Five years to the day of his accession to the throne of Belgium on the abdication of his father Albert II, King Philippe will tomorrow celebrate the National Day under the cloud of a survey carried out for Le Soir newspaper, which suggests the royal couple are no longer up to speed with the modern age. After one year on the throne, Philippe and Mathilde were considered by respondents to have helped modernise the image of the royal house, with 60% of Flemish, 74% of Brussels and 64% of Walloons agreeing.
But four years later, the effect of change is lost, and now only 47% of Belgians think the royal family has a modernising effect on the country: 49% in Brussels, 47% in Wallonia and 46% in Flanders.
The newspaper concludes that early hopes of modernisation have been disappointed, with the royal family slipping back into the strict protocol of the royal house, rather than following the example of other royal families in Europe, who are more engaged with their people either directly or via social media.
In other National Day news, the king has awarded various honours to a wide range of Belgian personalities. The title of baron goes to seven people, among them Ingrid De Jonghe, who created the association Tejo to help adolescents in difficulties; Pieter Timmermans, chief executive of the Federation of Belgian Enterprise; and Yvonne L’Hoest, head of the network of Restos du Coeur, which feeds the homeless.
A knighthood was awarded to musician Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden. Other awards went to Alzheimer’s researcher Bart De Strooper, to Marie Laga, who works on Aids prevention, and to neurologist Steven Laureys.