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How the Belgian royals will celebrate National Day in 2020


On July 21st, Belgium celebrates its National Day. Naturally, the Belgian Royal family plays a big role in the celebrations. This year, however, the special day will be marked very differently due to the ongoing pandemic. Let’s take a look at King Philippe and Queen Mathilde’s agenda for the day.

Each year on the 21st of July, the Belgians celebrate their National Day as they remember the investiture of their first king, King Leopold I, in 1831. After the separation from the Netherlands, the new state of Belgium was founded in 1830. It was soon decided that the newly founded state was going to be a constitutional monarchy and after a search, the country offered the position to HRH Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The Prince arrived in Belgium in July 1831 and on the 21st of that month, he swore loyalty to the Constitution and became King of the Belgians.

Traditionally, Belgian National Day is celebrated in three stages. The day starts with Te Deum masses all over the country. King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their four children attend the Te Deum at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in the centre of Brussels. Other members of the Royal Family such as Princess Astrid and Prince Laurent attend a Te Deum mass in other parts of the country. After the mass, the Royal Family takes the time to meet citizens who have gathered there to see them. Then the royals head to the Royal Palace of Brussels for lunch.

The Belgian royals leave the Te Deum service in 2019. Photo: Laura Dekkers
The Belgian Royal Family during the National Day celebrations, 21st of July 2019. (Photo: Laura Dekkers)

In the afternoon, the crowds who have come to Brussels to celebrate National Day can enjoy various displays by the public and emergency services, the EU, the armed forces, charities such as the Red Cross and civic associations. In addition, several activities are in place for children to enjoy such as trying out military vehicles. Meanwhile, King Philippe reviews army troops at the Rue de la Loi. Then King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are escorted to their seats at the stands in front of the Royal Palace of Brussels. There the King and Queen are joined by their children, other members of the Royal Family, members of the government and parliament as well as other guests to enjoy the parade of the military and emergency services. The parade ends with a flypast by the Belgian Air Force.

The King and Queen are escorted to their seats on the stands to watch the military parade. Photo: Laura Dekkers

After the parade, the King and Queen usually change outfits, have dinner and then head to the festivities in the Park close to the Royal Palace. There, Philippe and Mathilde greet and talk to people and see some of the displays in the park. The day ends with fireworks in front of the Royal Palace.

National Day 2020

Every year, around 100,000 people head to the capital to take part in the celebrations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations have to be organised very differently this year. The police are asking people not to come to Brussels to celebrate but to follow the festivities on the television. During the entire day, special programmes are planned to be broadcast.

In the morning, the King, Queen, Princess Elisabeth, Prince Gabriël, Prince Emmanuel and Princess Eléonore will attend the Te Deum mass at the Cathedral. The number of guests will be limited and Their Majesties will not greet well-wishers after the mass. At the request of the King and Queen, three minutes of silence will be observed followed by three minutes of church bells ringing. This way, the coronavirus victims will be remembered. After the Te Deum, the King will head to the BOZAR to see the artworks of the Belgian-Moroccan calligrapher, Dema One, and of the youth that have worked with him.

The flypast of the Belgian Royal Air Force on the National Day. Photo: Laura Dekkers

During the day, King Philippe will receive coronavirus heroes who have helped and supported others in a special way during the coronavirus crisis. The King, Queen, their four children as well as Princess Astrid, Prince Lorenz and Prince Laurent will attend a solemn ceremony to pay tribute to the heroes of the COVID-19 crisis and to remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The traditional military parade and the fireworks display are cancelled. The various displays and activities around Brussels will not take place either. Instead, people can enjoy concerts of various Belgian artists on television throughout the day.

In the evening, the King, Queen, Princess Elisabeth, Prince Gabriël, Prince Emmanuel and Princess Eléonore will visit two residential care centres, one in Flanders and one in Wallonia. The residential care centres have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and this way, the Royal Family wants to show their support.

After the 21st of July, the Belgian Royal Family usually starts their summer holiday as they travel to France. So far the schedules of the King and Queen are empty from the 21st of July but is is doubtful that they will travel abroad this year.

About author

Laura is from Belgium and has a passion for all things royal. She is Europe Correspondent for Royal Central since October 2016 and has contributed to other news websites. In her daily life she is a fulltime student in EU-politics and political communication.