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 byBelgians
SignificanceAnniversary of the date in 1831 that Leopold I swore allegiance to the constitution as the first King of the Belgians
Date21 July
Next time21 July 2019 (2019-07-21)
Related toBelgian Constitution, Belgian Independence.

Belgian National Day (Dutch: Nationale feestdag van België; French: Fête nationale belge; German: Belgischer Nationalfeiertag) is the national holiday 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 nation's first monarch.[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, religious, and political alienation. After some fighting in August-September 1830, the Dutch were forced out of much of the region 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 from England to Brussels. On 21 July, the temporary regent Erasme Louis Surlet de Chokier officially relinquished his position and Leopold swore allegiance to the Constitution drawn up by the National Congress, officially bringing it into force and acceded to the throne.

National Day[edit]

Originally, Belgian National Day was celebrated on 27 September as the commemoration of the Dutch military's final withdrawal from Brussels after several days of fighting in mid-September.[3] In 1890, the date of the festival was changed to 21 July to commemorate Leopold I's accession to the throne. In 1991, the 27 September was selected as the annual observance of the French Community of Belgium.[3]


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.[4] 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.[5] 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 formally abdicated as King of the Belgians and his son, Philippe, ascended to the throne.[6]


  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. ^ a b "La révolution belge a 185 ans !". State Archives of Belgium. 25 September 2015.
  4. ^ "21 juillet: la fête officielle". Brussels Life. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  5. ^ "21 juillet, la Fête nationale belge". Le Mag Femmes. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Belgium's King Albert II announces abdication". BBC News. 3 July 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Janssens, Jeroen (2001). De Belgische Natie Viert: De Belgische Nationale Feesten, 1830-1914. Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven. ISBN 9789058671752.

External links[edit]