King Albert II of Belgium will announce his abdication later today after almost two decades of presiding over the linguistically and economically divided country, Belgian media reported.
Albert, 79, will go on national television at 6 p.m. in Brussels to announce that he will hand over to his eldest son, Prince Philippe, on July 21, De Standaard said in a report followed by other media outlets.
Belgium’s constitutional monarchs play a more prominent role in public life than other crowned heads of Europe, serving as symbols of unity and top-level political dealmakers in a country of 11 million people split between the richer Dutch-speaking north and poorer French-speaking south.
Philippe, 53, is a trained fighter pilot and parachutist with degrees from Trinity College, Oxford and Stanford University. He will take over on the anniversary of the inauguration of the first Belgian king in 1831.