Monarchy of Belgium
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Monarchy of Belgium

August 26, 2019

The monarchy of Belgium is a constitutional,
popular and hereditary monarchy whose incumbent is titled the King or Queen of the Belgians
and serves as the country’s head of state. There have been seven Belgian monarchs since
independence in 1830. The present incumbent, Philippe, became monarch
on 21 July 2013. Origins
When Belgium became independent in 1830 the National Congress chose a constitutional monarchy
as the form of government. The Congress voted on the question on 22 November
1830, supporting monarchy by 174 votes to 13. In February 1831, the Congress 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 to be the Regent of Belgium on 25 February
1831. Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was designated
as King of the Belgians by the National Congress and swore allegiance to the Belgian constitution
in front of Saint Jacob’s Church at Coudenberg Palace in Brussels on 21 July. This day has since become a national holiday
for Belgium and its citizens. A hereditary and constitutional system
As a hereditary constitutional monarchy system, the role and operation of Belgium’s monarchy
is governed by the Constitution. The royal office of King is designated solely
for a descendent of the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I. Since he is bound by the Constitution(above
all other ideological and religious considerations, political opinions and debates and economic
interests) the King is intended to act as an arbiter and guardian of Belgian national
unity and independence. Belgium’s monarchs are inaugurated in a purely
civil swearing-in ceremony. The Kingdom of Belgium was never an absolute
monarchy. Nevertheless, in 1961, the historian Ramon
Arango, wrote that the Belgian monarchy is not “truly constitutional”. Leopold I, Leopold II and Albert I
King Leopold I was head of Foreign Affairs “as an ancien régime monarch”, the foreign
ministers having the authority to act only as ministers of the king. Leopold I quickly became one of the most important
shareholders of the Société Générale de Belgique
Leopold’s son, King Leopold II is chiefly remembered for the founding and exploitation
of the Congo Free State which caused global public outrage when human rights abuses were
made public. Millions of Congolese were killed as a result
of Leopold’s policies in the Congo. On several occasions Leopold II publicly expressed
disagreement with ruling government and was accused by Yvon Gouet of noncompliance with
the country’s parliamentary system. In a similar manner, Albert I of Belgium would
later state that he was in command of the Belgian army contrary to his Prime Minister
Charles de Broqueville, also against the Belgian Constitution. Leopold III and Baudouin
Louis Wodon, thought the King’s oath to the Constitution implied a royal position “over
and above the Constitution”. He compared the King to a father, the head
of a family, “Regarding the moral mission of the king,” said Arango, “it is permissible
to point to a certain analogy between his role and that of a father, or more generally,
of parents in a family. The family is, of course, a legal institution
as is the state. But what would a family be where everything
was limited among those who compose it to simply legal relationships? In a family when one considers only legal
relationships one comes very close to a breakdown in the moral ties founded on reciprocal affection
without which a family would be like any other fragile association” According to Arango,
Leopold III of Belgium shared these views about the Belgian monarchy. In 1991, towards the end of the reign of Baudouin,
Senator Yves de Wasseige, a former member of the Belgian Constitutional Court, cited
four points of democracy which the Belgian Constitution lacks: 1. the King chooses the ministers, 2. the King is able to influence the ministers
when he speaks with them about bills, projects and nominations, 3. the King promulgates bills, and, 4. the King must agree to any change of the Constitution
Constitutional, political, and historical consequences
The Belgian monarchy was from the beginning a constitutional monarchy, patterned after
that of the United Kingdom. Raymond Fusilier wrote the Belgian regime
of 1830 was also inspired by the French Constitution of the Kingdom of France, the United States
Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the old political traditions of both Walloon and
Flemish provinces. “It should be observed that all monarchies
have suffered periods of change as a result of which the power of the sovereign was reduced,
but for the most part those periods occurred before the development of the system of constitutionnal
monarchy and were steps leading to its establishment.” The characteristic evidence of this is in
Great Britain where there was an evolution from the time when kings ruled through the
agency of ministers to that time when ministers began to govern through the instrumentality
of the Crown. Unlike the British constitutional system,
in Belgium “the monarchy underwent a belated evolution” which came “after the establishment
of the constitutional monarchical system” because, in 1830-1831, an independent state,
parliamentary system and monarchy were established simultaneously. Hans Daalder, professor of political science
at the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden wrote: “Did such simultaneous developments not result
in a possible failure to lay down the limits of the royal prerogratives with some precision
– which implied that the view of the King as the Keeper of the Nation, with rights and
duties of its own, retained legitimacy?” For Raymond Fusilier, the Belgian monarchy
had to be placed – at least in the beginning – between the regimes where the king rules
and those in which the king does not rule but only reigns. The Belgian monarchy is closer to the principle
“the King does not rule” But the Belgian kings were not only “at the head of the dignified
part of the Constitution”. The Belgian monarchy is not merely symbolic,
because it participates in directing affairs of state insofar as the King’s will coincides
with that of the ministers, who alone bear responsibility for the policy of government. For Francis Delpérée, to reign does not
only mean to preside over ceremonies but also to take a part in the running of the State. The Belgian historian Jean Stengers wrote
