Albert II of Belgium

Albert II, is the King of the Belgians, a constitutional monarch.

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Albert II, (born 6 June 1934) is the King of the Belgians, a constitutional monarch. He is a member of the royal house "of Belgium"; formerly this house was named Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He is the uncle of the current reigning Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Henri.

Full name

Albert's full name is Albert Félix Humbert Théodore Christian Eugène Marie in French (pronounced: [albɛʁ feliks œ̃bɛʁ teodɔʁ kʁistjɑ̃ øʒɛn maʁi]), Albert Felix Humbert Theodoor Christiaan Eugène Marie in Dutch (pronounced [ˈʔɑlbəɾt ˈfelɪks ˈɦʏmbəɾt teˈjodoːɾ ˈkɾɪstiːjaːn ʔøːˈʒɛːn ma̙ˈɾiː]), and Albert Felix Humbert Theodor Christian Eugen Maria in German (pronounced [ˈʔalbɛʁt ˈfeːlɪks ˈhʊmbɛʁt ˈteːodoːɐ̯ ˈkʁɪsti̯an ˈʔɔʏɡən maˈʁiːa]).[1]

Birth

He is the second son of King Leopold III (1901–1983) and his first wife, Astrid of Sweden (1905–1935). He ascended to the throne in 1993, following the death of his older brother, King Baudouin, who died without issue. His godparents were Prince Felix of Luxembourg and his paternal grandmother, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.[1] He is the first cousin of King Harald V of Norway, Princess Astrid of Norway, and Princess Ragnhild of Norway.

Early years



King Albert II with Queen Paola, George W. Bush and other royals and Heads of state, at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

Prince Albert was born in Stuyvenberg Castle, Brussels. On 10 May 1940, at the time when Belgium was being invaded, Prince Albert, his elder sister Princess Joséphine-Charlotte and his elder brother Prince Baudouin, left the country for France and later Spain. The Prince and the Princess returned to Belgium on 2 August 1940. They continued their studies until 1944, either at Laeken, or at the Chateau of Ciergnon in the Ardennes. In June 1944, at the time of the Allied landings, King Leopold III, Princess Lilian – whom he married in 1941 – and the royal children were deported by the Germans to Hirschstein, Germany, and later to Strobl, Austria, where they were liberated by the American Army on 7 May 1945.



Villa Le Reposoir in Switzerland where the family lived in the late 1940s

Due to the political situation in Belgium, King Leopold and his family moved to the villa "Le Reposoir" in Pregny, Switzerland, when they left Austria in October 1945 and stayed until July 1950. During that time, Prince Albert would continue his education in a secondary school in Geneva. King Leopold III, accompanied by Prince Baudouin and Prince Albert, returned to Belgium on 22 July 1950.[1]

He is the 1,292nd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Austria and the 1,191st Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain in 1994.

Marriage and family



King Albert II and Queen Paola with US President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the Royal Palace in Brussels in 2005.

In 1958, Prince Albert of Liege went to the Vatican to witness the coronation of Pope John XXIII. At a reception at the Belgian embassy, the prince met Italian Princess Paola Ruffo di Calabria. “We were both shy, so we only talked a little,” Paola said later about their first meeting. Shy but smitten, Prince Albert proposed marriage to Paola, and she accepted. Two months after their meeting, the Prince introduced his future wife to his family, and four months later to the press. Upon arriving in Brussels for the first time before her wedding, Princess Paola won over the Belgian media immediately.

They wanted a marriage at the Vatican at first, a setting promoted by both families, but the Belgian government did not approve of that. They did not want to keep a fairy tale wedding from the people of Belgium, who finally had an opportunity for organizing celebrations for their royal family. The Pope, after some diplomatic pressure, refused them a marriage at the Vatican, saying he would understand if the couple would want to get married amidst their people.

