Monarchy in Belgium is constitutional and popular in nature. The hereditary monarch, presently Albert II is the head of state and is officially called King of the Belgians (Koning der Belgen, , König der Belgier).
The National Congress of Belgium chose a constitutional monarchy as the form of government for the newly-independent Belgian state on 22 November 1830 by 174 votes to 13. In February 1831 it nominated Louis, Duke of Nemours, the son of the French king Louis-Philippe, but international considerations deterred Louis-Philippe from accepting the honour for his son. Following this refusal, the National Congress appointed Erasme-Louis, Baron Surlet de Chokier Regent of Belgium on 25 February 1831, who became the first head of state of independent Belgium. On 4 June, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was designated King of the Belgians by the National Congress. He took the constitutional oath on 21 July 1831.
Successive Belgian kings are
|Born-Died||French Name||Dutch Name||English Name||Reign Began||Reign Ended||Duration of Reign||Relation to Predecessor|
|1790-1865||Léopold I||Leopold I||Leopold I||21 July 1831||10 December 1865||34 years||Died in office|
|1835-1909||Léopold II||Leopold II||Leopold II||17 December 1865||17 December 1909||44 years||his son||Died in office|
|1875-1934||Albert I||Albert I||Albert I||23 December 1909||17 February 1934||24 years||his nephew||Died in office|
|1901-1983||Léopold III||Leopold III||Leopold III||23 February 1934||16 July 1951||17 years||his son||Abdicated|
|1930-1993||Baudouin I||Boudewijn I||Baldwin I||17 July 1951||31 July 1993||42 years||his son||Died in office|
|1934-||Albert II||Albert II||Albert II||9 August 1993||Present||his younger brother|
The proper title of the Belgian monarch is King of the Belgians rather than "King of Belgium". The title "King of the Belgians" indicates a popular monarchy linked to the people of Belgium, whereas the former would indicate standard constitutional or absolute monarchy linked to territory and a state. Similarly, Queen Mary I is referred to as "Queen of Scots" rather than "Queen of Scotland". In 1830 King Louis Philippe was proclaimed "King of the French" rather than the traditional "King of France". The now abolished Greek monarchy similarly was titled "King of the Hellenes", indicating a personal link with the people, not just the state. Moreover, the Latin translation of "King of Belgium" would have been Rex Belgii, which from 1815 was the name for the King of the Netherlands. Therefore the Belgian separatists chose Rex Belgarum.
Belgium is the only current European monarchy that does not apply the tradition of the new monarchy automatically ascending the throne upon the death or abdication of the former monarch. According to the Belgian constitution, the monarch accedes to the throne only upon taking a constitutional oath. For example, the present king did not become monarch on July 31, 1993 (the day his brother died) but on August 9, 1993 (when he took the constitutional oath). In all other present European monarchies, the monarch assumes the title the moment the predecessor dies or abdicates. The Belgian constitutional oath is as follows: "I swear to observe the Constitution and the laws of the Belgian people, to maintain the national independence and the integrity of the territory."
Belgium has three official languages, of which Dutch and French are the most important. Members of the royal family are often known by two names: a Dutch and a French one. For example, the current heir-apparent is called Philippe in French and Filip in Dutch; the fifth King of the Belgians was Baudouin in French and Boudewijn in Dutch; the three kings who are known as Léopold in French are known as Leopold (without accent) in Dutch.
In German, which is Belgium's third official language, monarchs are usually referred to by their French names. The same is true for English (with the exception of Leopold, where the accent is removed for the purpose of simplicity).
In French speaking Belgium, monarchs are always officially designated an ordinal, even when they are the only monarch of their name thus far. So King Baudouin was "King Baudouin I", even though there had not yet been a "King Baudouin II". (This is contrary to the system of ordinals used in Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.)
