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Thursday, December 23, 2010
December 23, 1909: The Accession of Albert I
On December 23, 1909, six days after the death of his uncle, Leopold II, Prince Albert of Belgium swore allegiance to the Constitution before Parliament, becoming the third King of the Belgians, just two days before Christmas. By a joyful, yet sobering coincidence, then, Belgian Catholics celebrated the accession of their new, earthly King, only two days before hailing the birth of their heavenly King! Leopold I and Leopold II had taken the constitutional oath only in French; Albert innovated by repeating it in Dutch. The people heartily welcomed their retiring, studious, conscientious and progressive young sovereign and his lively, artistic, philanthropic consort, born Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria. Already blessed with three children, Prince Leopold (b. 1901), Prince Charles-Theodore (b. 1903), and Princess Marie-José (b. 1906), their warmth and domestic virtues, contrasting vividly with the deceased King's coldness and flagrant scandals, had already earned Albert and Elisabeth widespread love and veneration. The royal couple's heroism amidst the horrors of World War I would only enhance these popular sentiments. During their own reign, the King and Queen would pass into legend.