Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

We interrupt this program …

This is what happened yesterday afternoon during the life coverage of the Tour de France! I didn’t see it myself, because I was at the office. But I read about it on the internet later that evening.

So I’m interrupting my Loire Valley series to bring you some big local news; news blog reader and regular commenter Carolyn* in the US had already heard or read.

The reason for yesterday’s life coverage interruption was to announce that at 6 p.m. there would be a special broadcast during which our King Albert II would address the nation. Lately there had been some speculations about whether or when the king, who turns 80 this year, would abdicate in favour of his eldest son Filip/Philippe, who’s married to the lovely Princess Mathilde. The couple has four children, two girls and two boys. The eldest, Elisabeth, is ten years old, and may one day become our first female sovereign.

Albert became king in 1993, after the sudden death of his brother Baudouin. Although he originally wasn’t destined to be king, he did a fabulous job! He’s a warm-hearted, intelligent, relaxed and easy-going man with an enormous sense of humour who laughs easily. We will miss him.

Filip, our king to be (l) 
and Albert II, our present and almost former king (r).Photo:

The reasons for his abdication, a first in the history of Belgium, are his age, his failing health and – probably – a family scandal that was brought in the open some ten years ago, but which has taken a very nasty turn recently. It is believed that the king has an illegitimate daughter from an affair he had decades ago while he was still Prince de Liége. About a month ago this ‘daughter’ has started a legal procedure to force the king and his eldest son and daughter to take a DNA test which should proof that she really is his daughter.

Most people tend to think that this new ordeal has accelerated the king’s decision to abdicate earlier than expected. I for one understand Albert’s decision. He has done a great job over the last 20 years and he has won the hearts of many. He must be very tired and the strain and stress of ‘ruling’ a difficult country like Belgium, with its two communities, which are almost constantly on each other’s back, have probably worn him out. He has worked beyond the call of duty and is certainly entitled to a well-deserved and hopefully long retirement.

He and his wife Paola like spending time in France (now why would that be?). They have a villa and a yacht in Southern France, and you can bet on it that from now on they will be living there for the best part of the year.

I hope that this change at the top will not mean the end of Belgium. There are some fearsome separatists and republicans out there who can’t wait to split up the country and elect a president. They may gather that this is the right time to do it. I’m not saying it will happen overnight, especially as the monarchy and the unity of the country still have the support of the majority of the population. Anyway, I hope I won’t live the day to see this happen. And if it were to happen in my lifetime, there is not a fraction of doubt in my mind of what I will do: pack up and move to France … and my beloved Loire Valley …

(*) Note to Carolyn: I did receive your comment via the to the comment box linked email, but for some odd reason it does not appear on the blog!


Craig said...

I'm a bit of a monarchist and have read only good things of your King. I take the scandal with a pinch of salt.
But abdication makes sense when old age comes along as Beatrice next door to you has shown.

The Broad said...

Thank you so much for explaining the situation in Belgium so clearly. It was reported on the 24 hour BBC news channel, but not on BBC 1. How disconcerting for the country. I have always been very fond of Belgium and though aware of the internal friction, have not really understood the history of it too well. I do hope that the country will find a way to live with its differences with harmony and understanding...erresons

Niall & Antoinette said...

Well he's following in the footsteps of a good Dutch tradition. Beatrix abdicated earlier in the year in favour of Willem Alexander, which means the Netherlands has its first king in ages.

Jean said...

The woman is after money, I bet.
What else could she possibly gain from causing such upset?

VirginiaC said...

Health comes first, and with all the stress of dealing with such claims, it may be in his best interest to take a step back from running the country at this stage.

Nadege said...

I read about the abdication on the internet (I don't watch TV very often). It is probably in everybody's best interest the king stepped down. I am sure the future has lots of surprises for us.

chm said...

I wish your country [sort of mine too] the best of luck. I'm sure the transition will be very peaceful and you won't have to retire to France and the Loire Valley earlier than expected.

The Beaver said...


The father of the King, Leopold did also abdicate in favour of his son , KIng Baudouin , didn't he?

Bob said...

Heard about it on the news. Thanks for the background history. This is not uncommon for people in power, they just want to keep everything quiet. Enjoying you great vacation photos and comments.

Louise said...

Martine, as I told you some time ago my ex-boyfriend's aunt was the second wife of King Leopold...that situation was also a scandal as they were married in secret during the War...I wish the best for the new Monarch...

ladybird said...

Craig, Apart from the seperatists very few people care about the scandal and don't see it as a reason for abdication.

Kathie, Thank you. I love my country too. It's just some people I don't like so much ;)

N&A, I think Beatix example was an extra motivation for our Albert to do the same.

Jean, Probably, especially as her adoptive father has taken her out of his will.

Virginia, The man is entitled to a nice and stressless retirement. he has done so much for the country.

Nadege, It's funny how the news was reported on all over the world. After all, we are such a small country and many people don't even know where it is.

Chm, It's not so much the transition I'm worried about. The big test will come next year in October when we have federal elections. Will Filip have his father's wisdom, humour and empathy to deal with the different political parties, some of which are against the monarchy?

Narimma, Yes he did abdicate but it was in completely different circumstances. It wasn't health or old age, but the fact that the majority of the population had turned against him after what had happened during the war.

Hi Bob, Glad you're enjoying my travel reoport. And there is more to come :)

Louise, Thanks! Filip will need all the support he can get. Luckily his wife is a very 'strong' and popular woman. I'm sure she will make the difference.