DateFormat = yyyy
Period = from:1830 till:2008
TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal
ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:10 start:1830 Colors =
Legend = columns:4 left:150 top:24 columnwidth:100 TextData =
id:king value:rgb(1,0.70,0) legend: king
id:regent value:rgb(0.5,0.71,0.84) legend: regent
pos:(20,27) textcolor:black fontsize:M
align:left fontsize:S shift:(3,-4) anchor:from width:15
from: start till: 1831 color:regent text:"Erasme Louis Surlet de Chokier" fontsize:5
from: 1831 till: 1865 color:king text:"Leopold I" fontsize:10
from: 1865 till: 1909 color:king text:"Leopold II" fontsize:10
from: 1909 till: 1934 color:king text:"Albert I" fontsize:10
from: 1934 till: 1951 color:king text:"Leopold III" fontsize:10
from: 1944 till: 1951 color:regent shift:(25,-4) text:"Charles" fontsize:5
from: 1951 till: 1993 color:king text:"Baudouin I" fontsize:10
from: 1993 till: end color:king text:"Albert II" fontsize:10
DateFormat = yyyy Period = from:1830 till:2008 TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:10 start:1830
Legend = columns:4 left:150 top:24 columnwidth:100
The Belgian monarchy combines several public and political missions. On the one hand, the king symbolises and maintains a feeling of national unity by representing the country in public functions and international meetings.
Additionally, the monarch has a number of responsibilities in the process of the formation of the Government. The procedure usually begins with the nomination of the “Informateur” by the monarch. After the general election the Informateur officially informs the monarch of the main political formations which may be available for governance. After this phase, the monarch can appoint another "informateur" or appoint a “Formateur”, who will have the charge of forming a new government, of which he/she generally becomes the Prime Minister.
The Belgian Constitution entrusts the monarch with federal executive powers. The monarch has the power to appoint and dismiss ministers, is responsible for the implementation of the laws passed by the Federal Parliament, may submit bills to the Federal Parliament and manages international relations. The monarch sanctions and promulgates all laws passed by Parliament. In accordance with Article 106 of the Belgian Constitution, the monarch cannot act alone without the countersignature of the responsible minister, who in doing so assumes political responsibility for the action. This means that federal executive power is exercised in practice by the Federal Government, which is accountable to the Chamber of Representatives in accordance with Article 101 of the Constitution.
The monarch receives the prime minister at the Palace of Brussels at least once a week, and also regularly calls other members of the government to the palace in order to discuss political matters. During these meetings, the monarch has the right to be informed of proposed governmental policies, the right to advise, and the right to warn the government on any matter as the monarch sees fit. The monarch also holds meetings with the leaders of all the major political parties as well as with regular members of parliament. All of these meetings are organised by the monarch's personal Political Cabinet (not to be confused with the Cabinet of ministers) which is part of the Royal Household.
The monarch is the Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian Armed Forces and makes appointments to the higher officer positions. The names of the nominees are sent to the monarch by the Ministry of Defence. The monarch's military duties are carried out with the help of the Military Household which is headed by a General officer. King Leopold III was the last Belgian King to take personal command of the army in the field; this was during World War II.
Finally, Belgians can write to the monarch when they meet difficulties with administrative powers.
The monarch is also one of the three components of the federal legislative power, in accordance with the Belgian Constitution, together with the two chambers of the Federal Parliament: the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. All laws passed by the Federal Parliament must be signed and promulgated by the monarch.
Article 88 of the Belgian Constitution provides that "the King's person is inviolable, his ministers are responsible". This means that the King cannot be prosecuted, arrested or convicted of crimes, that he cannot be summoned to appear before a civil court and that he is not accountable to the Federal Parliament. This inviolability was deemed incompatible with Article 27 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which states that official capacity shall not exempt a person from criminal responsibility under the Statute.
The King's Household (Het Huis van de Koning, La Maison du Roi, Das Haus des Königs) in Belgium at present consists of seven autonomous departments and the Court's Steering Committee. This is the result of a reorganisation of the King's Household that took place in 2006, when the office of Grand Marshal of the Court and the Department of the Grand Marshal of the Court were abolished and replaced with the Department for Economic, Social and Cultural Affairs and the Department of the Protocol of the Court. Two other departments were established as part of this reorganisation: the Department for Foreign Relations and the Department of Petitions. Another result of the reorganisation was the establishment of a Steering Committee, consisting of the Heads of Department of the King's Household.
