession to the throne and is expected to become Belgium's first queen regnant.

 

Main Sources

The Belgian Dynasty website of the Royal Family of Belgium

The Belgium.be Official Information & Services website

Additional Sources

'Delphine BoŽl officially granted Princess title', RTL Today, 1 October 2020

 

 

     
Text copyright © William Willems. An original feature for the History Files.