Monarchy of Belgium
Learn more about Monarchy of Belgium
This article is part of the series:
Other countries • Politics Portal
Successive Belgian kings are
- 1831-1865: Léopold I
- 1865-1909: Léopold II
- 1909-1934: Albert I
- 1934-1951: Léopold III
- 1944-1950: Charles, reigned as Prince Regent
- 1951-1993: Baudouin I
- Since 1993: Albert II
None of these were "King of Belgium": their title is King of the Belgians. The latter phrase indicates a popular monarchy linked to the people of Belgium, whereas the former would indicate standard constitutional or absolute monarchy linked to territory and a state. Similarly, King Louis Philippe was proclaimed "King of the French" in 1830, not the traditional "King of France". The now abolished Greek monarchy similarly was titled "King of the Hellenes", indicating a personal link with the people, not just the state. Moreover, the Latin translation of "King of Belgium" would have been Rex Belgium, which from 1815 was the name for the King of the Netherlands. Therefore the Belgian separatists had to choose a Rex Belgarum.
It is also noteworthy that Belgium is the only current European monarchy that does not apply the tradition of the new king automatically ascending the throne upon the death or abdication of the former king. According to the Belgian constitution, the king only accedes to the throne when he takes a constitutional oath. For example, the present king did not become monarch on July 31, 1993 (the day his brother died) but on August 91993 ( when he took the constitutional oath ). In all other current monarchies, the monarch becomes a monarch the moment his/her predecessor dies or abdicates.
Belgium has three official languages, of which Flemish and French are the most important. Many kings and members of the royal family are known under two names: a Dutch and a French one. For example, the current heir apparent is called Philippe in French and Filip in Dutch; the fifth King of the Belgians was Baudouin in French and Boudewijn in Dutch; the three kings who are known as Léopold in French are known as Leopold (without accent) in Dutch.
In German, which is Belgium's third official language, kings are usually referred to under their French names. The same is true for English (with the exception of Leopold, where the accent is removed for simplicity).
In Belgium, kings are always officially known with an ordinal, even when they are the first of their name. So King Baudouin was "King Baudouin I", even though there has not yet been a "King Baudouin II". (This is contrary to the system of ordinals used in Britain.)
 Involvement in the Belgian political life
The Belgian monarchy combines several public and political missions. On the one hand, the king symbolises and maintains a feeling of unity by representing the country in public functions and international meetings.
On the other hand, the king has a number of responsibilities in the process of government's formation. The process starts by the nomination of the “Informateur” by the king who after the general elections is appointed to inform the king of the main political formations which are possibly available for governance. After this phase, the king can appoint an other "informateur" or appoint a “Formateur”, who will have the charge of forming a new government.
The king has the right of meeting the prime minister regularly during which he can exercise the power of warning and advice (Due to the length of the king's reign, this is notable).
The king has the formal rule of the commandment of the Belgian army and plays an important although largely ceremonial part in it. Until Leopold III, the king had commanded the army in person in the field.
Lastly, Belgians can write to the king when they meet difficulties with administrative powers.
The political power of the king has been subject of public debate and with each king the personal power has lessened[verification needed]. Currently some debate is waged about reducing the role of the king to a strictly ceremonial role in the mold of the Scandinavian kings[verification needed].
 Name(s) of the Belgian Royal House
Because of the First World War, King Albert I decided in 1920 to no longer use the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as the official family name of the Belgian royal family. The decision was done in silence and not enacted in an official royal decree. Therefore there is still some confusion in other countries and even in Belgium that Saxe-Coburg Gotha still is the family name used by the Belgian royals. The family name was changed to van België, de Belgique and von Belgien. As Belgium is a country with three official languages, it was chosen to employ all three language versions as official family name with none having precedence over the other, probably making the Belgian royals the only family in the world with three different but equally valid family names. It is this family name which is used on the royals' identity cards and which they use in all official documents (marriage licenses,...)
On the accession of a member of the royal family to the Belgian throne, his/hers family name is officially changed to der Belgen - des Belges as to denote the fact that Belgium is a popular monarchy.
 Other members of the Belgian Royal Family
- Louise-Marie d'Orléans (wife of King Leopold I)
- Queen Marie Henriette (wife of King Leopold II)
- Elisabeth von Wittelsbach (wife of Albert I)
- Astrid of Sweden (wife of King Leopold III)
- Mary Lilian Baels, Princess de Réthy (second wife of King Leopold III)
- Fabiola de Mora y Aragón (wife of King Baudouin I)
- Princess Paola Ruffo di Calabria (wife of King Albert II)
- Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium (Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, sister of Kings Baudouin and Albert II)