Albert II of Belgium
Albert II, (born 6 June 1934) is the King of the Belgians, a constitutional monarch. He is a member of the royal house "of Belgium"; formerly this house was named Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He is the uncle of the current reigning Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Henri.
Albert's full name is Albert Félix Humbert Théodore Christian Eugène Marie in French (pronounced: [albɛʁ feliks œ̃bɛʁ teodɔʁ kʁistjɑ̃ øʒɛn maʁi]), Albert Felix Humbert Theodoor Christiaan Eugène Marie in Dutch (pronounced [ˈʔɑlbəɾt ˈfelɪks ˈɦʏmbəɾt teːjoˈdoːɾ kɾɪsˈti̯aːn ʔøːˈʒɛːn maˈɾiː]), and Albert Felix Humbert Theodor Christian Eugen Maria in German (pronounced [ˈʔalbɛʁt ˈfeːlɪks ˈhʊmbɛʁt ˈteːodoːɐ̯ ˈkʁɪsti̯an ˈʔɔʏɡən maˈʁiːa]).
Albert is the second son of King Leopold III (1901–1983) and his first wife, Astrid of Sweden (1905–1935). He ascended to the throne in 1993, following the death of his older brother, King Baudouin, who died without issue. His godparents were Prince Felix of Luxembourg and his paternal grandmother, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. He is the first cousin of King Harald V of Norway, Princess Astrid of Norway, and Princess Ragnhild of Norway.
Prince Albert was born in Stuyvenberg Castle, Brussels. On 10 May 1940, at the time when Belgium was being invaded, Prince Albert, his elder sister Princess Joséphine-Charlotte and his elder brother Prince Baudouin, left the country for France and later Spain. The Prince and the Princess returned to Belgium on 2 August 1940. They continued their studies until 1944, either at Laeken, or at the Chateau of Ciergnon in the Ardennes. In June 1944, at the time of the Allied landings, King Leopold III, Princess Lilian – whom he married in 1941 – and the royal children were deported by the Germans to Hirschstein, Germany, and later to Strobl, Austria, where they were liberated by the American Army on 7 May 1945.
Due to the political situation in Belgium, King Leopold and his family moved to the villa "Le Reposoir" in Pregny, Switzerland, when they left Austria in October 1945 and stayed until July 1950. During that time, Prince Albert would continue his education in a secondary school in Geneva. King Leopold III, accompanied by Prince Baudouin and Prince Albert, returned to Belgium on 22 July 1950.
Marriage and family
In 1958, Prince Albert of Liege went to the Vatican to witness the coronation of Pope John XXIII. At a reception at the Belgian embassy, the prince met Italian Princess Paola Ruffo di Calabria. “We were both shy, so we only talked a little,” Paola said later about their first meeting. Shy but smitten, Prince Albert proposed marriage to Paola, and she accepted. Two months after their meeting, the Prince introduced his future wife to his family, and four months later to the press. Upon arriving in Brussels for the first time before her wedding, Princess Paola won over the Belgian media immediately.
They wanted a marriage at the Vatican at first, a setting promoted by both families, but the Belgian government did not approve of that. They did not want to keep a fairy tale wedding from the people of Belgium, who finally had an opportunity for organizing celebrations for their royal family. The Pope, after some diplomatic pressure, refused them a marriage at the Vatican, saying he would understand if the couple would want to get married amidst their people.
On 2 July 1959 he married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria (born 11 September 1937) in Brussels. She is the daughter of Fulco VIII, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda and his wife, Countess Luisa Gazelli di Rossana e di Sebastiano (1896–1989). Together they have three children, two sons and a daughter:
- HRH Prince Philippe of Belgium, Duke of Brabant (born 15 April 1960). On 4 December 1999, the Duke married Jonkvrouwe Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz (born 20 January 1973), who was created HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium a day before their marriage. She is a daughter of the late Count Patrick d'Udekem d'Acoz and his wife, Countess Anna Maria Komorowska. The Duke and Duchess of Brabant have four children, two sons and two daughters:
- HI&RH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess Lorenz of Austria-Este, Duchess of Modena (born 5 June 1962). On 22 September 1984, she married HI&RH Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este, Archduke of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia (born 16 December 1955), who was created a Prince of Belgium in 1995. They have five children, two sons and three daughters:
- HI&RH Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este (born 22 February 1986)
- HI&RH Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 26 August 1988)
- HI&RH Prince Joachim of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este (born 9 December 1991)
- HI&RH Princess Luisa Maria of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 11 October 1995)
- HI&RH Princess Laetitia Maria of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 23 April 2003)
- HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium (born 19 October 1963). On 12 April 2003, He married Claire Coombs (born 18 January 1974), an Anglo-Belgian former real-estate agent. She was created HRH Princess Claire of Belgium 11 days before their marriage. They have three children, two sons and one daughter:
As the younger brother of King Baudouin, Prince Albert was the heir-presumptive to the throne. However his son Prince Philippe was groomed to be Baudoin's successor, once it became clear that the King would have no children to succeed him. However, on Baudouin's death (at age 62), Albert was sworn in before parliament on 9 August 1993 as the sixth King of the Belgians.
As King, Albert's duties include representing Belgium at home and abroad on state visits, trade missions, and at high level international meetings as well as taking an interest in Belgian society, culture and enterprise.
In 1984, he set up the Prince Albert Foundation, to promote expertise in foreign trade.
The King has a constitutional role which came into play in 2010-2011 when Belgium's parliament was unable to agree on a government. When the crisis was resolved, Albert swore in the new government.
