Belgian Monarchy: Overview
The Kingdom of Belgium, headed by His Majesty the King Albert II of the Belgians belongs to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, unlike other Monarchs, the title of the Sovereign in Belgium is ‘King of the Belgians’ rather than ‘King of Belgium’ – this indicates that it is a popular Monarchy by virtue of being linked directly to the people of Belgium (The Belgians) and not to a territory as it is the case in other countries.
The Congress of Belgium chose a Constitutional Monarchy as the form of government for the newly independent state in November 1830, but found itself without a King for nearly a year until they invited Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to be King of the Belgians in July 1831.
Like most European Crowned Heads of State, the King of the Belgians holds very little political power in the country, under the Constitution the King acts as an arbiter and guarding of unity and sovereignty.
Formation of a government for Belgium is one of the most important, and perhaps in recent times the most challenging of duties – the King of the Belgians is trusted with appointing cabinet positions and the Prime Minister, the procedure normally begins with nominations, after a general election the King has a wider picture of the political make up of Parliament, and invites a ‘Formateur’ who will be in charged of forming a government, this person normally becomes the Prime Minister.
The King of the Belgians along with members of the Royal Family attend public functions in aid of charities, and to promote Belgium within the country and abroad. Annually, the King addresses the people in a Christmas message which is televised normally in the official languages (French and Dutch).
In his official duties, the King and Queen are supported by the Royal Family, they include:
- H.R.H. The Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant
- H.R.H. The Princess Mathilde, Duchess of Brabant
- H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth of Belgium
- H.R.H. Prince Gabriel of Belgium
- H.R.H. Prince Emmanuel of Belgium
- H.R.H. Princess Eleonore of Belgium
- H.I.&R.H. The Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este
- H.I.&R.H. Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este
- H.I.&R.H. Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este
- H.I.&R.H. Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este
- H.I.&R.H. Prince Joachim of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este
- H.I.&R.H. Princess Luisa Maria of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este
- H.I.&R.H. Princess Laetitia of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este
- H.R.H. The Prince Laurent of Belgium
- H.R.H. Princess Louise of Belgium
- H.R.H. Prince Nicolas of Belgium
- H.R.H. Prince Aymeric of Belgium
In Belgium, the Royal Family is assisted by the Belgian Royal Household, or better known as the King’s Household – the household was reorganized in 2006 to abolish several out dated department including the Grand Marshal’s Office, to give way to the Department of Economics, Social and Cultural Affairs and the Department of the Protocol of the Court.
The King’s Household assists the Royal Family in their official working roles in Belgium and abroad, and is often charged with managing the royal working lives of most members of the Royal Family.
Succession to the throne in Belgium is controlled by the Act of Succession which states the crown must pass onto descendants of Leopold I of the Belgians – though recently in 1992 changes were introduced to allow full cognatic primogeniture in the succession.
The official residence of the King of the Belgians is the Royal Palace in Brussels, but the Sovereign prefers to reside at the Royal Castle of Laeken and at Belvédère Castle.