Former Belgian King is unhappy under austerity

Former Belgian king ‘boycotting’ public events after complaining £760,000 is not enough to live on

Belgium’s former king is failing to make public appearances amid a bitter row over cuts to his allowances and his complaint he cannot pay the bills for his castle and yacht

Bruno Waterfield By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels4:41PM GMT 27 Jan 2014

Albert II, Belgium’s former king, is withdrawing from public life after complaining that his annual allowance of £760,000 is not enough for him to live on.

The former monarch, who abdicated last July, has ruffled feathers by indicating that he will not attend this Wednesday’s traditional New Year’s reception for Belgium’s government, regional politicians diplomats, judiciary and senior clergy.

Albert II and his wife, Queen Paola disturbed many press commentators when they failed to show up with other members of the royal family at a Christmas concert on December 11 at the palace in Brussels.

Royal “insiders” have told Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad newspaper that the former king is boycotting the events to “express his dissatisfaction” over a sharp reduction in his allowance from the state since his abdication.

The Royal Palace has played down the reports of a protest by insisting that Albert was “discreetly” stepping aside from public engagements to allow King Philippe, his son and successor, to take up his full duties as reigning monarch.

“Since Philippe ascended the throne, King Albert has faded from the public scene in favour of his son,” said a spokesman.

Last November, Elio Di Rupo, Belgium’s prime minister, brusquely and publicly told King Albert II that he would not get a cent more after the former king asked for extra cash on top of his €923,000 (£760,000) annual allowance to help pay his bills.

Following a scandal over the royal family’s tax arrangements, the federal government last year reformed the Belgian civil list to cut the number and size of royal allowances to the country’s former and reigning kings and queens, princes and princesses.

Albert, while independently wealthy and one of the country’s richest men, has been feeling the pinch since losing allowances worth £9.6 million when he abdicated in favour of his King Philippe on the grounds of ill health seven months ago.

His abdication, the first time a Belgian monarch has voluntarily stepped down, followed a series of royal scandals and a court case over his alleged paternity of an illegitimate daughter.

Albert angered the government and MPs, amid painful cuts elsewhere in public spending after he complained that he is struggling to maintain and heat his residence of Belvedere Castle, on the outskirts of Brussels.

He also asked for extra public funds to pay for fuel so he could go sailing in the Mediterranean in his 27-metre luxury yacht, the ALPA, a name taken from the first two letters of his and his wife Queen Paola’s names.

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