Each Head of Department is responsible for his department and is accountable to the King.
The following departments currently make up the King's Household:
The King's Chief of Cabinet is responsible for dealing with political and administrative matters and for maintaining the relations with the government and the political, trade union and industrial circles. He assists the King in keeping track of the political current affairs and informs the King of the national political, economic and social life. He proposes and prepares the King's political audiences, assists the King in preparing speeches and informs the King about developments in international politics. The Chief of Cabinet is assisted by the Deputy Chief of Cabinet and Legal Adviser, the Press Adviser and the Archivist. The incumbent Chief of Cabinet is Jacques van Ypersele de Strihou, who is reportedly sometimes referred to as viceroy, Richelieu or Rasputin.
The Head of the King's Military Household assists the King in fulfilling his duties in the field of defence. He informs the King about the international security situation, the national security and defence policy, the views of Belgium's main partner countries and international organisations, and the situation, resources, operation and missions of the Belgian Armed Forces and foreign Armed Forces. He also organises the King's contacts with the Armed Forces, advises the King in the fields of scientific research and police services and prepares activities in these fields, and handles relations and coordinates activities with patriotic associations and former service personnel. The Military Household is also responsible for managing the Palace's computer system. The Head of the Military Household is a General Officer, currently General Jef Van den put. He is assisted by the Adviser of the Military Household, currently Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Serge Vassart. The King's Aides-de-Camp and the King's Equerries are also attached to the Military Household.
The King's Aides-de-Camp are senior officers or generals, currently ten, chosen by the monarch and charged with carrying out certain tasks on his behalf, such as representing him at events or ceremonies he is unable to attend. The King's Equerries are young officers chosen by the monarch who take turns at working full-time for the King for a whole week. In principle, there are six officers who perform this role in turns. The King's Equerry is at the service of the monarch 24 hours a day. He prepares the King's activities, informs him about all the aspects that may be important to him and tries to facilitate his task by providing various services. It is in principle the King's Equerry who receives his visitors and guests, and who announces them. The Equerry also accompanies the King during his trips, both within the country and abroad, except for certain activities of a strictly private nature. In the latter case, he is on duty around the clock at the Castle of the Belvédère, the King's private residence.
The Intendant of the King's Civil List is responsible for managing the material, financial and human resources of the King's Household. He is assisted by the Commandant of the Royal Palaces, the Treasurer of the King's Civil List and the Civil List Adviser. The Intendant of the Civil List also advises the King in the field of energy, sciences and culture and administers the King's hunting rights. The Commandant of the Royal Palaces is mainly in charge, in close cooperation with the Chief of Protocol, of the logistic support of activities and the maintenance and cleaning of the Palaces, Castles and Residences. He is also Director of the Royal Hunts.
The Chief of Protocol of the Court heads the Department of the Protocol of the Court and is charged with organising and carrying out the public engagements of the King and the Queen, such as audiences, receptions and official meals at the Palace, as well as formal activities outside of the Palace. He is assisted by the Queen's Secretary, who is mainly responsible for proposing and preparing the Queen's audiences and visits. The incumbent Chief of Protocol of the Court is Vice-Admiral Pierre Warnauts.
The Head of the Department for Economic, Social and Cultural Affairs advises the King in the economic, social and cultural fields. He is also responsible for providing coordination between the various Households and Services and for organising and minuting the meetings of the Steering Committee. The Head of the Department for Foreign Relations informs the King of developments in international policy, assists the King from a diplomatic viewpoint on royal visits abroad and prepares the King's audiences in the international field. He is also responsible for maintaining contacts with foreign diplomatic missions. The Head of the Department of Petitions is charged with processing petitions and requests for social aid addressed the King, the Queen or other members of the Royal Family. He is also responsible for the analysis and coordination of royal favours and activities relating to jubilees, and advises the King in the fields for which he is responsible.
