Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Belgians in Texas

(this post was written by my friend the Mad Monarchist for a former website of his and which he allowed me to post on this blog as he had no place for it on his own)

The history of Belgian involvement in Texas goes back to the earliest days of the colonial era. Despite never being among the larger groups of colonists to come to Texas smaller groups of Belgian settlers and remarkable individuals have made their presence felt in Texas history. During the French colonial expedition of 1685 under the intrepid French explorer La Salle three Belgian priests accompanied the French, all from Hainaut; Zenobius, Membre, Maximus le Clerq and Anastasius Douay. Membre and le Clerq died in an Indian attack on Fort St Louis but it was Father Douay who survived the disastrous end of the colony, the mutiny and returned to Europe to tell the French king of the death of La Salle. These three daring Catholic priests were the first Belgians to set foot in Texas.

One Belgian who is almost unknown but who has left a larger mark than almost any other was Juan Banul, a master blacksmith from Brussels when Belgium was part of the Spanish empire. In time he moved to New Spain and in 1719 was living in San Antonio de Bexar, then the provincial royal capital of Texas. Many of the most famous and evocative landmarks in Texas, our most beloved national treasures were in part the work of the Belgian Juan Banul. He accompanied the Marques de Aguayo on his expedition to East Texas, establishing missions and building presidios and Banul stayed until 1723. After moving back to San Antonio he did almost all of the ironwork and many other touches on such iconic landmarks as the mission San Antonio de Valero (better known as the Alamo) and the “Queen of the Missions” Mission San Jose. In 1730 Banul married a Flemish widow named Maria Adriana Garcia and the two actually lived in the Alamo where Banul ran a blacksmith shop and sawmill.

To keep on that setting for a moment, that of the Alamo, the “Shrine of Texas Liberty” everyone familiar with that landmark recognizes the famous curved top on the church façade. Many know that this was not done at the time of the epic battle but was added later, after Texas joined the Union and the U.S. Army occupied the Alamo. What many do not know is that it was a Belgian stonemason named Theodore Van der Straten who helped repair the walls and construct that now famous façade. Another famous name from Belgium was Anton Diedrick who was kidnapped in Antwerp after witnessing a murder and sold as an impressed seamen. Escaping in Texas at Galveston island he was quickly signed up by recruiting agents for the U.S. Army that was recruiting volunteers for the Mexican-American War.

The flustered man could speak only Flemish and when he tried to tell the recruiters his name one cut him off saying, “Ah, he’s Dutch all over” and thus his name was listed as Anton Dutchallover, later shortened to Dutchover. He served as a frontier scout with the great Texas Ranger “Bigfoot” Wallace in West Texas, fighting bandits, hostile Indians and so on but Dutchover liked the area and settled there, operating a sheep ranch near Fort Davis. Changes of authority from Union to Confederate to Union again and Apache attacks never dislodged Dutchover and his descendants still live in the area to this day.

Far south Texans received many Belgians after the fall of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico. His wife, the Empress Carlota, was Belgian and many of her countrymen followed her to Mexico and after the fall of the empire and the victory of republican forces the Belgians found themselves very unwelcome and so moved into the Rio Grande valley on the south Texas border. For some years afterward many of the towns along the Rio Grande had small Belgian communities. Others, over the years, came from Belgium and settled in Galveston and Houston but the majority were farmers who moved to the San Antonio area. Other than farming Belgians worked as cooks, bakers, soap or candle makers, restaurant owners and musicians. Such famous Belgian-Texan names as Van de Walle, Van Daele, Persyn and Baeten became very successful at year-round farming and introduced new crops to the area such as cauliflower and kohlrabi while others produced everything from flowers to picante sauce.

Belgians in Texas observed the fall festival, held in mid-August in Texas usually, known as the “Kermess”. They also celebrated the Belgian National Day on July 21 gathering in various areas but especially the Belgium Inn, the Belgian Village and the Flanders Inn in San Antonio. Until fairly recently many played the Belgian sport of bolling and a version of this game is still demonstrated every year at the annual Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Whether it is their agricultural work ethic, deep faith or willingness to stand firm in the face of impossible odds for the principles of freedom and independence there has been much that the peoples of Texas and Belgium have had in common over the years.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Belgium and European Union

I am sometimes asked by others in my exile what my thoughts are on European Union. Usually I try not to think of it at all. My primary concern is the national situation, not the international situation of all of Europe. In general I have a mostly negative view of European Union though I also recognize some positive aspects or at least positive intentions. You see, it is hard to explain because I really do not fit completely in one group or another. I would have thought European Union a good idea when it started and some of the European statesmen I most admire have been associated with the whole pan-European movement. However, I do not see where it has done my country or really any country much good. The one fall-back the pro-EU crowd turns to is that there has been no World War III. That is true and that is not a benefit to talk disrespectfully about. No one wants to see that happen but how can we know that such a thing not happening is because of European Union and not because of NATO? I would say the UN but I am pretty solidly convinced that organization is totally useless.