that “some foreigners believe the monarchy is indispensable to national unity. That is very naive. He is only a piece on the chessboard, but
a piece which matters. List of Kings of the Belgians To date all have belonged to the House of
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Their family tree is: Title
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 King of Belgium would indicate standard
constitutional or absolute monarchy linked to territory or state.[1] For example, in
1830, King Louis Philippe was proclaimed King of the French rather than King of France. The Greek monarch 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.[2] Belgium is the only current European monarchy
that does not apply the tradition of the new monarch automatically ascending the throne
upon the death or abdication of the previous monarch. According to Article 91 of the Belgian constitution,
the monarch accedes to the throne only upon taking a constitutional oath before a joint
session of the two Houses of Parliament. The joint session has to be held within ten
days of the death of the deceased or abdicated king. The new Belgian monarch is required to take
the Belgian constitutional oath, “I swear to observe the Constitution and the laws of
the Belgian people, to maintain the national independence and the integrity of the territory,”
which is uttered in the three official languages: French, Dutch, and German. Members of the Belgian Royal Family are often
known by two names: a Dutch and a French one. For example, the current monarch is called
‘Philippe’ in French and ‘Filip’ in Dutch; the fifth King of the Belgians was ‘Baudouin’
in French and ‘Boudewijn’ in Dutch. In contrast to King Philippe’s title of “King
of the Belgians”, Princess Elisabeth is called “Princess of Belgium” as the title “Prince
of the Belgians” does not exist. She is also Duchess of Brabant, the traditional
title of the heir apparent to the Belgian throne. This title precedes the title “Princess of
Belgium”. In the other official language of German,
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. Because of the First World War and the resultant
strong anti-German sentiment, the family name was changed in 1920 from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
to van België, de Belgique, or von Belgien, depending upon which of the country’s three
official languages is in use. It is this family name which is used on the
identity cards and in all official documents by Belgium’s royalty. In addition to this change of name, the armorial
bearings of Saxony were removed from the Belgian royal coat of arms. Other Coburgers from the multi-branched Saxe-Coburg
family have also changed their name, such as George V of the United Kingdom, who adopted
the family name of Windsor after the British Royal Family’s place of residence. Constitutional role The Belgian monarchy symbolises and maintains
a feeling of national unity by representing the country in public functions and international
meetings. In addition, 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 or she generally becomes the Prime Minister. The Constitution of Belgium entrusts the monarch
with federal executive powers: the appointment and dismissal of ministers, the implementation
of the laws passed by the Federal Parliament, the submission of bills to the Federal Parliament
and the management of 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 without the countersignature of the responsible minister,
who in doing so assumes political responsibility. 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 on any matter as the monarch sees fit. The monarch also holds meetings with the leaders
of all the major political parties and regular members of parliament. All of these meetings are organised by the
monarch’s personal political cabinet 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 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 office. Belgians may 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. Inviolability 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, cannot be summoned to appear before a civil court, and
is not accountable to the Federal Parliament. This inviolability was deemed incompatible,
however, 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. Royal Household
The King’s Household was reorganised in 2006, and consists of seven autonomous departments
and the Court’s Steering Committee. 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 Department for Economic, Social and Cultural
Affairs the King’s Cabinet
the King’s Military Household the King’s Civil List
the Department for Foreign Relations the Department of the Protocol of the Court
the Department of Petitions The King’s Chief of Cabinet is responsible
for dealing with political and administrative matters and for maintaining the relations
with the government, trade unions and industrial circles. In relation to the King, the Chief assists
in keeping track of current events; informs regarding all aspects of Belgian life; proposes
and prepares audiences; assists in preparing speeches and informs the King about developments
in international affairs. The Chief of Cabinet is assisted by the Deputy
and Legal Adviser, the Press Adviser and the Archivist. The incumbent Chief of Cabinet is Baron Frans
Van Daele, former Chief of Cabinet of President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. 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 all matters of security,
defence policy, the views of Belgium’s main partner countries and all aspects of the Belgian
Armed Forces. He organises the King’s contacts with the
Armed Forces, advises in the fields of scientific research and police and coordinates matters
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 and assisted by an adviser, 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
chosen by the monarch and charged with carrying out certain tasks on his behalf, such as representing
him at events. The King’s Equerries are young officers who
take turns preparing the King’s activities, informing him about all the aspects that may
be important to him and providing any other useful services such as announcing visitors. The equerry accompanies the King on his trips
except for those of a strictly private nature. 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 is charged with organising
