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Belgium celebrates National Day

11:59 22/07/2014

King Philippe joined his people on Monday to celebrate his first full National Day as King, a day marked by the notable absence of his father, former King Albert, from whom he took over the throne exactly one year previously.

The day began as always with a Te Deum in the cathedral in Brussels. The traditional military parade that passes by the front of the royal palace this year took as its theme World War One, with officers parading in some of the many uniforms current when the war started a century ago. The King and Queen watched the proceedings from a dais on Place des Palais with their four children.

On Monday, the King and Queen spent an hour after the parade walking among the public gathered in the Royal Park in front of the palace, allowing many the opportunity to congratulate him on the first year of his reign. They also visited the stands of a number of companies who supply the royal house with coffee and biscuits.

The previous evening saw the King and Queen attending the Bal National on Place du Jeu de Balle in the Marolles district, with 15,000 members of the public. 

The absence of King Albert, who reportedly chose not to return from holiday in the south of France, led to speculation on the state of relations between the two monarchs, past and present. The former king made it clear he had no intention of becoming involved in how Philippe carries out his duties, yet the past year has been marked by a series of unfortunate incidents: Albert’s complaints about the level of his civil list allowance; his failure to notify the palace about two frank interviews given to TV channels RTL and VTM; and a letter published by Queen Paola about the illness suffered earlier in the year by Prince Laurent, followed by a dispute over the resignation of the official responsible.

According to the official royal press spokesperson, Albert had informed the palace some time ago that he would not be present. He underwent a surgical procedure to remove a skin tumour earlier this month and needs to rest. However, other reports said Philippe had tried to convince his father to be present, without success.

The festivities came to an end with a firework display by Van Cleemput of Brussels, set to the music of the opera De Stomme van Portici by Daniel François Esprit Auber – the work whose performance in August 1830 was the occasion for the start of the revolution that led to the creation of the Belgian nation.

 

Photo: Belga

 

 

Written by Alan Hope