In January 2012, Albert announced that the royal family would freeze their allowances and use a greater proportion of their income to maintain the royal palaces.
Albert sparked controversy in his December 2012 Christmas speech by comparing modern "populist movements" with those of the 1930s. This was seen by several political commentators, as well as many Flemish politicians, as aimed implicitly at the large Flemish nationalist party, the N-VA. Bart de Wever, the party's leader, called for the king's role in the formation of Belgian governments to be changed in the wake of this comment since he "could no longer see the monarch as playing the constitutional role of referee."
Albert's patriline is the line from which he is descended father to son.
Patrilineal descent is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the generations – which means that if Albert II were to choose an historically accurate house name it would be Wettin, as all his male-line ancestors have been of that house.
House of Wettin
Titles & styles
Titles and styles
- 6 June 1934 – 7 June 1934: His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Belgium
- 7 June 1934 – 9 August 1993: His Royal Highness The Prince of Liège
- 9 August 1993 – present: His Majesty The King of the Belgians
- Grand Master of the Order of Leopold
- Grand Master of the Order of the African Star (dormant order)
- Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Lion (dormant order)
- Grand Master of the Order of the Crown
- Grand Master of the Order of Leopold II
Recipient of numerous foreign decorations, Albert II is one of the few European leaders to be both a Knight of the Golden Fleece in Austria (awarded in 1962 by Archduke Otto von Habsburg) and Knight of the Golden Fleece in Spain (awarded in 1994 by King Juan Carlos).
The list of his honorifical decorations (to be expanded) consists of :
|Austria||Great Star of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria (1958)|
|Bulgaria||Cordon of the Order of Stara Planina (2003)||Photo|
|Commonwealth||Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)||Photo|
|Denmark||Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog|
|Knight of the Order of the Elephant (R. af E.)||Photo|
|Estonia||Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (2008)||Ph.1, Ph.2|
|Finland||Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose (2004)||Photo|
|Germany||Grand Cross, Special Class, of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic||Photo|
|Greece||Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer (before 2001 ?)||Photo|
|Hungary||Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, Civilian Class||Photo|
|Holy See||Knight of the Collar of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (1995)||website|
|Iceland||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon (16 October 1979)||Website |
|Italy||Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic||Website|
|Japan||Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum||Ph. 1, Ph. 2|
|Latvia||Commander Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Three Stars (2007)||recipents list (.doc)|
|Lithuania||Golden Collar of the Order of Vytautas the Great||News, Photo|
|Luxembourg||Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau||Photo|
|Monaco||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Charles (1957)||Photo|
|Morocco||Special Class of the Order of the Mohammedi|
|Netherlands||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion||Photo|
|Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau|
|Norway||Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of St. Olav||Photo|
|Poland||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle||Photo|
|Portugal||Grand Cordon of the Military Order of Aviz (GCA, 1985)||Orders website|
|Grand Collar of the Order of the Infante Dom Henrique (GColIH, 1999)||Photo|
|Romania||Sash (Collar) of the Order of the Star of Romania (2009)||Recipients table|
|Spain||Sash (Collar) of the Order of the Golden Fleece (1994)||Photo|
|Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III|
|Sweden||Knight with Collar of the Order of the Seraphim (RSerafO)||Photo|
|Malta||Bailiff and Knight Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion
of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
|Former sovereign families|
|Austrian Empire||Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (House of Habsburg)|
|K. of France||Knight of the Order of Saint Michael - (House of Bourbon)|
|House of Savoy||Knight of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation|
|House of Savoy||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus|
King Albert is Doctor Honoris Causa of the Catholic University of Leuven, the Saint Louis University, Baguio City, Ghent University, Free University of Brussels, the Catholic university of Mons and the Polytechnic Faculty of Mons.
In Belgium, it is common that the effigy of the ruling King is minted in the coins for circulation. As a general rule, this does not happen for the commemorative and collectors' coins. However, some very high value coins have been minted with the effigy of King Albert on one side, such as the commemorative 100 euro gold coin minted in 2003.
- Line of succession to the Belgian throne
- Crown Council of Belgium
- Royal Trust
- Prince Albert Fund
- Michel Didisheim, former private secretary
- Jacques van Ypersele de Strihou (private secretary)
- Frank De Coninck, (former) Marshal of the Royal Household
- "King Albert II". http://www.monarchie.be. Archived from the original on 25 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- "Belgium swears in new government headed by Elio Di Rupo". BBC News. 6 December 2011.
- "Belgium King Albert II Christmas speech sparks controversy". BBC News Online. 27 December 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
- "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 53. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
- Belga Pictures, Photo of King Albert II wearing the Order's rosette at Melsbroek Airport before taking off to Greece
- Albert, ríkisarfi - Belgía - 1979-10-16 - Stórkross (= Albert, Heir, Belgium, 16th October 1979, Grand Cross
- Royauté-News, received - as Prince Albert of Liège - in 1957 during an inauguration of a monument in memory of King Albert I of the Belgians in Monaco
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Albert II of Belgium|
- Official Belgian monarchy web site
- "Belgium defends king against 'assault'". BBC News. 2001-09-18.
- The Royal Belgium Orders
Albert II of Belgium
Cadet branch of the House of WettinBorn: 6 June 1934
|King of the Belgians
Philippe, Duke of Brabant
|Lines of succession|
Prince Umberto of Bulgaria
|Line of succession to the throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
The Duke of Brabant
Robert van Schendel
|Speaker at the College of Europe Opening Ceremony