Albert II abdicated Sunday after 20 years as 'King of the Belgians' in favour of his son Philippe, who becomes the seventh monarch of a country deeply divided between its French- and Flemish-speaking halves.

In a solemn ceremony at the royal palace, Albert signed the act of abdication in front of an audience of some 250 local dignitaries and political leaders, thanking them "for all that you have achieved during my reign".