For the personal protection of the King and the Royal Family, as well as for the surveillance of the royal estates, the Belgian Federal Police at all times provides a Security Detail to the Royal Palace, commanded by a Chief Police Commissioner.
There are currently two other Households at the Belgian Court: the Household of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola and the Household of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Brabant. The other members of the Royal Family have a Service at their disposal.
LEOPOLD I (1790-1865) ~ Louise-Marie (1812-1850)|
(1/4) Louis-Philippe (1833-1834)
(2/4) LEOPOLD II (1835-1909) ~ Marie Henriette (1836-1902)| | | (1/4) Louise-Marie (1858-1924) | (2/4) Leopold (1859-1869) | (3/4) Stéphanie (1864-1945) | (4/4) Clémentine (1872-1955) |
(3/4) Philippe (1837-1905) ~ Marie (1845-1912)| | | (1/5) Baudouin (1869-1891) | (2/5) Henriette (1870-1948) ~ Philippe Emmanuel (1872-1931) | | | | | (1/4) Marie Louise (1897-1973) | | (2/4) Sophie (1898-1928) | | (3/4) Geneviève (1901-1983) | | (4/4) Charles Philippe (1905-1970) | | | (3/5) Josephine Marie (1870-1871) | (4/5) Josephine Caroline (1872-1858) ~ Karl Anton (1868-1919) | | | | | (1/3) Stéphanie (1895-1975) | | (2/3) Maria Antoinette (1896-1965) | | (3/3) Albrecht (1898-1977) | | | (5/5) ALBERT I (1875-1934) ~ Elisabeth (1876-1965) | | | (1/3) LEOPOLD III (1901-1983) ~ Astrid (1905-1935) | | | | | (1/3) Joséphine-Charlotte (1927-2005) ~ Jean (born 1921) | | | | | | | (1/5) Marie-Astrid (born 1954) ~ Carl Christian (born 1954) | | | (2/5) Henri (born 1955) ~ Maria Teresa (born 1956) | | | (3/5) Jean (born 1957) ~ Hélène (born 1958) | | | (4/5) Margaretha (born 1957) ~ Nikolaus (born 1947) | | | (5/5) Guillaume (born 1963) ~ Sibilla (born 1968) | | | | | (2/3) BAUDOUIN I (1930-1993) ~ Fabiola (born 1928) | | (3/3) ALBERT II (born 1934) ~ Paola (born 1937) | | | | | (1/3) Philippe (born 1960) ~ Mathilde (born 1973) | | | | | | | (1/4) Elisabeth (born 2001) | | | (2/4) Gabriel (born 2003) | | | (3/4) Emmanuel (born 2005) | | | (4/4) Eléonore (born 2008) | | | | | (2/3) Astrid (born 1962) ~ Lorenz (born 1955) | | | | | | | (1/5) Amedeo (born 1986) | | | (2/5) Maria Laura (born 1988) | | | (3/5) Joachim (born 1991) | | | (4/5) Louisa Maria (born 1995) | | | (5/5) Laetitia Maria (born 2003) | | | | | (3/3) Laurent (born 1963) ~ Claire (born 1974) | | | | | (1/3) Louise (born 2004) | | (2/3) Nicolas (born 2005) | | (3/3) Aymeric (born 2005) | | | (2/3) Charles (1903-1983) | (3/3) Marie-José (1906-2001) ~ Umberto II (1904-1983) | | | (1/4) Maria Pia (born 1934) | (2/4) Vittore Emanuele (born 1937) | (3/4) Maria Gabriella (born 1940) | (4/4) Maria Beatrice (born 1943) |
(4/4) Charlotte (1840-1927) ~ Maximilian (1832-1867)
They adopted two sons.
(1/2) Agustín (1863-1925)
(2/2) Salvador (1849-1895)