Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tragedy in Liège

Today at lunch time has been a terrible tragedy in the historic city of Liege when a murderous attack killed four people and injured 75 (so far, numbers may change) in the middle of the city. The first target seems to have been a bus shelter at Place Saint-Lambert. There are conflicting reports about who is guilty for this. Witnesses said there were a group of attackers, shooting guns and throwing bombs, officials though say there was only one, Nordine Amrani (32) who carried out the killings and then did suicide to himself. Emergency stations were set up, people were advised to stay off the streets and emergency assistance was sent from Namur and Maastricht. It is a terrible, terrrible day and the pictures released even by the media are shocking of the horror and bloodshed. Who could do such a terrible thing? I don't know who is Nordine Amrani. The police say he was sentenced to 58 months in prison in 2008 after an inspection of his home found stocks of illegal weapons and 2,800 cannabis plants. From just the name, Amrani, I would guess he was a Moroccan but I cannot know that for sure yet. After what has happened in so many cities all across Europe and what happened in Norway, the first thing that entered my mind was this was either a deranged Muslim or a deranged Belgian angry at the Muslims all over the country. Every act of mass violence seems to be one of those two nowadays. Just recently the news said that in my beloved Antwerp a Kalashnikov (AK-47) was found in the home of a young Belgian convert to Islam who is a member of the radical group Sharia4Belgium. And in Mons a Muslim father was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for the "Honor Killing" of his own daughter, Sadia Sheikh. A brother who was the one who actually shot the poor girl was sentenced to 15 years in gaol and a sister was given five years. She was 20 years old and what was her "crime"? She wanted to marry her Belgian boyfriend instead of the Pakistani chosen by her parents. What is the country coming to? Never before have such things happened. Even my parents who are the most peaceful, moderate (and really boring!) people you can think of, are becoming alarmed by all of this that seems to be increasing every day. But what can you do? Today all I can do is say a prayer for the poor people in Liege and their families who have been robbed of their loved ones by this maniac.
The King and Queen late tonight visited the scene of the disaster, meeting with local officials, survivors and families of the victims. The feeling of horror could be seen on their faces all day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Holy Sepulchre Ordre

Recently I saw the coverage that Vatican Cardinal John Patrick Foley (American) passed away just yesterday. The Cardinal was President of the Pontifical Council on Social Communications and, I am told, for many years provided the English language commentary for the papal Midnight Mass on Christmas every year. He was also the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. This order is, I think, not usually considered one of the "papal honors" but it is under the protection of the Popes and has a significant connection to the Kingdom of Belgium. It traces its history back to the Belgian leader of the First Crusade, Godfrey de Bouillon who was the first "Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre".
On October 19, 1955 King Albert II and Queen Paola were both given membership in the order. The King is "Knight of the Collar" and the Queen is "Dame of the Collar". It is the only Vatican order of which the Queen is a member. The King also is "Bailiff and Knight Grand Cross of Honor and Devotion" of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Prince Philippe is also a "Knight Grand Cross" of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, he was given that honor also in 1995. He is also a "Knight of Honor and Devotion" of the Order of Malta as well. Prince Laurent is not a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre but he is a "Knight of Honor and Devotion" of the Knights of Malta since 1998 (so take that everyone who thinks he is a bad person!). I don't think I have ever heard of Cardinal Foley before but he sounds like he was a very good, devout priest from what I have read about him since his passing away, defending even those positions of the Church which have become unpopular to many people today. The new Grand Master of the Holy Sepulchre Order is another American, Cardinal Edwin Frederick O'Brien, and I hope he has great success in that post. If any of you reading want to be a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre also, all I can say is to make some important friends. Membership is given only by invitation of local bishops with endorsement by active members.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Princess Claire Defends Her Man

To start at the beginning, some days or weeks ago was made a sensationalist report in the media against Prince Laurent in a show on RTBF. I did not care to mention it at the time because it seemed too absurd and everyone is always trying to say something negative about Prince Laurent and it seemed to me this was just trying to purposely be the most outrageous to get more attention in the media. The accusation was that Prince Laurent is some brutal maniac who is terrible to everyone around him and even abusive to his family. Just when he was starting to show up at family events again, like the King and Queen were starting to forgive him for being such a loose cannon something like this of course happens. I never believed such a thing at all, no matter what the television says. Prince Laurent has never seemed to me to be a malicious or brutal person at all, only someone who seems to lack good judgment sometimes and wants to do things his own way. He also does not realize that for a Prince, anything at all you say in public, 'can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion'. That is a long way apart from being a harsh, unfeeling brute.

