Since 21 July 2013 Belgium has a new King. King Albert II abdicated on the Belgian national day in favour of his son King Philippe. King Albert II only announced that he would abdicate on 4 July 2013, so there was little time for extra preparations. But of course the Belgians already were to celebrate National Day and the 20th anniversary as King of the Belgians of Albert II anyway. What they mainly had to do was reschedule some events.
There were hardly possibilities for the public to see something of the events when out in the streets. What I missed were big screens, but we didn’t enjoy the weekend less. I had decided to go to Brussels after all. I arrived late on 19 July and only managed to reach my hotel and to go asleep. The following day I had a look at the Museum BelVue, once a royal museum, nowadays a museum for Belgian history from 1831 to now. Still lovely, but it used to be better for royalty-watchers in the past. Of course I had a look outside the cathedral and the royal palace too, to see the preparations for the big day. I ended the day with other royalty-watchers from Belgium and the Netherlands at the BOZAR. The Belgian royal family as usual attended the concert at the start of the National Day. The future King and Queen posed patiently for the photographers and fans outside, both on their way in and out. We however thought the best part came at the end. When all the others left Prince Laurent and Princess Claire came and shook hands with literally all onlookers outside. I can tell you that took some time.
Early out of bed on Sunday morning to find myself a good spot at the cathedral. Although it was supposed to be a very warm day, it was quite lovely to stand in the shadow of the cathedral. First the cars of ambassadors from all over the world passed, and then just before 9am finally the Belgian royals arrived. Me and a few friends had a good view on both the cars and the stairs leading to the cathedral. Some royal waves, but their main goal was to get inside. We prepared for a one hour wait, and laughed about guests arriving too late .. wondering how you can manage, when it is so quiet in the streets. Probably they thought the old starting time of 9.30am was correct. Surprisingly the service in the cathedral was pretty short, and the doors opened already around 9.40am. The old Queen Fabiola was driven away, but the other adult members of the family went down the stairs and started shaking the hands of the public, all starting in another corner. Lucky us, at first the future King Philippe and Queen Mathilde passed, and then also Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz, as well as King Albert II and Queen Paola. We shook hands with all of them and congratulated them with this big day.
But as soon as the royal cars had left, we followed and headed for the royal palace. We found ourselves a few spots more or less in the middle “near” the balcony with somewhat of a good view. The distance to the balcony was however quite far. And then the waiting started in the burning sun. I didn’t bring a hat with me, and I don’t enjoy so much sun a lot, so I spent most of the time sitting on the street, hiding. But it was worth the wait. The royal escorte passed, as did the royals in the car up and down the Parliament where King Philippe was sworn in as new monarch of the Belgians. I didn’t see much of it, but I wouldn’t have either if I would have been standing. But when the royals had returned to the royal palace they, at 1pm, finally appeared on the balcony. First King Philippe and Queen Mathilde alone, then with King Albert II and Queen Paola. When the last couple left the children of the new royal couple showed up, and finally the old King and Queen returned, and Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz, Prince Laurent and Princess Claire arrived too. The balcony scene could probably have been longer, but we enjoyed it a lot, as did all the Belgians around us. Lots of flags … and Belgians from all over the country speaking either Flemish, French or German. One little mistake in the planning though … just before the end of the balcony scene we “enjoyed” a few busses passing right in front of us, blocking the view for a short while and leaving a cloud of dust behind. We wondered if they really couldn’t have waited a bit longer to bring back guests to the palace. After the balcony appearance we enjoyed a drink and a chat at the Warandepark. But I soon had to leave to get my stuff from the hotel and take the train back home. That I therefore missed the military parade wasn’t such a big deal. It was too warm for it anyway. I arrived home at 10pm in the evening, just in time for another balcony appearance with speech this time.