, BRUSSELS, July 3 – Belgium’s King Albert II is set to announce he will abdicate on July 21, the country’s national day, in a speech to the nation Wednesday, Belgian media said.
The palace announced the king would address the nation in a speech to be broadcast live on radio and television at 1600 GMT, and daily paper Le Soir and national RTBF television said he would announce his abdication for July 21.
Albert, who has reigned for 20 years and just turned 79, has played a key role in the political life of the small language-divided nation.
He is the second son of King Leopold III (1901-1983) and Astrid of Sweden (1905-1935), and ascended to the throne in 1993 after the death of his older brother King Baudouin, who died without an heir.
The RTBF TV network said it would be the first abdication in the history of Belgium. The country gained independence from the Netherlands in 1831.
Six kings from the house of Saxe Coburg Gotha now known simply as the royal house of Belgium have since headed the constitutional monarchy.