National Day Festivities: what are we celebrating?
Today it is public holiday in Belgium. More exactly, it is Belgian National Day! But what has happened on the 21st of July? Why are there celebrations in the city centre? Brussels Express makes it clear to you.
Belgium has not always been an independent country: it acquired its independency and autonomy after the Belgian revolution on the 4th of October 1830. Soon after that, the National Congress was elected and decided -on the 22nd of November 1830- to make of Belgium a constitutional Monarchy rather than a Republic, as many people proposed.
If the Kingdom of Belgium was officially formed in October 1830, why is the current celebration on the 21st of July?As mentioned before, monarchy was decided as political regime in 1830, and in every monarchy, a queen or a king has to take the oath, before reigning over the country. That is why, a bit less than a year after independence, on the 21st of July 1831, Léopold de Saxe-Cobourg took the oath and promised to comply with the Constitution that had been decided by the National congress on 7 February 1831.
The constitution he decided to comply with already seriously limited his powers, as the three powers (executive, legislative, and judiciary) were separated in 1831. On the 21st of July Belgium really became a constitutional monarchy, under the “supervision” of the King.
Nonetheless, the story doesn’t end here! The 21st of July has not been a public holiday for more than 50 years since the foundation, and the date itself was not really considered important. During the first decades, the 27th of September used to be the Belgian National Day, as the “September days” led to the Belgian revolution in 1830. On the 27th of May 1890, while Léopold II was reigning over Belgium, a bill passed and made the 21st of July the final “Belgian National Day”, in order to link the national day to the King. And as Belgium has always remained a constitutional Monarchy, the 21st of July has always remained the National day here.
If you have lived in Belgium for more than 4 years, you may know a “funny story” on the 21st of July and the King. Apparently, on the 21st of July 2013, Albert II indeed abdicated from his position and he gave his office to his son, Philippe. Philippe then took the oath on the same day and became King of Belgium exactly 182 years after Léopold de Saxe-Cobourg took his office.
If your friends outside Belgium ask you why you were not working today, you can now introduce them a bit more to the Belgian history…