Royal Palace of Brussels

The Royal Palace of Brussels (French: Palais royal de Bruxelles, Dutch: Koninklijk Paleis van Brussel [ˈkoːnɪŋklək paːˈlɛis fɑm ˈbrʏsəl][a]) is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of the nation's capital, Brussels. However, it is not used as a royal residence, as the king and his family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken in northern Brussels. The website of the Belgian Monarchy describes the function of the palace as follows:

Royal Palace of Brussels
  • Palais royal de Bruxelles  (French)
  • Koninklijk Paleis van Brussel  (Dutch)
Bruxels April 2012-4.jpg
Main facade of the Royal Palace of Brussels seen from the Place des Palais/Paleizenplein
Royal Palace of Brussels is located in Brussels
Royal Palace of Brussels
Location within Brussels
Royal Palace of Brussels is located in Belgium
Royal Palace of Brussels
Royal Palace of Brussels (Belgium)
General information
Architectural styleNeoclassical
AddressPlace des Palais / Paleizenplein
Town or cityB-1000 City of Brussels, Brussels-Capital Region
Coordinates50°50′30″N 04°21′44″E / 50.84167°N 4.36222°E / 50.84167; 4.36222Coordinates: 50°50′30″N 04°21′44″E / 50.84167°N 4.36222°E / 50.84167; 4.36222
Current tenantsBelgian Royal Family
Construction started1783 (1783)
Completed1934 (1934)
ClientKing Leopold II
OwnerBelgian State
Technical details
Floor area33,027 m2 (355,500 sq ft)
Design and construction
Other designersFrançois Rude, Jan Fabre
Other information
Public transit access
Official website

The Palace is where His Majesty the King exercises his prerogatives as Head of State, grants audiences and deals with affairs of state. Apart from the offices of the King and the Queen, the Royal Palace houses the services of the Grand Marshal of the Court, the King's Head of Cabinet, the Head of the King's Military Household and the Intendant of the King's Civil List. The Palace also includes the State Rooms where large receptions are held, as well as the apartments provided for foreign Heads of State during official visits.

The first nucleus of the present-day building dates from the end of the 18th century. However, the grounds on which the palace stands were once part of the Coudenberg Palace, a very old palatial complex that dated back to the Middle Ages.[2] The facade existing today was only built after 1900 on the initiative of King Leopold II.

The Royal Palace is situated in front of Brussels Park, from which it is separated by a long square called the Place des Palais/Paleizenplein. The middle axis of the park marks both the middle peristyle of the Royal Palace and of the Belgian Federal Parliament building (Palace of the Nation) on the other side of the park. The two facing buildings are said to symbolise Belgium's system of government: a constitutional monarchy. This area is served by Brussels Central Station, as well as by the metro stations Parc/Park (on lines 1 and 5) and Trône/Troon (on lines 2 and 6).


Palace of CoudenbergEdit

The Palace of Coudenberg, Jan Brueghel the Younger, c. 1627

The first building on the Coudenberg hill was constructed between the second half of the 11th and first half of the 12th century. At that time, it probably looked like a fortified castle forming a part of the fortifications of the City of Brussels. It was the home of the Dukes of Brabant who also resided in the nearby city of Leuven and in the Castle of Tervuren. In the following centuries, it was rebuilt, extended, and improved, in line with the increased prestige of the Dukes of Brabant and their successors; the Dukes of Burgundy, the Emperor Charles V, the Archduke Albert of Austria and Infanta Isabel of Spain and successive Governors of the Habsburg Netherlands.

The Aula Magna, a gigantic room for royal receptions and other pageantry, was built for Philip the Good in the 15th century.[3][4] The first regular meetings of the States-General, composed of delegates from the middle class, clergy and nobility of the Burgundian Netherlands, were held there in 1465. It was in this room that in 1515 Margaret of Austria formally relinquished her regency over the Low Countries to Charles von Habsburg, and the future Emperor Charles V became the Duke of Burgundy. It was also in this same room that, 40 years later, Charles V abdicated in favour of his son, Philip II of Spain.[4]

This impressive complex suffered several fires over the centuries. In 1679, a fire destroyed part of the roof. A large fire that broke out on 3 February 1731 almost completely destroyed the building. Only the court chapel and the walls of the Aula Magna were somewhat spared.[5][6] The ruins only disappeared when the district was redeveloped after 1775. At that time the urban axes of the present-day Brussels Park were laid out. The Place Royale/Koningsplein was built on top of the ruined palace. Excavations of the site by different archaeological organisations have unearthed various remains of different parts of the palace as well as the surrounding town. The monumental vaults remaining under the square and its surrounding buildings can be visited.

The Fire of 1679 in the Coudenberg Palace by Gillis van Auwerkercken

The new Royal PalaceEdit

Charles Alexander of Lorraine, at that time Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands had a new palace, the Palace of Charles of Lorraine, built on the nearby site of the former Palace of Orange-Nassau.[7] The Palace of Charles of Lorraine is now part of the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR)[7] and the old palace's garden was redesigned as a public park. On the northern side, a new building for the Council of Brabant was built by the French architect Gilles-Barnabé Guimard, which today houses the Belgian Federal Parliament and is known as the Palace of the Nation. On the other side of the park (the building plot of the present-day palace), the middle axis of the park continued as a street between two newly built mansions. One served as the residence of the Abbot of the nearby Coudenberg Abbey, while the other was inhabited by important government members.

After the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Brussels became (together with The Hague) the joint capital of the new established United Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was under the rule of William I of the Netherlands that the street was covered and the two mansions were joined with a gallery. The newly created 'palace' received a new neoclassical facade designed by the architect Tilman-François Suys with a peristyle in the middle, and a balcony with a wrought iron parapet surrounding the entire first floor.

The Royal Palace in 1852

The street running alongside the new palace was widened and thus the Place des Palais/Paleizenplein ("Square of the Palaces") was created. The new square's name uses the plural form, because another palace was built on the left side of the Royal Palace. This new building (1823) was designed as the residence of the Crown Prince called the Prince of Orange (the future King William II of the Netherlands). Today, it houses the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium (RASAB) and is consequently called the Academy Palace. The rooms and salons of the old mansions were incorporated in the new Royal Palace and were only partly refurnished. Some of them survived all the 19th and 20th centuries' renovations and are still partly intact today. A major addition to the interior decoration from the time of William I is the so-called 'Empire Room' which was designed as a ballroom. It has a very refined cream and gold decoration designed and executed by the famous French sculptor François Rude.

Extensions by Leopold IIEdit

The palace is used for state occasions at court.

After the Belgian Revolution, the palace was offered to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha when he ascended the throne as H.M. Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians. Just like his predecessor, William II, he used the palace mainly for official receptions and other representational purposes and lived in the Royal Palace of Laeken. During his reign (until 1865), little was changed to the palace. It was his son and successor, King Leopold II, who judged the building to be too modest for a king of his stature, and who kept on enlarging and embellishing the palace until his death in 1909. During his reign, the palace nearly doubled in surface. After the designs of his architect Alphonse Balat, imposing rooms like the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room and the Grand Gallery were added. Balat also planned a new facade but died before the plans could be executed.

It was only after 1904 that the new facade was executed after new plans by Henri Maquet. The pediment sculpture shows an allegorical figure of Belgium flanked by groups representing Industry and Agriculture, by the sculptor Thomas Vinçotte. The new design includes a formal front garden separating the building from the Place des Palais.

As often mentioned, it has a facade 50% longer than that of Buckingham Palace in London but its floor area of 33,027 m2 (355,500 sq ft) is less than half of Buckingham Palace's floor area at 77,000 m2 (830,000 sq ft).[8]

Royal CollectionEdit

In the palace, an important part of the Royal Collection is found. This consists of mainly state portraits and important furniture of Napoleon, Leopold I, Louis Philippe I and Leopold II. Silverware, porcelain and fine crystal is kept in the cellars used during state banquets and formal occasions at court. Queen Paola added modern art in some of the state rooms.

During state visits, the royal apartments and suites are at the disposal of visiting heads of state. Ambassadors too are received there with state ceremony. New Year's receptions are held for NATO, EU ambassadors and politicians. Royal wedding banquets take place in the palace, and after their death, the body of the deceased king lies in state there. If the king is currently in the country, the flag is hoisted on the central building. If he is present inside the palace, then the Honour Guard stands at the front of the palace.


See alsoEdit


Explanatory notesEdit

  1. ^ In isolation, van is pronounced [vɑn].


  1. ^ Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (2016). "Palais Royal" (in French). Brussels. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  2. ^ Mardaga 1994, p. 57–67.
  3. ^ Mardaga 1994, p. 222.
  4. ^ a b Wasseige 1995, p. 4.
  5. ^ Wasseige 1995, p. 6–7.
  6. ^ Rudi Schrever, Paleis op de Coudenberg in: Historiek, 28 September 2014 (in Dutch)
  7. ^ a b Wasseige 1995, p. 26.
  8. ^ Buckingham Palace Fact Sheet


Further readingEdit

  • André Molitor, The Royal Palace in Brussels, Musea Nostra. Ghent, Crédit Communal & Ludion, 1993
  • Liane Ranieri, Léopold II urbaniste (in French), Brussels, Hayez, 1973
  • Irène Smets, The Royal Palace in Brussels, Ghent, Ludion, 2000
  • Arlette Smolar et al., Le Palais de Bruxelles. Huit siècles d'art et d'histoire (in French), Brussels, Crédit Communal, 1991
  • Thierry Van Oppem. Aux origines du Palais royal de Bruxelles, un hôtel ministériel de la fin du XVIIe siècle (in French), Maison d'Hier et d'Aujourd'hui, 1991

External linksEdit