The economic benefits were once the most touted by supporters but today that seems like a very weak argument. I also am a little bit nervous about the leading role played by Germany in the EU from the very begining and even today most EU expenses fall on German taxpayers. I am not hateful toward the Germans by any means but I would not be honest if I did not say it makes me a little uncomfortable that the German-dominated European super-state envisioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler seems to have become a reality today. But, honesty would also force me to say that the EU has some attractions at least on an emotional level with Brussels being the headquarters and Belgium being at the center of all the decision making in Europe. However, I cannot see where EU has helped Belgium and lately I have begun to wonder if the EU elites are not at some level supportive of the breakup of Belgium and would like to see something similar happen to other European countries.

Even on the wider world stage it seems to me that countries did better on their own than they have with the EU whether it is trade, diplomacy or foreign interventions. I also do not approve of how EU government is set up with the only elected members have very little power to do anything really. I am a royalist but I like my own constitutional setup pretty well and when people pay people should have a say. I do not mind a king not being elected because the king must be impartial but when it comes to politicians making decisions for me I would certainly want to be able to vote them out of office if they do wrong. All of this makes me have a very negative view of European Union, but again, I cannot fit neatly in with what English call the Euro-skeptic crowd. Speaking of the British they scare me alot in European Union. As the video I posted before shows UKIP is very anti-Belgium and the British National Party is very friendly with Vlaams Belang that want to see Belgium destroyed. It is a fact that the Belgians are given little choice for the only parties that oppose EU are almost invariably Flemish nationalist parties. If one even does not like EU then it makes it very hard to oppose it without falling into bad company for the loyal Belgian who loves his country and monarchie.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Sixtus Affair

Above is a picture of Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians and Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma. These two Bourbon princes naturally wished to rush to defend France when World War I started but because the French republic is prejudiced against royalty they were not allowed to join up. Instead, they joined the Belgian army and served with distinction. The two Bourbon-Parma princes were brothers to the Empress Zita of Austria and so when her husband, Charles I, became Emperor of Austria and wanted to end the Great War peacefully it was only natural that they try to do so via Prince Sixtus and Prince Xavier who were officers in the Belgian army, led by King Albert I, who also wanted peace in Europe rather than fighting on to destroy the continent until one side had total victory and the other side total ruin. This is significant since King Albert had greater cause for anger and resentment than any other Allied leader, his country being the only truly innocent party involved. However, King Albert was very religious and Pope Benedict XV wanted a peace without victors and the only leaders who paid attention to him were King Albert and Emperor Charles of Austria.

It was the Austrian emperor who made the first move and later, very secretly, Princes Sixtus and Xavier arrived with the primary French demands for peace, namely the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France, the restoration of Belgium and Serbia and the hand-over of Constantinople to the Russians. Emperor Charles agreed to all of these demands and tried to get the Germans to do the same (though being careful not to let them know what he had done). However, the Germans refused to give up Alsace-Lorraine even when Charles offered to give up some of his own territory to compensate them. They saw victory within sight against Russia and thought that once that was done they could mass all their forces on the western front and crush the Allies in a massive offensive. The French also backed out as they and the British had made secret promises to other powers for Austrian and Hungarian territory. When the Austrians denounced the French for opposing peace they made the letters of Emperor Charles delivered to Paris by Prince Sixtus public. This effectively made Austria the hostage of Germany and ensured the war would continue until the Europe that existed before the war was destroyed forever.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Politicians Make Us a Laughing Stock

I don't like Farage's anti-Belgian bigotry but sadly he says many painful truths.

New Articles on Belgian Monarchie

From a notice at The Mad Monarchist I point out these articles from "The Royal Universe" on Congo's Colonial Past and the threats posed against Dowager Queen Fabiola. They have also another excellent article on the life of the great Dowager Queen Fabiola. I would say all are very good though the article on the Congo, though not totally unfair like most, still is too critical of King Leopold II. Belgium is fortunate to never have had a really bad king like some and I think people are eager to simply to find a villain somewhere. King Leopold was a visionary (even if you don't like that vision of national greatness) and he did not ever hurt anyone himself and never ordered anyone to hurt any people in the Congo. What abuses happened were not his fault, they were the fault of those who actually did them and I will not go with the flow when it comes to condemning King Leopold II. What I will again say is that, beside that, I did agree with most of the article and repeat that it is much more fair than any others people will read.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are the French Making Plans?