As not unusual, the Prince tried to ignore these terrible accusations and go on with his life but the media will not let it go. A story like this, with Prince Laurent, is like catnip for them. So, a few days ago the Prince is opening in Brussels a new homeless shelter for homeless people with pets (he often does charity causes for pets). When he was speaking to the press about this occasion (or rather he wanted to be talking about this occasion) all they wanted to do was hurl questions at him about the show on TV saying what a terrible person he was. That was when Princess Claire could stand by silently no more. She stepped forward and ended the press conference right there, saying that would be the end of it, that what was said about her husband was totally untrue and very hurtful to her and their children. Not only these accusations but all the other stories that are passed around like gossip that always portray Prince Laurent in a negative light. Bravo Princess Claire! Here is a strong woman who will defend her husband.

I am proud of Princesse Claire for doing this. It must be very hard on her and the three children to have their husband and father so often picked on in the media, a very popular pasttime lately it seems. And I just cannot believe those stories. Prince Laurent does not and never has seemed that type of personality to me, I don't think Princess Claire would still be married to him if he was and I think about the King and Queen. Would they let their grandchildren stay in a home if the Prince was in any way abusive? The King has shown he will take firm measures when the Prince acts in an undisciplined way and Queen Paola --what fiery Italian grandmother would let that situation continue? I cannot believe it and I always thought it was too outrageous to be true. That makes it very unfortunate for Prince Laurent and his family but I am glad he has a strong and loyal wife like Princess Claire to get him through these difficult times. She is really great!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The King and the New Government

Yesterday, in the presence of the King at Laeken Palace the new government was sworn in. So it is finally over. The bad jokes can stop, politicians wives can stop withholding sex from their husbands, patriotic men can shave their beards off and everyone be glad that the country will not be falling apart right now, at least not because of the deadlock of the parties. One thing that prompted an agreement to finally be made was the inability of the caretaker government to deal with the worsening economic crisis, not just across the European Union but Belgium itself also when agencies downgraded Belgian credit rating from AA+ to AA, which will make borrowing money more expensive (not that I understand economics at all). So, after all this time, even the parties began to realize that if Belgium did not have some kind of government, if even it was not ideal, the two halves of the country would be ruined together. So, finally an agreement was made and the King asked Elio Di Rupo to take the position of Prime Minister. It is one of the smallest governments Belgium ever had with only 13 ministers and 6 secretaries of state. In this case, at this time, maybe smaller is better anyway.

Not everyone of course is happy. That is not going to be surprising but what might be is just what some people are complaining about. One headline said of the new cabinet, “Too few women and too West Flemish”. Is this for a joke? Over five hundred days of deadlock and no government and some people are complaining because only 6 of the 19 are women and 6 of the Flemings are all from West Flanders. Too little diversity? But surely having Elio Di Rupo for Prime Minister should count for a number of different minorities. Limburg has no representative, Antwerp only 3 (hey!) and, for the first Francophone prime minister in decades there is worry for the ability of Elio Di Rupo to speak Dutch (he does not do it very well). The feminists are upset, many Flemings are upset (which should have been expected under the circumstances, by both groups) and one feminist Fleming said there is “no excuse” for this outrage! My apologies for not having all groups represented ideally but really, it was 541 days without any government at all! Obviously not everyone will have everything they want and when this much time has passed by and the situation becomes more and more serious the choices will clearly be worse and worse. This mentality itself is for me what is upsetting. It is no wonder the country seems always on the brink of collapse when everyone is keeping a chart to see if “their” side, group, language, gender, region and everything else is always represented no less than every other one with their own charts.

