Belgium subdues divisions for a day to swear in king

Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:16am EDT
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By Robert-Jan Bartunek and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium swore in Philippe as its new king on Sunday after his father Albert II abdicated, subduing for a day questions about his ability to bring a divided country together and the power of the monarchy.

Philippe, 53, took his oath in Belgium's three official languages - Dutch, French and German - two-and-a-half weeks after King Albert, 79, announced that he would abdicate after 20 years on the throne.

Albert could be seen mouthing the words "Vive le roi" (Long live the king) at the swearing-in ceremony in parliament.

Before signing a legislative act in the royal palace to step down, Albert thanked his wife, who wiped away tears, and said his son had all the qualities to serve the country well.

"My final recommendation to all those gathered here is to work without rest in keeping Belgium together," he said.

Philippe returned to the subject in his address to parliament, saying Belgium's richness lay in its diversity.


Philippe is the seventh king of the 183-year-old country which is split across the middle. Many Dutch speakers seek greater autonomy for Flanders in the north and are wary of a monarchy seen to be rooted in the once powerful, but now poorer French-speaking Wallonia in the south.   Continued...

King Philippe of Belgium takes the oath during a ceremony at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels July 21, 2013. Belgium is celebrating its National Day, which also marks the abdication of King Albert II of Belgium and the investiture of his eldest son Philippe. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler