Royal Palace of Brussels
The Royal Palace of Brussels (French: Palais Royal de Bruxelles; Dutch: Koninklijk Paleis van Brussel) is the official palace of the King 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 Castle of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels.
The palace is situated in front of Brussels Park. A long square called the Paleizenplein/Place des Palais separates the palace from the park. The middle axis of the park marks both the middle peristyle of the palace and the middle of the facing building on the other side of the park, which is the Palace of the Nation (the Belgian Federal Parliament building). The two facing buildings are said to symbolize Belgium's system of government: a constitutional monarchy.
The facade we see today was only built after 1900 on the initiative of King Leopold II. 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.
Leopold II judged the building to be too modest for a king of his stature, and 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', 'Throne Room' and the 'Grande Gallerie' were added. Balat also planned a new façade but died before the plans could be executed. It was only after 1904 that the new façade 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 Belgian sculptor Thomas Vinçotte. The new design included a formal front garden separating the building from the 'Place des Palais'.
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