Today is the National Day of Belgium, a day which will also see the country getting a new monarch, following King Albert II's announcement eighteen days ago of his abdication. The events related to the abdication of King Albert and the accession of Prince Philippe will be crammed into the usual schedule for the national day, making it a rather busy day.
The usual service of thanksgivings will take place at the Cathédral des Saints Michel et Gudule at 9 a.m. (rather than the usual hour of 10 a.m.), followed by the abdication ceremony at the Royal Palace at 10.30 a.m.
Belgium is the only European kingdom where the heir does not succeed automatically upon the death or abdication of the sovereign, which means that the country will find itself without a monarch until Prince Philippe swears the oath to the Constitution before the two chambers of Parliament in the Palace of the Nation at noon.
The royal family will thereafter greet the crowds from the palace balcony before King Philippe honours the unknown soldier at the Congress Column, reviews troops and takes the salute at the usual national day parade. The day will end with a firework display at 11 p.m.
Contrary to what Aftenposten has claimed repeatedly in recent days, the Norwegian royal family are not "dropping out" of the celebrations or "making other priorities". Nor are other royal families, as none of them have been invited. There is no tradition for foreign royals to attend the inauguration of Belgian monarchs, the exception being in 1934, when the father-in-law and brothers-in-law of King Léopold III accompanied him to his swearing-in after attending the funeral of King Albert I.
King Albert will, as is the tradition except in the Netherlands and Britain, retain the title of king and will not retire from public life. During the last days he has visited several Belgian cities with Queen Paola and yesterday gave his farewell address to the nation.
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