With everyone talking about the deal that was made, who gets this or that and how many “firsts” this represents for Elio Di Rupo being Prime Minister, the one person the media overlooks in all this is the most important, THE KING! It was all along the King who was the only person involved in the process with no ulterior motives or agenda, no special interest for anything before the nation entire and there was no one like the King who put everything else aside to find an agreement that would be in the best interests of the country. In 2007, 2010 and this year the King had to call off his vacation time because of the crisis and we know how many times he has had to pick new mediators, persuade mediators to stay on and acted himself as a broker between the leading politicians. Before anyone applauds too highly Monsieur Di Rupo, remember the times he was wanting to give up on the process but the King recalled him and persuaded him to stay on and see things through until an agreement was at last reached. While foreign politicians mock Belgium for this impasse and while the media makes a big joke of the inability of the parties to work together it has all the time been the King who has done his duty, ignoring all else, refusing to participate in any festivities so long as the work of the state was left undone because of the deadlock.

Think back to how many mediators resigned over these difficulties. Can I remember them all? Not at all, Bart De Wever, as a courtesy, made the first effort but no one was having anything to do with him. Elio Di Rupo then came in, tried and failed. Danny Pieters and Andre Flahaut took their turn, I remember Johan Vande Lanotte who quit after three months of negotiations (who tried to resign earlier but the King refused him). He was followed by Didier Reynders (who I cannot help find funny, something about him makes me always laugh) then there was Wouter Beke of the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party, also ending in frustration and finally Elio Di Rupo again who has finally emerged as the Prime Minister. Throughout all of these people who tried, grew frustrated and failed in these hundreds of days, the one permanent, reliable and sincere figure who never gave up and who always had only the best interests of his country at heart was King Albert II. He should be given credit for all of his efforts, he is the real hero in this ugly display of partisanship and it is the King who everyone should applaud and be proud of. Vive le Roi! Leve de Koning!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Birthday of Princess Lea

Last Friday, December 2, was the birthday of Princess Lea, wife (now widow) of Prince Alexandre and sister-in-law of the King. Even though I am late to mention this I wanted to because she is from that part of the family that seems to get very little attention or consideration. Surely they are grateful to be spared the sort of attention the others are given but it bothers me that so many act as though they 'don't count'. Princess Lea would agree with me I think since she said that was a reason for publishing a photograph book on her husband and the family. I realize naturally there were problems. She had been married twice (I think) before and Prince Alexandre married her without the approval or knowledge of the King and their union was only known in 1998. Even so, she seems like a nice lady and I don't wish anyone unpleasantness. They had no children so all the worry about titles and succession seemed a little silly to me, just take them all as they are I say and I hope there are still friendly relations with Princess Lea and all the rest of the family. Happy late birthday wishes to her.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Belgian Maneuvers 1939

Someone asked me, reading from a book they just had been given, about the Belgian maneuvers of 1939 and asked how this was not a betrayal of France just at the critical point when World War II is about to begin. This is completely untrue though and I do not understand how anyone could think such a thing. This is the context: Belgium had always been neutral since independence until Germany invaded in 1914. After that, Belgium was allied to France because both countries were of course worried about the Germans, seeing that they would have no hesitation to invade and threaten both countries (or especially to invade France and Belgium would be a useful corridor). So there was an alliance until 1939 when on September 3, after the invasion of Poland, King Leopold III declared neutrality again. The Belgian army was at that time called out and put through some exercises as a show of force, not particularly for Germany, but for France so that they would know that if they tried to violate Belgian territory to attack Germany they would have a difficult fight and Belgium would resist them just as they had strongly resisted the Germans in 1914. This was not a betrayal, this was a realistic view of the on-the-ground situation.