I have heard (just from a friend) that the word is that the French are making plans about what to do with Wallonia and possibly Brussels if the country breaks up and cannot form a government. Doesn't this make the Frenchies seem a little too eager? The Popular Party, I have heard, is the source of this and there is talk of a constitution being drawn up by the French for a provisional government for Wallonia and Brussels to handle the transition to becoming a part of the French Republic. I don't know about everyone and things might be different on the scene but I really am tired and depressed from all this drama every time there is a new government. I am thinking some people in very high places in Europe just do not want Belgium to exist. I know there are plenty of people who love their country, I see big pro-Belgium demonstrations but the issue just will not go away and somehow it is always brought up again. Now is the time for patriotism and solidarity. Our grandfathers and greatgrandfathers did not fight to their deaths just to see Belgium carved up like a roast between France and the Netherlands.

Les vacances de Philippe et Mathilde

Le Palais s'adaptant lentement mais sûrement aux nouvelles technologies (ils sont en retard à ce sujet par rapport aux Windsor), le site officiel du Palais propose, pour la première fois, une vidéo du prince Philippe, de la princesse Mathilde et de leurs quatre enfants lors de leur visite en juillet de la ferme pédagogique "De Pierlapont" à Loppem en Flandre occidentale: (plus)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The VNV: The Phantom Appears

The Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV) (Flemish National Alliance) was a Flemish pro-Nazi party founded in 1933 by 'den leider' Staf de Clercq as a radical version of the Frontpartij (Front Party). Their program was based on radical Flemish nationalism, uniting all Flemish parties and, originally, independence. However, their program soon dropped real independence as a meaninful goal as they embraced the vision of the "Greater Netherlands" (Dietsland) which was an advocated union of Belgian and French Flanders with the Netherlands. Although the party had support from some Flemish Catholics the Church leadership opposed it because of this vision which was anti-Belgium as (back then at least) the clergy was very much monarchist and loyal to the Catholic Royal Family and did not want Flemish Catholics put under the Protestant Dutch monarchy. Of course, in the end, the Nazi invasion would mean there was no Dutch monarchy anyway as the Netherlands became an occupied state with a Nazi government.

Most of the support for the VNV came from the middle class, lower middle class and the agricultural community, because of all of this groups had suffered the most in the economic crisis and were the most likely to fall victim to their utopian propaganda. The VNV grew the most during the 1930's because of this reason. At first they were not totally un-democratic (trusting they could win a democratic majority of the Flemish population) but later they adopted more of the styles of the Nazis and the NSB the Dutch Nazis and became more authoritarian. Staf de Clercq said that if the Germans invaded Belgium he would not collaborate with them but when the event came he immiediately collaborated. However, de Clercq was disappointed in his hope of becoming a little dictator when Hitler did not work with any civilian government but simply put Belgium under the military rule of General Alexander von Falkenhausen. Further, Hitler chose different leaders to oversee the formation of the Flemish-SS which undercut support for the VNV.

Flemish volunteers for the SS were organized into combat units and de Clercq died in 1942. His successor, Hendrik Elias, tried to deal with the Nazis to accomplish the goals of the VNV but he had no more success. The Nazis would have no "Greater Netherlands" considering the Dutch and Flemish to be their Germanic cousins who should be included in their own "Greater Germany" Third Reich. Annexation was finally ordered in 1944 but only 7 weeks later, thankfully, the Allies ended the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Elias fled to Germany, was arrested by the Allies, sent back to Belgium, sentanced to death as a traitor but then downgraded to life in prison but even then managed to convince the court to reduce his sentance and he was later released to write his autobiography. He died in 1973. What is most disturbing about the VNV (as for example compared to the Rexists) is that there are still some who support their views, even by use of violent means, to attack non-Flemish and cling to the "Greater Netherlands" vision.

Friday, August 20, 2010

King Wants to "Cool Off"

Belgium’s King Albert has started a series of meetings with party leaders after the Francophone socialist leader, Elio Di Rupo, on Wednesday agreed to pursue his efforts to reach a seven-party deal on state reforms. Flemish nationalist leader, Bart De Wever, saw King Albert at Laken Castle on Thursday morning. The king has appointments with a further six other party leaders.
Wednesday was a day of high political suspense as the country eagerly awaited the outcome of the meeting between the monarch and Mr Di Rupo. The Francophone socialist leader has been involved in talks aimed at brokering a deal on state reforms, a prerequisite to government formation days, for many weeks.

Would Mr Di Rupo throw in the towel or would King Albert ask him to soldier on?
In the event King Albert asked Mr Di Rupo to continue his efforts, which he agreed. The Francophone socialist leader will resume his mediation on Saturday.
Between then and now King Albert will see the party leaders. Political analysts say that the crisis triggered by disagreement about whether or not to change the funding mechanisms under which the regions and the state receive cash has been resolved.

