Honestly, my first thought was the not particularly reverent, "This is getting ridiculous." King Albert II of the Belgians, 79, in an address to the nation has announced his intention to abdicate on 21 July in favour of his son and heir Prince Philippe (Filip), Duke of Brabant, 53. I can remember learning (without the internet) of King Baudouin's death and his brother's accession twenty years ago as a 15-year-old music camper at Point CounterPoint in Vermont, making Belgium the first European monarchy to go through two royal transitions within my politically conscious lifetime.
This is becoming quite a year for voluntary monarchical transitions. Is the British monarchy becoming the only one left where the throne is seen as an office to be held for life? To be fair, modern longer life expectancies have created a somewhat new situation. Monarchs in previous centuries often didn't live to be 80; today's probably all will, and beyond. As sovereign of a seemingly perpetually divided country (it is sometimes said that the royal family are the only Belgians; others are either Flemings or Walloons), Albert II has had a uniquely challenging role as constitutional monarch over the past two decades, making his decision understandable.