The Belgian Royal Family were out in full force yesterday, though some looked a bit reluctant, to celebrate Belgium’s National Day and the five year anniversary of King Philippe’s accession. The National Day celebrated 21 July 1831 when Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who had previously been married to King George IV’s only legitimate child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, swore allegiance to the new Belgian constitution and became the country’s first monarch. The area had belonged to the Kingdom of the Netherlands before that.
The King, Queen and their four children began the day with a Te Deum in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels. After the service, they mingled with the hundreds of people who had gathered in the square to see them. The 16-year-old Duchess of Brabant, who will study in Wales this year, was told by an elderly lady in the crowd that she would be missed. “I will think about you a lot when you are abroad. It hurts my heart. It’s my age”, she told the Princess.
Afterwards, the Royal Family was treated to a military parade and a flyby of F-16’s who released the colours of the Belgian flag. The day ended with musical performances by Ozark Henry and Jo Lemaire.
The theme of this year was “respect for the past, trust in the future”, and so the military parade was joined by a Living History group, which showed clothes and material from 100 years ago to remember the First World War.
The reluctant Prince Laurent, who announced he would contest the reduction of his endowment the day before National Day, was also there with his wife, Princess Claire. As he arrived, some people in the crowd clapped as he saluted them. He was joined in a tent next to that of his brother, the King by his sister, Princess Astrid and his brother-in-law, Prince Lorenz.