Belgian National Day

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Belgian National Day
Décoration de la place des Palais.JPG
Crowds in front of the Royal Palace in Brussels, commemorating the not yet formalised celebration in 1856
Observed by Belgians
Significance Anniversary of the date in 1831 that Leopold I swore allegiance to the constitution as the first King of the Belgians
Date 21 July
Next time 21 July 2016 (2016-07-21)
Frequency annual
Related to Belgian Constitution, Belgian Independence.

Belgian National Day (Dutch: Nationale feestdag van België; French: Fête nationale belge; German: Belgischer Nationalfeiertag) is the National Day of Belgium celebrated on 21 July each year.[1] It is one of ten public holidays in Belgium.

The festival's formal establishment dates to a law of 27 May 1890[2] and commemorates an event on 21 July 1831 in which Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg swore allegiance to the new Belgian constitution, thus becoming the first King of the Belgians.[1] The king's vow marked the start of the independent state of Belgium under a constitutional monarchy and parliament.


In 1830, drawing inspiration from the recent July Revolution in France, the southern provinces of the United Netherlands rebelled against Dutch rule after a period of growing economic and religious disparity and political alienation. The Dutch were forced out of much of the area and Belgium gained de facto independence. A National Congress was created to write a Constitution for the new state.

Army cadets reviewed by a Major-General on National Day 2011

The Congress decided that the new country would be a constitutional monarchy (associated with political stability) rather than a republic, in order to reassure foreign governments and the Belgian middle class who associated republicanism with "mob rule" in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789. The Congress called upon Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha, a German nobleman, to be the first King of the Belgians on 4 June 1831.

Accepting the invitation, Leopold travelled to Brussels from England via Calais and De Panne by carriage. On 21 July, the temporary regent Erasme Louis Surlet de Chokier officially relinquished his position and Leopold was crowned King. In the ceremony, Leopold vowed to accept the Constitution drawn up by the National Congress, officially bringing it into force. The 21 July 1831, is therefore a date commonly used by historians to denote the end of the Belgian Revolution and the start of the Kingdom of Belgium.


King Albert II reviewing the army on National Day 2011.

The day typically starts with a Catholic Te Deum service in Cathedral of Brussels attended by the King and other dignitaries.[3] In the afternoon, the Belgian Army and police are reviewed by the King, and parade past the Royal Palace and around the Parc de Bruxelles. There is a flypast by the airforce. The military, civil defense and emergency services and other government departments typically have stalls in the nearby Place Poelart, Rue de la Régence, Place Royale and surroundings which explain their roles to the public.

Many notable buildings in Brussels that are usually closed are also open to the public on National Day.[4] A variety of entertainment is presented in several venues around the city, particularly in the city center. In the evening, a large fireworks display occurs in the Parc de Bruxelles.

Smaller events occur in towns and cities across Belgium and in Belgian émigré communities abroad.

Notable events[edit]

On National Day 2013, King Albert II officially resigned his position as King of the Belgians and his son, Philippe, ascended to the throne.


  1. ^ a b "National Day and feast days of Communities and Regions". Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Gustave Viatour et Alfred de Groote, Dictionnaire des honneurs, rangs et préséances, suivi du décret impérial du 24 messidor, an xii, annoté pour la Belgique., Ghent 1899, OCLC 79286361, p. 40.
  3. ^ "21 juillet: la fête officielle". Brussels Life. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "21 juillet, la Fête nationale belge". Le Mag Femmes. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 

External links[edit]