King Albert II is the son of King Leopold III and Queen Astrid, born princess of Sweden. He is the younger brother of the Grand Duchess Joséphine Charlotte of Luxembourg and King Baudouin, whom he succeeded upon Baudouin's death in 1993. He is currently the last child of Leopold III and Astrid still alive. He married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria (now Queen Paola), with whom he had three children. Albert's elder son, Philippe, is the current King of the Belgians.
On 3 July 2013, King Albert II attended a midday session of the Belgian cabinet. He then announced that, on 21 July, Belgian National Day, he would abdicate the throne for health reasons. He was succeeded by his son Philippe on 21 July 2013. Albert II was the fourth monarch to abdicate in 2013, following Pope Benedict XVI, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Emir Hamad bin Khalifa of Qatar. In so doing, he was also the second Belgian monarch to abdicate, following his father Leopold III who abdicated in 1951, albeit under very different circumstances.
Prince Albert was born in Stuyvenberg Castle, Brussels, as the second son and youngest child of King Leopold III and his first wife, Princess Astrid of Sweden. He was third in line to the throne at birth, and was given the title Prince of Liège. Queen Astrid died in a car accident in August 1935, in which King Leopold was lightly injured but survived. The King remarried to Lilian Baels in 1941, a union that produced three more children: Prince Alexander, Princess Marie-Christine and Princess Marie-Esméralda.
During World War II, 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 Castle of Ciergnon in the Ardennes. In June 1944, at the time of the Allied landings, King Leopold, his wife Princess Lilian 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. Owing 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.
In 1958, Albert went to the Vatican to witness the coronation of Pope John XXIII. At a reception at the Belgian Embassy, he met Italian Donna 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 her, to which 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, Donna Paola won over the Belgian media immediately.
The couple, supported by both families, intended to marry at the Vatican. However, the Belgian government disagreed as they felt the Belgian people should not be denied the opportunity to celebrate a royal wedding, particularly after a difficult decade post-war. 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.
The couple married on 2 July 1959 and have three children, two sons and a daughter, twelve grandchildren and one great-grandchild:King Philippe of the Belgians (born 15 April 1960). On 4 December 1999, the then Duke of Brabant 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 current King and Queen have four children, two sons and two daughters:
The Duchess of Brabant (Élisabeth Thérèse Marie Hélène)(born 25 October 2001), heiress apparent
Prince Gabriel of Belgium (born 20 August 2003)
Prince Emmanuel of Belgium (born 4 October 2005)
Princess Eléonore of Belgium (born 16 April 2008)
Princess Astrid of Belgium (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:
Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este (born 21 February 1986) married on 5 July 2014 to Elisabetta Rosboch von Wolkenstein. On May 17, 2016 Albert became a great-grandfather to Archduchess Anna Astrid, the daughter of his eldest grandchild Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este.
Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 26 August 1988)
Prince Joachim of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este (born 9 December 1991)
Princess Luisa Maria of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 11 October 1995)
Princess Laetitia Maria of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este (born 23 April 2003)
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, twin sons and one daughter:
Princess Louise of Belgium (born 6 February 2004)
Prince Nicolas of Belgium (born 13 December 2005, twin)
Prince Aymeric of Belgium (born 13 December 2005, twin)
Since 1999, the media have claimed that the Belgian sculptor Delphine Boël (born in 1968) is King Albert II's extramarital daughter. In June 2013, Boël summoned the then King, the then Duke of Brabant and the Archduchess of Austria-Este to appear in court. She hoped to use DNA tests to prove that she is the King's daughter. As the King enjoyed complete immunity under the law, Boël decided to summon his elder children as well. After the King's abdication, she abandoned her first suit to introduce a second one only against the King as he was no longer protected by immunity and the first claim would have been judged according to the situation at the time of the introduction of the claim. In March 2017, the Court ruled that her claim was unfounded, and her lawyers said she would take the claim to appeal.
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. Despite this, on Baudouin's death (at age 62), Albert was sworn in before parliament, on 9 August 1993, as the sixth King of the Belgians.