Consider for a moment that prior to this time Germany had gone back on one provision after another of the Versailles Treaty and France and Britain had done nothing. Britain even signed a naval treaty with Germany. Italy had been opposed to Germany at first but left the Allies to join the Germans when Britain or France would not stand beside Italy in stopping the takeover of Austria and then later scolded Italy for occupying Abyssinia. After the Rhineland and Czech occupations and the union with Austria the French had done nothing. This was a concern to Belgium as was the French war plans which many thought left Belgium on its own. Then when Germany invaded Poland the British and then French declared war on Germany. What was Belgium supposed to do? They could do nothing about Poland, even Britain and France could do nothing to save Poland but they had declared war anyway. The Germans had made no aggressive moves against the Low Countries, Britain or France at that time. But the British and French had declared war on Germany so Belgium was suddenly faced with the possibility of France doing the same thing the Kaiser had done in 1914, attacking Germany and marching through Belgium maybe as an easier way to go.

The Allies had, honestly, done a poor job of diplomacy and foreign relations prior to World War II. They had given in to Hitler time after time and then, finally, declared war on Germany on behalf of a country neither of them could defend and which was being occupied by the Soviets also. It was perfectly understandable for King Leopold III to again declare Belgian neutrality and hope that, unlike before, the country could be kept out of the conflict. Later the King joined with Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands to call for all the countries to get together and make peace. Today this seems ridiculous because Hitler was a lunatic who wanted to take over the world, but try to remember what the people knew then, not what we know now. All Hitler had done then was to invade Poland and the Soviets had joined in. France and Britain had declared war on him, even though he had not threatened their countries, but they had not declared war on the Soviets for taking part of Poland or for taking over the Baltic republics. All that had really happened by then was that Poland had been partitioned, which was unfortunate for the Poles, but not something new, they had been partitioned between Germany and Russia for years. So, it seemed not unreasonable to many at the time that the two sides could talk through their differences and make peace without another world war.

That did not happen, but it is not the fault of the King that he could not look into the future. He was only trying to do what was best for his country in the situation he was in. When the war came Belgium was as strong an ally as she had been before and fought as hard as possible for 18 days against the crushing Nazi blitzkrieg, in doing so saving the lives of many French and British troops. That is what should be remembered, the free countries fighting as allies against invaders and do not waste time on accusations that are pointless and only efforts to stir up bad feelings between people and nations. There is already enough of that.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Famous Belgians

One of the youngest famous Belgians has today his birthday, 2006 Junior Eurovision Song Contest winner Thor Salden.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nova Belgica

Just a few years after the Pilgrim Fathers of Massachusetts founded their colony on Plymouth Rock, the Dutch Republic was establishing the colony of New Netherland, the original territorial claims of which reached from what is now about Delaware up to southern Massachusetts (obviously there were competing colonial claims that would only be ended by the settlement, holding and development of an area). This was during the "Golden Age" of the Netherlands and we can only imagine how history would have been different if the Dutch colonial effort had not been taken over later by the English and re-named New York. But regardless of that, after studying in America I know that not many people are aware that New York and the surrounding area was once New Netherland and naturally no one knows (unless you read it here since I think I mentioned it early on from starting this blog) that many Belgians were involved in this and, in fact, because many still did not consider the status of the independent Netherlands and the Austrian Netherlands "settled" the names where interchangeable and New Netherland was called on some maps "Nova Belgica" or "New Belgium".

New Netherland was the product of the Dutch West India Company that wanted to find a western passage to Asia and later to establish a commercial trading colony on the North America continent. The Dutch West India Company included many people what would today be Belgians. Many of the founders or investors were Flemish Protestants who left Belgium (then belonging to the Catholic Roman Emperor) to go to the Dutch Republic and they helped in establishing the Dutch West India Company which organized the voyages of discovery and colonization to North America. Many people have heard the story about how the GWC agent Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan island from the natives for 60 guilders worth of trade goods. Some think he was Dutch, others think he was German, because he was born in Germany, but Peter Minuit was actually a Belgian and not Flemish but Walloon, his family being from Tournai. They were Protestants though and left Belgium to go to Germany because the Protestants were in power there. It is also not true, I have learned, that he cheated the natives out of Manhattan. He was actually the one cheated because the natives he first bought the island from were not really from there and had no right to sell it and later, when Peter Minuit found this out, he had to buy the island again from the correct owners -so he bought Manhattan twice!
This map has both names "Nova Belgica" and "New Netherland"