On 2 July 1959 he married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria (born 11 September 1937) in Brussels. She is the daughter of Fulco VIII, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda and his wife, Countess Luisa Gazelli di Rossana e di Sebastiano (1896–1989). Together they have three children, two sons and a daughter:

  • HRH Prince Philippe of Belgium, Duke of Brabant (born 15 April 1960). On 4 December 1999, the Duke married Jonkvrouwe Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz (born 20 January 1973), who was created HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium a day before their marriage. She is a daughter of the late Count Patrick d'Udekem d'Acoz and his wife, Countess Anna Maria Komorowska. The Duke and Duchess of Brabant have four children, two sons and two daughters:
    • HRH Princess Elisabeth of Belgium (born 25 October 2001), who will inherit the throne after her father.
    • HRH Prince Gabriel of Belgium (born 20 August 2003)
    • HRH Prince Emmanuel of Belgium (born 4 October 2005)
    • HRH Princess Eléonore of Belgium (born 16 April 2008)
  • HI&RH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess Lorenz of Austria-Este, Duchess of Modena (born 5 June 1962). On 22 September 1984, she married HI&RH Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este, Archduke of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia (born 16 December 1955), who was created a Prince of Belgium in 1995. They have five children, two sons and three daughters:
    • HI&RH Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este (born 22 February 1986)
    • HI&RH Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 26 August 1988)
    • HI&RH Prince Joachim of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este (born 9 December 1991)
    • HI&RH Princess Luisa Maria of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 11 October 1995)
    • HI&RH Princess Laetitia Maria of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 23 April 2003)
  • HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium (born 19 October 1963). On 12 April 2003, He married Claire Coombs (born 18 January 1974), an Anglo-Belgian former real-estate agent. She was created HRH Princess Claire of Belgium 11 days before their marriage. They have three children, two sons and one daughter:
    • HRH Princess Louise of Belgium (born 6 February 2004)
    • HRH Prince Nicolas of Belgium (born 13 December 2005)
    • HRH Prince Aymeric of Belgium (born 13 December 2005)

Official role



From the left: Queen Paola, King Albert II, Yves Leterme, John Dalli and Paweł Rogaliński (sits in the next row behind Dalli) at the Ninth Round Table on Poverty in 2010.

As the younger brother of King Baudouin, Prince Albert was the heir-presumptive to the throne. However his son Prince Philippe was groomed to be Baudoin's successor, once it became clear that the King would have no children to succeed him. However, on Baudouin's death (at age 62), Albert was sworn in before parliament on 9 August 1993 as the sixth King of the Belgians.[2]

As King, Albert's duties include representing Belgium at home and abroad on state visits, trade missions, and at high level international meetings as well as taking an interest in Belgian society, culture and enterprise.[3]

In 1984, he set up the Prince Albert Foundation, to promote expertise in foreign trade.[4]

The King has a constitutional role which came into play in 2010-2011 when Belgium's parliament was unable to agree on a government. When the crisis was resolved, Albert swore in the new government.[5]

In January 2012, Albert announced that the royal family would freeze their allowances and use a greater proportion of their income to maintain the royal palaces.

Ancestry

Patrilineal descent

Patrilineal descent

Albert's patriline is the line from which he is descended father to son.

Patrilineal descent is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the generations – which means that if Albert II were to choose an historically accurate house name it would be Wettin, as all his male-line ancestors have been of that house.