the public engagements of the King and the Queen, such as audiences, receptions and official
banquets 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 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. Members of the Belgian Royal Family
Members of the Royal Family hold the title Prince of Belgium with the style of Royal
Highness. Prior to World War I they used the additional
titles Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke of Saxony as members of the House of
Wettin. Philippe is HM The King of the Belgians, born
15 April 1960. He married, on 4 December 1999, Jonkvrouwe
Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz, who was created HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Duchess
of Brabant a day before their wedding, and became, from 21 July 2013, HM Queen Mathilde
of the Belgians. She is a daughter of the late Patrick d’Udekem
d’Acoz and his wife, Countess Anna Maria Komorowska. They have four children:
HRH Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, who will inherit the throne after her father
due to a 1991 act of succession which established absolute primogeniture, altering the order
of succession from “eldest son” to “eldest child”. HRH Prince Gabriel of Belgium
HRH Prince Emmanuel of Belgium HRH Princess Eléonore of Belgium
Other Members of the Royal Family HM King Albert II. He was the king between 1993 and 21 July 2013,
the Belgian National Day, when he abdicated in favour of his son Philippe, Duke of Brabant,
because of ill health. On 2 July 1959 he married Donna Paola Ruffo
di Calabria in Brussels, who was created HRH Princess Paola of Belgium, Princess of Liège
a day before their wedding, and after 1993, became Queen Paola of the Belgians. She is the daughter of Fulco VIII, Prince
Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda and his wife, Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana
e di Sebastiano. Together they have three children, the current
king, a daughter and another son: HI&RH Princess Astrid, Archduchess of Austria-Este. She is the wife of HI&RH Prince Lorenz of
Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia, whom she married
on 22 September 1984 and who was created a prince of Belgium in 1995. Princess Astrid, with her own descendants,
is before her brother Laurent in the order of succession to the Belgian throne, due to
the 1991 act of succession mentioned above. They have five children:
HI&RH Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este. He married Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein
on 5 July 2014. HI&RH Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess
of Austria-Este HI&RH Prince Joachim of Belgium, Archduke
of Austria-Este HI&RH Princess Luisa Maria of Belgium, Archduchess
of Austria-Este HI&RH Princess Laetitia Maria of Belgium,
Archduchess of Austria-Este HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium. He married Claire Coombs, an Anglo-Belgian
former land surveyor, on 12 April 2003, who was created HRH Princess Claire of Belgium
11 days before their wedding. They have one daughter and two sons:
HRH Princess Louise of Belgium HRH Prince Nicolas of Belgium
HRH Prince Aymeric of Belgium Other descendants of Leopold III
HM Queen Fabiola. She is the widow of King Baudouin, brother
of King Albert II and uncle of The King Philippe. HRH Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. He is the widower of Princess Joséphine Charlotte
of Belgium, sister of Kings Baudouin and Albert II and aunt of King Philippe. HRH Princess Léa of Belgium. She is the widow of Prince Alexander of Belgium,
half-brother of both Kings Baudouin and Albert II, and half-uncle of The King Philippe. HRH Princess Marie-Christine, Mrs Gourges. She is the eldest daughter of Leopold III
and Lilian, Princess of Réthy, half-sister of both Kings Baudouin and Albert II and half-aunt
of The King Philippe. Her first marriage, to Paul Drucker in Coral
Gables, Miami-Dade County, Florida, on 23 May 1981, lasted 40 days; she subsequently
married Jean-Paul Gourges in Los Angeles, California, on 28 September 1989. HRH Princess Marie-Esméralda, Lady Moncada. She is the youngest daughter of Leopold III
and Lilian, Princess of Réthy, half-sister of both Kings Baudouin and Albert II and half-aunt
of The King Philippe. Princess Marie-Esméralda is a journalist,
writing under the name Esméralda de Réthy’. She married Sir Salvador Moncada, a Honduran-British
pharmacologist, in London on 4 April 1998. They have a daughter, Alexandra Leopoldine,
and a son, Leopoldo Daniel. Deceased members
Crown Prince Louis Philippe; Queen Louise;
King Leopold I; Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico;
Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant; Princess Joséphine Marie;
Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria; Prince Baudouin;
Queen Marie Henriette; Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders;
King Leopold II; Princess Marie, Dowager Countess of Flandres;
Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern; Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke
in Saxony; Princess Louise of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha,
Duchess in Saxony; Prince Victor, Prince Napoléon;
Empress Carlota of Mexico; Prince Emmanuel, Duke of Vendôme and Alençon;
King Albert I; Queen Astrid;
Dowager Crown Princess Stéphanie of Austria, Princess Lónyai de Nagy-Lónya;
Prince Elemér Lónyai de Nagy-Lónya; Princess Henriette, Duchess of Vendôme and
Alençon; Princess Clémentine, Princess Napoléon;
Princess Joséphine Caroline of Hohenzollern; Queen Elisabeth;
King Umberto II of Italy; Prince Regent Charles, Count of Flanders;
King Leopold III; King Baudouin I;
Queen Maria-José of Italy; Princess Lilian, Princess de Réthy;
Grand Duchess Joséphine Charlotte of Luxembourg; Prince Alexander;
Royal consorts Princess Louise of Orléans
Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria
Princess Astrid of Sweden Lilian Baels*
Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón Princess Paola Ruffo di Calabria
Jonkvrouwe Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz See also
List of Belgian monarchs Line of succession to the Belgian throne
Crown Council of Belgium References External links
The Belgian monarchy – official site of the Belgian Royal Family
The Belgian monarchy – official brochure of the Belgium government
What role for a Belgian monarch? – website

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