Belgian king abdicates in favour of his son
Belgium's King Albert II said this evening he would abdicate and leave the throne to his son Philippe on July 21, saying he now felt too old to carry out his duties well.
"It is with serenity and full of confidence that I announce my intention to step down on July 21, 2013, our national holiday, in favour of the heir apparent, my son Philippe," the 79-year-old monarch said in a televised address.
The abdication came only six months after Queen Beatrix of the neighbouring Netherlands announced she would vacate the Dutch throne in favour of her son Willem Alexander.
While the Belgian monarch has no executive powers and plays a largely ceremonial role, he is a rare uniting factor in an otherwise divided country, which in recent years has seen more and more powers given to regional governments.
Albert II, who has three children, ascended to the throne in 1993 when his childless brother Baudouin passed away.
His son Philippe, 53, is next in line to the throne in the small nation and will become Belgium's next king
In 1999 Belgian media reported that Albert had fathered a fourth child, a daughter, in an extramarital affair in the 1960s. The palace never acknowledged this.
Delphine Boel, who says she is the unrecognised daughter, summoned the monarch and two of his children to appear in a Brussels court in June, according to her lawyer.