In 1664 the New Netherland colony was first taken by the English (the Dutch did not make an effort to protect the colony since it was supposed to be a place of total liberty) but later the powerful Dutch navy defeated the English and restored the colony to Dutch rule in 1673, however, only the next year the Netherlands was attacked by France, England and parts of Germany, exhausted her resources and had to give up the colony to England again who re-named it New York.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Royal Nose in the News

King Albert II made a short visit to the hospital to have surgery on his nose to treat basal cell carcinoma today. Official Belgian monarchie website says it was not serious and the surgery was successful and the King has been able to go home. I hope he feels better!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Prince Philippe in China

The Belgian Crown Prince and Princess recently were in the People's Republic of China. It was for the usual reason, foreign affairs, Sino-Belgian trade, investment in Flanders and the usual things like we have seen before, business and trade missions being led by Prince Philippe are not very unusual. Only lately though it seems to me a little concerning the growing influence of China. With countries in Europe on the edge of being bankrupt, Greece already, today Italy is on the news for being in big trouble and everyone worries about Spain and Portugal and maybe others and European Union goes to China to ask for the money to bail out these countries. Think about how the world has changed. Many of these countries, like Italy and Portugal, even Belgium and numerous others, once had their own concessions in China and now it is China that is being called upon to rescue the nations of Europe from their own poor economic choices. This causes me just a little bit of worry. Am I alone? I don't really remember the Tiananmen Square incident but I have seen video of it Has anyone forgotten this is the same government responsible for that? Also why did it used to be called everywhere the "Tiananmen Square Massacre" but now is called the "Tiananmen Square Protest"?

The Chinese government may not be really communist anymore but they still revere the memory of Chairman Mao who killed millions of people. He is just not a significant figure in their history but he is the founder of their whole modern country and government. Also I have heard other economics expert people say that the seeming wealth of the Chinese today is all an illusion, that the interior of the country is just as impoverished as ever, if not worse and that the true state of the economy cannot be known because the government controls all the media and all the financial reports and also we know they manipulate their currency and use criminals as a source of slave labor in labor camps. These are not secrets but it seems not many people want to talk about it. Anyway, I must confess to being a little nervous about Europe becoming more and more indebted to China, a country where they still have no real freedoms at all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Belgian Royals Run in New York

Princess Astrid of the Belgians, Prince Lorenz and Prince Amedeo have completed the New York Marathon on Sunday. Princess Astrid did pretty good, finishing the 42.195 km course through the streets of the Big Apple in 5 hours 52 minutes and 38 seconds. Not bad for a woman 49-years young! She was listed on the roll of runners as “Astrid, princess de Belgique” (which of course some language - snobs have to point out like is a problem, so tiresome). She trained for the recent months to prepare for this and her time is in the 'normal' range for completion of the marathon by most runners. There is, though, no time limit for the New York Marathon so even if you are slow, you can still run it with enough determination. Of course, being the most fit and young, Prince Amedeo crossed the finish line first (before his parents, not first over every one of course) which we should expect for him being 25 and having endured military training. He finished with a time of 3:39. Prince Lorenz was not so fast as his son but came in a considerable time ahead of his wife when he completed the course in 4 hours and 23 minutes. Congratulations to all of them for their achievement!

