Today it is the 21st of July – Belgium’s National day! The Belgian Royal Family will be attending several celebrations throughout the day.
In 1830, Belgium declared itself independent from the Netherlands. Both of the countries used to form the United Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1815-1830. The new Belgium had to find a King as the Concert of Europe only agreed with the independence if Belgium would become a monarchy. After some difficulties, it was Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha who accepted the crown. He had previously denied becoming King of Greece. On 21 July 1831, the new King Leopold I swore allegiance to the Belgian constitution at the Belgian parliament.
A King may only accede to the throne after solemnly taking the following oath before the two Houses of Parliament: “I swear to observe the Constitution and the laws of the Belgian people, to preserve national independence and the integrity of the territory.” On the National Day, this event is commemorated. In 2013, exactly 182 years after King Leopold I, King Philippe of Belgium swore allegiance to the (more or less) same constitution. It is an official holiday which means that everyone has a day off in Belgium and shops, banks, etc. are closed.
National Day traditionally kicks off with several Te Deum masses throughout Belgium. King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their four children: Princess Elisabeth, Prince Gabriël, Prince Emmanuel and Princess Eléonore will attend the Te Deum mass at the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula in the heart of Brussels. The mass is also attended by Belgian politicians, ambassadors and other dignitaries.
After the service, the King, Queen and their children will take the time to greet the well-wishers outside the cathedral. The King’s sister, Princess Astrid and her husband, Prince Lorenz attend the Te Deum mass in Flanders, the Northern part of Belgium. This year it is Louvain’s turn to receive the Prince and Princess. The King’s brother, Prince Laurent and his wife, Princess Claire will be heading to Wallonia, the Southern part of Belgium to attend a Te Deum mass. They will follow the mass at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church in Wavre. The royals will then return to Brussels to have lunch at the Royal Palace.
In the afternoon, the traditional military parade takes place. The King will review the Belgian Army troops and police. Normally, there will also be a flypast by the Air Force depending on the weather. Thousands of Belgians are expected to take a spot around the parcours to see the military and civilian parade. King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their four children will take their seats at the centre Tribune on the Place des Palais to see the parade. They will be joined by the Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput (N-VA). Next to the centre Tribune, Princess Astrid, Prince Lorenz, Prince Laurent and Princess Claire will take their seats.
Last year only Prince Laurent was there to support his brother on National Day. He was pictured talking on the telephone and sleeping during the ceremony. Earlier this year, the King’s brother was seen taking a nap during the Queen Elisabeth Competition for Cello. He took his precautions by bringing along yellow earplugs. Being a royal can be exhausting at times.
In the late afternoon, Their Majesties will be attending the celebrations at the Parc de Bruxelles. It is an opportunity for the Belgian Special Forces, Army, police, Red Cross, firefighters, B-Fast, etc. to inform the people on what they exactly do. The King and Queen try to bring more attention to “our heroes.” Other members of the Royal Family are likely to be spotted visiting the party, as well. Usually, the King also cuts the cake to celebrate Belgium, and Queen Mathilde never skips the opportunity to taste the cake.
The evening will end with large fireworks at 11 pm. The public can take a seat or stand at the Place des Palais to admire the amazing fireworks. King Philippe, Queen Mathilde, Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz will also watch the lightning show at the Place des Palais. The fireworks officially end National Day; Prince Laurent and Princess Claire will not attend the fireworks. They probably want to return home early to their three children. Ever since Philippe became King in 2013, the former King of the Belgians, Albert II and Queen Paola have not been attending the National Day festivities.
As each year after National Day, King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their four children will go on holiday abroad. The location remains a secret. During the holiday, the Royal Palace of Brussels is open to the public for free.