MOTRIL, Spain — King Baudouin of Belgium died of apparent heart failure Saturday while vacationing in Spain, a government spokesman said.
The king, 62, died in Motril, a town in the southern province of Granada on the Mediterranean coast. He and his wife, Queen Fabiola, had been vacationing in Motril the past week.
The king, who presided over a nation of 10 million people actually governed by a parliament, had prostate surgery in 1991 and an operation to repair a heart valve last year.
Baudouin's 42 years on the throne began dramatically when he took over from his father, Leopold III, in 1951. Leopold had been a Nazi prisoner during World War II, and his attempted return in 1950 precipitated a political revolt, resulting in his abdication.
The abdication catapulted Baudouin into a job for which, at age 20, he was unprepared. But over the years, he became a unifying force in a country marked by deep divisions. Disputes between the Flemish- and French-speaking groups have led to the downfall of numerous governments.
Baudouin gained the reputation of being scrupulously impartial in dealing with his diverse subjects. Although he was only a ceremonial king, he played a stabilizing role in the disputes between the groups.
Baudouin had no children. His nephew Phillippe is next in line for the throne.