As King, Albert's duties included 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.
In 1984, he set up the Prince Albert Foundation, to promote expertise in foreign trade.
The King had 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.
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.
Albert sparked controversy in his December 2012 Christmas speech by comparing modern "populist movements" with those of the 1930s. This was seen by several political commentators, as well as many Flemish politicians, as aimed implicitly at the large Flemish nationalist party, the N-VA. Bart De Wever, the party's leader, called for the King's role in the formation of Belgian governments to be changed in the wake of this comment since he "could no longer see the monarch as playing the constitutional role of referee."
On 3 July 2013, 79-year-old King Albert II attended a midday session of the Belgian cabinet, where he revealed his intention to abdicate to Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and to the Deputy Prime Ministers. According to a letter sent by the King to the Prime Minister and dated 3 July 2013, and which was made public, the King had already broached the topic of his intention to abdicate several times with the Prime Minister, who had asked him to reconsider it. At 6 PM (CET) the King announced in a recorded radio and television speech that on 21 July, Belgium's National Day, he would abdicate the throne for health reasons. He was succeeded by his son, Philippe. Albert II retained the title of King after the abdication, and has since been styled as His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium.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 – 21 July 2013: His Majesty The King of the Belgians
21 July 2013 – present: His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium
After his abdication on 21 July 2013 it was decided that he would be styled as His Majesty King Albert II, the same form of address granted to his father, Leopold III, after his abdication.Former Grand Master (1993-2013) and Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold.
Former Grand Master (1993-2013) of the Order of Leopold II
Former Grand Master (1993-2013) of the Order of the African Star (dormant order)
Former Grand Master (1993-2013) of the Royal Order of the Lion (dormant order)
Former Grand Master (1993-2013) of the Order of the Crown
Argentina: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Liberator General San Martín
Austria: Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
Bulgaria: Grand Cross of the Order of the Balkan Mountains
Cameroon: Grand Cordon of the Order of Merit
Colombia: Grand Cross of the Order of Boyaca
Democratic Republic of Congo: Grand Cordon of the National Order of the Leopard
Denmark: Knight of the Order of the Elephant
Ecuador: Grand Collar of the National Order of San Lorenzo
Estonia: Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
Finland: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose
Gabon: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit
Germany: Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Greece: Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer
Holy See: Knights with the Collar of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
Holy See: Knights with the Collar of the Order of Pope Pius IX
Hungary: Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary
Iceland: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Falcon
Italy: Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
Japan: Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum
Latvia: Commander Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of the Three Stars
Lithuania: Golden Chain of the Order of Vytautas the Great
Luxembourg: Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau
Malaysia: Grand Commander of the Most Esteemed Order of the Defender of the Realm
Mexico: Collar of the Order of the Aztec Eagle
Monaco: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Charles
Morocco: Member Special Class of the Order of Muhammad, Special Class
Netherlands: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
Netherlands: Recipient of the Wedding Medal of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Claus Van Amsberg
Norway: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of St. Olav
Peru: Grand Cross with Diamonds of the Order of the Sun of Peru
Poland: Knight of the Order of the White Eagle
Poland: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
Portugal: Grand Cross of the Military Order of Aviz
Portugal: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Prince Henry
Romania: Collar of the Order of the Star of Romania
Senegal: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit
South Korea: Grand Gwanghwa Medal of the Order of Diplomatic Service Merit
SMOM: Knight Grand Cross of Justice of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Spain: 1,190th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Spain: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III
Sweden: Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim
Tunisia: Grand Cordon of the Order of the Republic
United Kingdom: Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Venezuela: Grand Collar of the Order of the Liberator
Austrian Imperial and Royal Family: 1,291st Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Ethiopian Imperial Family: Grand Cordon with Collar of the Imperial Order of the Queen of Sheba
King Albert II 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
Polytechnic Faculty of Mons.
King Albert II boulevard, Brussels.
Institute King Albert II, University hospital of Saint-Luc.