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Belgium is preparing to crown a new king, as Albert II abdicates and hands over the royal reigns to his eldest son, Prince Philippe.

On the eve of official ceremonies, the monarch has made a final speech to the nation.

“Today, it is with emotion that I speak to you one last time as king,” said Albert.

“You will ask me, at the moment when I hand over my duties, what are my wishes for the future. My wish is that Belgium keeps its cohesion.”

King Albert is credited with bringing about that cohesion – uniting a linguistically divided country.

During his speech, he also urged Belgians to support Philippe and his wife Mathilde.

“They are an excellent couple to serve our country and they enjoy my full confidence,” he said.

The new king will take to the throne on Sunday, which is also National Day.

Streets have been decked out with national flags and shops have been packed with souvenirs, as people prepare to mark a memorable moment in Belgium’s history.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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