Riots Rock Antwerp, Asylum Seekers Pile Up

This problem really is getting out of control. Only recently there have been many stories about the centers to house those seeking asylum in Belgium are over-filled to bursting with over 2,600 more people coming in just in the month of October. And the government is trying to deal with this problem while the national debt is growing larger and the EU-economic crisis becomes more extreme every day. And, at the same time, while more and more people flood Belgian shores, there is rioting in Antwerp between rival immigrant groups; Kurds and Turks, that the authorities have to deal with. The big riot on Saturday in Antwerp was the third such disturbance in only one week. Bus shelters were torn apart, store windows were smashed, cars were vandalized, at least one person was stabbed and many have been taken to hospital. Each side blames the other for responsibility for the violence. Surely anyone can see that this problem is not going to disappear, take care of itself or become better instead of becoming worse. There are Muslim groups now taking to court the government for discrimination (the burqa ban) and rioting in the streets, yet each month thousands more arrive wanting asylum in Belgium. This cannot be a good idea, especially for a small country where, as we see painfully today, even the native population has some problems getting along with each other. Nothing will be done it seems like, at the moment nothing can be done I guess because of the political deadlock but I am afraid these riots and things will only get worse as we have more people coming in and now bringing their own  ethnic feuds with them.

Hommages des Volontaires de Bruxelles 1830 au cimetière de Bruxelles

Some great photos here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Provisional Government

At this time in history, in 1830, during the Belgian Revolution, power was held by the Provisional Government led by Charles Rogier, chairman of the committee, which had declared the independence of the provinces of Belgium on October 4, 1830. The provisional government ruled by decree during this time. They had already called for elections to choose a national congress but this took time to organize and to have people vote since they were at war at the time and the patriots were still facing the threat of the Dutch military. It was the provisional government that asserted the basic freedoms of what would become the Kingdom of Belgium such as freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of religion and freedom of education.

This provisional government held power until the election of a congress and after that time a more formal government was established under the statesman Baron Surlet de Chokier as Regent of Belgium. The provisional government had diverse members, some more liberal supporting a secular "enlightenment" state and others more conservative, supporting independence but still with ties to the monarchie of the House of Orange of the Netherlands. In the end, we know they decided on total independence and a Belgian monarchy with Louis, Duke of Namours as King. However, the British opposed this idea, not wanting Belgium to become an instrument of France. The powers agreed Belgium needed a strong and independent monarch and so the choice was later suggested of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha who became the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, starting our dynasty.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Belgium, Britain and Monarchy

It is not good, I know, to compare one country with another, but sometimes I cannot resist it. Especially this is so for the countries of the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Belgium. The two are very different and also have very much in common. It is also my confession that I think of this more probably because I hear now so much criticism from British politicians directed toward the existence of Belgium as a “proper country”, which they say it is not. And yet, look at the similarities of these two countries. Both are constitutional monarchies, both even have the same family of royalty. Both are also diverse countries, not like all countries in Europe are diverse now, but the mixture of Flemish and Walloon in Belgium and the mixture of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon and Norman in Great Britain. Both have also been close allies since the British intervened in the First World War in reaction to the invasion of Belgium and for that the Belgians have never missed being grateful and honoring that sacrifice on our behalf. And yet, some British politicians still denigrate my country and publicly cheer for Belgium to be broken up and destroyed.
What inspired me to think of a new comparison was that some of these political figures, in their own country and policies relating to that, are quite correct. Time to name a name: Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. I cannot be anything but opposed to this man because he constantly insults my country, my people and wishes for us to be broken up and destroyed. He is also very much against the European Union, which does not bother me so much as his being very much against the Kingdom of Belgium. Yet, I have at least one friend (who is pro-Belgian of course) who greatly likes Nigel Farage and has pointed out to me that Farage is a proud British monarchist who wants the UK and the Commonwealth countries to preserve their monarchy. That is good for them and I have no problem with that, I support that also, and if he would only keep his words about his own country and not mine I would maybe be able to like Farage also. But, he does not and so I cannot like him and must be opposed to him. But this made me think to compare the attitudes toward the British and the Belgian monarchies in each country.

