The former Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant has now taken the oath for the throne of Belgium and has become King Philippe of the Belgians.
His father, King Albert II, abdicated shortly before and due to Belgium being the only Monarchy in Europe which requires an oath for the Monarch to succeed, the country had no King for about an hour – during that time, the Council of Ministers officially acted as the Head of State of Belgium.
Philippe’s wife has now become Queen Mathilde – the first Belgian-born Queen of the Belgians in history. The eldest daughter of the new King and Queen, Princess Elisabeth, has now assumed the title of ‘Duchess of Brabant’ and will one day become Belgium’s first Queen Regnant (Queen in her own right). Belgium were one of the early European countries to change their male-preference (agnatic) succession to equal primogeniture, meaning the eldest child succeeds rather than a son taking precedence over an elder sister.
King Albert II, who abdicated at around 9.30 UK time, will keep the title of King, but will be known as HM King Albert II – not as King of the Belgians. This is a title precedent used for his father, King Leopold III when he abdicated in 1951.
The Royal Family
The abdication now means that Belgium has 3 Queens. The wife of King Albert II’s brother, Queen Fabiola; the wife of Albert himself, Queen Paola and the new Queen, Queen Mathilde.
The correct reference to King Philippe is as ‘King of the Belgians’ not as ‘King of Belgium’ – this is because Belgium has what’s known as a ‘popular Monarchy’, i.e. one which represents the people rather than the country itself.
King Albert II will now go into retirement whilst King Philippe will now take on all the duties and role of being King of the Belgians.