House of Wettin

  1. Dietrich I von Wettin, c. 916 – c. 976 (top ancestor)
  2. Dedo I von Wettin, c. 950 – c. 1009
  3. Dietrich II, Margrave of Lower Lusatia
  4. Thimo of Wettin, Count of Brehna
  5. Conrad, Margrave of Meissen, maternal grandson of Otto of Nordheim, 1098–1157
  6. Otto II, Margrave of Meissen, 1125–1190
  7. Dietrich I, Margrave of Meissen, 1162–1221
  8. Henry III, Margrave of Meissen, c. 1215–1288
  9. Albert II, Margrave of Meissen, 1240–1314
  10. Frederick I, Margrave of Meissen, 1257–1323
  11. Frederick II, Margrave of Meissen, 1310–1349
  12. Frederick III, Landgrave of Thuringia, 1332–1381
  13. Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, 1370–1428
  14. Frederick II, Elector of Saxony, 1412–1464
  15. Ernest, Elector of Saxony, 1441–1486
  16. John, Elector of Saxony, 1468–1532
  17. John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, 1503–1554
  18. Johann Wilhelm, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, 1530–1573
  19. John II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, 1570–1605
  20. Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha, 1601–1675
  21. John Ernest IV, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1658–1729
  22. Francis Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1697–1764
  23. Ernest Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1724–1800
  24. Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1750–1806
  25. Leopold I of Belgium, 1790–1865
  26. Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, 1837–1905
  27. Albert I of Belgium, 1875–1934
  28. Leopold III of Belgium, 1901–1993
  29. Albert II of Belgium, 1934 –

Titles & styles

Titles and styles

  • 6 June 1934 – 7 June 1934: His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Belgium
  • 7 June 1934 – 9 August 1993: His Royal Highness The Prince of Liège
  • 9 August 1993 – present: His Majesty The King of the Belgians

Honours



Personal Standard of King Albert II.

See also : List of honours of the Belgian Royal Family by country

Belgian honours

  • Grand Master of the Order of Leopold
  • Grand Master of the Order of the African Star (dormant order)
  • Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Lion (dormant order)
  • Grand Master of the Order of the Crown
  • Grand Master of the Order of Leopold II

Foreign honours

See also : List of state visits made by King Albert II of Belgium

Recipient of numerous foreign decorations, Albert II is one of the few European leaders to be both a knight of the Golden Fleece (Austrian awarded in 1962 by Archduke Otto von Habsburg) and Knight of the Golden Fleece Gold Spanish (awarded in 1994 by King Juan Carlos).

The list of his honorifical decorations (to be expanded) consists of :

State honours
Austria Great Star of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria (1956)[6]
Bulgaria Cordon of the Order of Stara Planina (2003) Photo
Commonwealth Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) Photo
Denmark Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog
Knight of the Order of the Elephant (R. af E.) Photo
Estonia Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (2008) Ph.1, Ph.2
Finland Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose (2004) Photo
Germany Grand Cross, Special Class, of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic Photo
Hungary Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, Civilian Class Photo
Holy See Knight of the Collar of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (1995) website
Italy Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic Website
Japan Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum Ph. 1, Ph. 2
Latvia Commander Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Three Stars (2007) recipents list (.doc)
Lithuania Golden Collar of the Order of Vytautas the Great News, Photo
Luxembourg Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau Photo
Monaco Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Charles (1957)[7] Photo
Morocco Special Class of the Order of the Mohammedi
Netherlands Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion Photo
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau
Norway Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of St. Olav Photo
Poland Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle Photo
Portugal Grand Cordon of the Military Order of Aviz (GCA, 1985) Orders website
Grand Collar of the Order of the Infante Dom Henrique (GColIH, 1999) Photo
Romania Sash (Collar) of the Order of the Star of Romania (2009) Recipients table
Spain Sash (Collar) of the Order of the Golden Fleece (1994) Photo
Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III
Sweden Knight with Collar of the Order of the Seraphim (RSerafO) Photo
Sovereign Entities
Malta Bailiff and Knight Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion

of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Former sovereign families
Austrian Empire Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (House of Habsburg)
K. of France Knight of the Order of Saint Michael - (House of Bourbon)
House of Savoy Knight of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
House of Savoy Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus

Honorary degrees

King Albert is Doctor Honoris Causa of the Catholic University of Leuven, the Saint Louis University, Baguio City, Ghent University, Free University of Brussels, the Catholic university of Mons and the Polytechnic Faculty of Mons.

Belgian coinage



Commemorative 100 euro gold coin featuring King Albert II

In Belgium, it is common that the effigy of the ruling King is minted in the coins for circulation. As a general rule, this does not happen for the commemorative and collectors' coins. However, some very high value coins have been minted with the effigy of the King in one side, such as the commemorative 100 euro gold coin minted in 2003.