My perspective may not be correct but anyone can leave a comment to tell me so. I never used to watch much news coverage from Britain. I did not watch much news at all when I was very small (I was watching cartoons!) but now I am in education exile I see occasionally the BBC while still trying to stay up to date with news from home. One thing I have noticed is that the British news does not seem to mention their Queen very much at all. Unless there is some major social event she is connected with, they do not, as I have seen, pay much attention at all to the Queen or the others royals of the family. This surprised me because, since the British monarchy is so grand and famous around the world, because of their past empire (and everyone must agree it is the most grand) I thought the BBC would have always some news about the Queen. But I have seen very little and that what I did see was always in reference to some occasion social. Not like Belgium at all. From my perspective, the news in Belgium mentions the King quite regularly and in terms political and governmental not social only. Even though in Belgium we are being a popular monarchy and have no grand ceremonies with the King wearing ermine robes and wearing a crown and surrounded by servants in antique costumes, it seems the monarchie in Belgium is more central while the monarchy in Britain the serious media (not the gossip mags) just more often ignore their Queen and royals.

Is my perception incorrect? I know British friends read this (they are my number three source of readers after the USA and Belgium) so they can tell me if my view is incomplete. Thinking about this, I thought it was logical because the monarchy is for Britain now very separated from politics and all political problems and solutions. In Belgium this might also be the case except that the divisions in the political parties* means that the King must have a more central role as keeping peace between the two sides and forcing him to be the “adult in the room” (and the politicians do often behave like children it looks like). This does not happen in the United Kingdom. I heard nothing about the Queen being involved when, after last elections, a power-sharing government had to be negotiated between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party. I know in Britain there is also now regional governments in North Ireland, Scotland and maybe Wales (I am uncertain of that one, I thought they had an assembly their own but also I thought they were always a part of England so, I am not certain of that situation). Maybe this worked better for United Kingdom than Belgium, I do not know, since I never hear of the Queen must settle disputes between English, Irish and Scottish people. However, in Belgium, the monarchy may not be so grand but is very important because the King is the one person with no regional agenda.
The King of the Belgians must work very hard, especially when there is disagreement and discord (as we have seen very clearly in this extended time with no government) and although British and Belgians both have people that like to mock and make comedy ridicule of their monarchs, in Belgium, even those who are not supportive of the monarchy must accept that it is important and they cannot ignore it because it is the central, unifying institution of the country. The former Prime Minister was ridiculed by some for saying all that kept Belgium together was football, beer and the King. If that is so, the King is even more important than anyone thought because beer and football cannot take any action to bring about political compromise and encourage national unity. The King may not be every day in the news, but he cannot also be ignored and it cannot be denied his crucial part in the political process of the country.

*Another problem I have is Farage saying there are no national parties in Belgium. This is not true! Votez B.U.B.!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baby Belgians

Queen Astrid and Prince Albert

Princesse Josephine-Charlotte

Prince Baudouin (and a big bunny)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Costume Idea

I understand it is too late for most of you, but I address the readers in the Americas. It is Halloween and you still have no costume. What to do?! Here is an easy idea, go to 'trick or treat' as the most scary King of the Belgians, Leopold II! (I don't think he was scary, I think he has a very incorrect image but you cannot argue with popular opinion) This is an easy last-minute costume to make, especially since the stores I see here start putting out Christmas items as soon as the first cool wind blows through. All you need is something like a blue coat, maybe also attach some brass buttons, then go get a Santa Claus beard from the store and you are done, ready to go 'trick or treat' as the scary King Leopold II. Best I could come up with at this short notice. Happy Halloween to everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Princess Astrid to Run Marathon

Princess Astrid, Prince Lorenz and Prince Amedeo will be running in the New York marathon on 6 November. Archduke Lorenz and Prince Amedeo ran before, years ago, this year I think will be the first time for Princess Astrid. Article from De Standaard:

Op 6 november staan maar liefst drie leden van de Belgische koninklijke familie aan de start van de marathon van New York. Dat meldt het Laatste Nieuws dinsdag. Naast prins Lorenz en prins Amadeo zal ook prinses Astrid deelnemen aan de beroemde marathon.

Prins Lorenz en zijn zoon prins Amadeo liepen in 2007 al de 42,195 kilometer door Manhattan. Zij kunnen prinses Astrid dus gidsen tijdens de marathon, die door zo'n 45.000 mensen gelopen wordt. De familie laat niets aan het toeval over, ze zouden zich zelfs laten begeleiden door een atletiekcoach die zich specialiseert in marathons.

