"Gentlemen: Belgium has, like myself, lost a father. The unanimous homage which the nation renders to his memory worthily responds to the sentiments which he cherished towards it during his life."
I am equally moved and grateful. Europe herself has not remained indifferent to this affliction. Foreign sovereigns and princes have wished to take part in the last honors which we render to him whom they placed so high in their confidence and friendship. I thank them for myself and for Belgium.
" On this day, succeeding to a father so honored during his life and so regretted after his death, my first engagement before the representatives of the nation is to religiously follow the precepts and examples which his wisdom has left me, and never to forget the duties imposed on me by this precious inheritance. If I do not promise to Belgium either a great reign like that which founded her independence, or a great king like him whom we mourn, I at least promise her a king Belgian in heart and soul, whose whole life belongs to her.
"The first King of the Belgians to which Belgium has given birth, I have from my childhood shared all the patriotic emotions of my country. Like her, I have watched with happiness the national development which has fecundated in her bosom all the sources of strength and prosperity. Like her, I love those grand institutions which guarantee at the same time order and liberty, and are the most solid foundation of the throne.
"In my thoughts the future of Belgium has always been blended with my own, and I have always regarded it with the confidence inspired by the right of a free, honest, and brave nation, which wills its independence, which has won it, proved Itself worthy of it, and will know how to preserve it.
" I have not forgotten, gentlemen, the marks of kind feeling which I received on attaining my majority, when I came to take part in your legislative labors, and, some months later, on the occasion of my marriage with a princess who shares all my sentiments for the country aud instils them into our children.
"I have been gratified to recognize in these spontaneous manifestations the unanimous accord of the populations. On my part, I have never made any distinctions between Belgians ; all are devoted to their country, and I comprise them in one common affection.
" My constitutional mission places me apart from the struggle of opinions. Leaving the country itself to decide them, I ardently desire that their differences may always be tempered by that spirit of national fraternity which unites, at this moment, round the same flag all the children of the Belgian family.
"Gentlemen, within the last thirty-five years Belgium has witnessed the accomplishment of things which, in a country of the size of ours, have rarely been realized in a single generation ; but the edifice of which the congress laid the foundations may rise, and will rise, higher still. My sympathetic co-operation is assured to all who shall devote to this work their intellect and efforts.
"By persisting in this course of activity and wise progress, Belgium will more and more consolidate her institutions at home, and will preserve abroad that esteem which the powers guaranteeing her independence, and other foreign states, have always accorded her, and have again this day so kindly testified. On ascending the throne, my father said to the Belgians: ' My heart knows of no other ambition than that of seeing you happy.' These words, which his whole reign has justified, I do not fear to repeat in my own name.
"Providence has vouchsafed to hear the wish they expressed. May He hear it again this day, render me the worthy successor of my father, and, I pray from my inmost soul, continue to protect our dear Belgium."Curiously, Leopold would die on the 44th anniversary of his accession, on December 17, 1909. Strange coincidence! May God have mercy on his soul.