Royal family members from left front, Queen Fabiola, Queen Paola, King Albert II, Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde attend a church service at the St. Gudule cathedral in Brussels on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Belgium's King Albert II was set Sunday to relinquish the throne in a concession to his age and health, paving the way for his eldest son to become the country's seventh monarch. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
BRUSSELS — Philippe has taken the oath before parliament to become Belgium’s seventh king after his father Albert abdicated as the head of this fractured nation.
Earlier Sunday, the 79-year-old Albert signed away his rights as the kingdom’s largely ceremonial ruler at the royal palace in the presence of Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who holds the political power in this 183-year-old parliamentary democracy.
Less than two hours later, the nation of 6 million Dutch-speaking Flemings and 4.5 million Francophones got a new king when Philippe, 53, pledged to abide the laws and constitution of the nation.
In protest, one Flemish separatist party boycotted the ceremony while the biggest opposition party, the N-VA New Flemish Alliance, sent only a limited delegation without its leader Bart De Wever.