'De prinses is een fervente jogster', verklaart Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw, woordvoerder van het paleis. 'Momenteel is ze in volle voorbereiding voor de marathon, ze traint hard en veel.'

De Belgische overheid bekijkt nu met de Amerikaanse veiligheidsdiensten of voor de uitgebreide delegatie van het Belgisch koningshuis op de marathon extra veiligheidsmaatregelen nodig zijn.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Joyeux Anniversaire, Élisabeth!

Yesterday was the 10th birthday of our future Queen and the Royal Palace issued some new photos for the occasion. They are great! Joyeux Anniversaire, Princesse Élisabeth!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Belgian Royals Visit China

Crown Prince Philippe and Crown Princess Mathilde are right now in Beijing, China with a large number of business people to try to encourage the Chinese to buy more Belgian exports and make a better environment for Belgian businesses in China. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said this was important because the economic crisis had made trade even more important. Currently there are many business ties between China and Antwerp especially. Crown Prince Philippe has met with the Deputy Prime Minister of China, Wang Qishan, and Crown Princess Mathilde has visited a dance academy also in Beijing. Belgium used to have a concession in China during the days of the Manchu Emperors but I would wager that today there are probably even more Belgian owned properties in China because of the place of importance China has today in the world of trade and the global economy. The Chinese economy has grown faster than any other in history, of any country, just in the recent decades.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Video! "Let's Stay Together" by Belgian Deejays United

Officers in the Congo Free State

This summer the website "Nobility" posted an article on Captain Leopold Louis Joubert, a real hero of Belgium. He was one of the volunteers of the Papal Zouaves who fought to defend the estates of Pope Pius IX from the Italian nationalist movement. With other veterans of the zouaves in 1880 he went to the Congo Free State of King Leopold II doing missionary work but he and his comrades had to revert to their military role to defend the poor natives from the cruelty of the Arab slave traders. This is not much talked about today but was a big part of the Belgian involvement in central Africa as King Leopold II pursued the war against the Arab slave trade. He built mission-forts to defend the area, showing great courage, and was later supported with men and arms by the Congo Free State government of King Leopold II. Certainly not a racist, Captain Joubert married the daughter of a local African chief by whom he had ten children. He was knighted by the Pope for his actions defending the Church and was also knighted by King Leopold II for his actions defending the Africans of the Congo.

Also, on a different tone, there is the case of Finn Kjelstrup, a Norwegian officer in the service of King Leopold II in the Congo Free State. I do not read Norwegian but can tell this webzone, from the University of Oslo, takes the more typical negative view of the Congo Free State as they relate the long career of this officer there. However, the photos and letters of the officer are interesting and how he tells what changes were made in attitude and why. This also I have commented on, that in the early days of the Congo Free State, and even much later in the era of the Belgian Congo, the officers of the Force Publique included more Scandinavians than Belgians, as they had many military officers in need of employment. Norway, for example, as related in the site, had to downsize the military after parting from the royal union with the Kingdom of Sweden and so many veteran military men needed work and were employed by King Leopold II in the Congo after a short training period to make them familiar with the unique circumstances of service in central Africa.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Belgium and the Bonapartes

The Brazen Bonapartist reports on Belgium and the Bonapartes. Also, this is an opportunity to look back on some past posts dealing with that subject: The Duchess of Richmond Ball, General Van Merlen, General Dumonceau, Regent Chokier (an admirer of Napoleon) and the Children of King Leopold II. It was Leopold II's daughter Princess Clementine who married Prince Victor Napoleon (Napoleon V for the Bonapartists) and only recently I again happened to see some pictures of the modern Bonaparte family and had to smile. You can definitely see the genes of King Leopold in them with their prominent noses! The King was, I think, not so happy about his daughter marrying a relative of Napoleon but he seems to have left his mark on the House Bonaparte.