The news that the 79-year-old King Albert of Belgium will address the nation later today has added fuel to the fire of rumours that he will announce his abdication.
If Albert does announce plans to step down from the throne, the likely next king of Belgium may be a somewhat controversial choice — the 53-year-old, Oxford and Stanford-educated Crown Prince Philippe.
While Philippe has all the hallmarks of a European royal, including time in the military and education at some of the world’s best institutions, rumours about his personal life have followed him for years.
While Philippe was already known as a somewhat shy and awkward man, a book published last year by journalist Frederic Deborsu entitled “Royal Questions” raised questions about his sexuality, putting forward rumours that his 1999 wedding to Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz was a “forced marriage” for Philippe, who had been expected to remain a bachelor, and that his children were born after visits to a clinic that specialises in “artificial procreation.”
According to the Associated Press, the book prompted a rare public denial from the Belgian royal family. “The day that Mathilde said ‘Yes’ to my proposal was the happiest day of my life,” Philippe said in a statement.
The role of the Royal family in Belgium is unusually complicated due to their perceived ability to unite the country’s political, linguistic and geographic split — a split that led to the country having no government for more than 500 days just a couple of years ago.
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