Sensitive issues including making the regions and communities financially responsible for their policy decisions and possible changes to the financing law have still not been cleared up though.
Mr Di Rupo broached these subjects at his news conference following his meeting with the monarch, but tellingly he added that those around the table disagree profoundly about these issues.

He warned his audience that he would not allow any citizen to become poorer as a result of the reforms: “If this principle is not accepted, then it will be very difficult to continue the talks. Flemish parties have welcomed the extra time now granted to Mr Di Rupo, but are now eager to see what they will be allowed to discuss as part of demands to reform the funding of the regions and communities. (from Flanders News)

This comes after the rather disturbing news from La Figaro that "one third of Belgians are ready to become French". And also,"Twenty percent of Belgians fear their country is going to disappear""Ninety-six percent of Walloons say the situation is serious.... 32 % of Walloons in favour of the incorporation of Wallonia into France, if Belgium collapses".....67% refuse any kind of concession to the Flemish..." (full article)

When has national solidarity been more needed? Does so many people really think they will be happier as annexed Frenchmen? Of course I have nothing against the French but I am a royaliste and not a republicain and I cannot believe that France would accept the Belgians as their own and I cannot believe that conditions would improve for Walloons under the rule of Paris. This is not what the heroes of the two wars sacrificed their lives for.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Belgian Foreign Concessions

The Mad Monarchist discusses the Belgian concession in China. This was established in 1902 by King Leopold II and existed, depending on the source, until 1929 or 1931. This was done by a treaty between the King of the Belgians and the Manchu Emperor of China with similar concessions going to Austria, Italy, Russia, Japan, France, the U.K. and Germany. Belgium did not do much with the concession (did not do much with any of them thanks to the penny-pinching government again). The most important contributions of the Belgian concession in China was in providing electricity and the contruction of a street train system throughout the foreign concessions area. When the Japanese invaded Tientsin they took over the Belgian concession (with the others) and put the Belgians in concentration camps. At the end of the war they gave the concession back to China (nationalist) and some in Brussels held out hope of gaining compensation for the lost property (if not the restoration of the concession) but when the communists took over there was no possibility of this.

Another foreign concession gained by King Leopold II was the Lado Enclave of the Congo Free State on the west bank of the Upper Nile in what is now southeast Sudan and northwest Uganda. This existed from 1894 until 1910. This territory was part of the Ottoman-Egyptian province of Equatoria until Lado was taken by the British who, in the 1894 British-Belgian Congolese Treaty, leased the territory to King Leopold II for the duration of his lifetime. In exchange for this King Leopold II ceded to Great Britain some land in the eastern Congo so that the British could build their "Cape to Cairo" railroad. The enclave had an area of 15,000 square miles with 250,000 people around the main town of Lado. This enclave was important to the Congo Free State because it included Rejaf; a terminus for boats on the Nile and this was the home of the Belgian Commander, the only colonial official in the area from 1897 to 1910. After the death of King Leopold II the district became a province of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and in 1912 the southern half was ceded to the British colony of Uganda.

On May 4, 1843 the parliament of Guatemala issued a decree which gave the district of Santo Tomas de Castilla "in perpetuity" to the Compagnie belge de colonisation, a private company under the protection of King Leopold I. It was intended for this to be a major Belgian colony in the Americas and the Belgian settlers who went over were the first to try to colonize the area. However, as usual, the government did not want to deal with the expenses of settling the district and after a few years most had given up on the project because of the lack of government support and the very humid, tropical climate Belgians were not used to. Today it is an important port region in Guatemala, formerly home base of the navy and now a major tourist destination that receives cruise ships on a regular basis. Perhaps this one could be revived? The original decree did say the words "in perpetuity".

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Paper Promises Cannot Be Trusted

Sometimes people ask me why I so much support the military or even accuse me of being a warmonger. The real reason for this, at centre, is that knowing my history has taught me that paper promises is not real ensurance against foreign aggression. In 1839 the French, British and Prussians all signed a treaty that promised to respect Belgian neutrality. Yet, in 1914 the French had armies posted as far north as the fortress of Maubeuge and plans for the invasion of Belgium through the Ardennes in a war with Germany. The Germans, as we know, also had a plan to invade Belgium to outflank the primary French military concentration across from Alsace-Lorraine and this was the plan they put into action. In the same way, during the World War II the Germans also ignored the neutrality of Belgium to attack the country. When I point this out the usual answer is that there is now no danger from anyone because France and Germany are close friends and partners of Belgium because of the shared membership in the European Union and other organizations.

This forgets that after 1910 Germany became a greater partner in trade than France. Belgium was prospering, the government focused on domestic issues and wanted to spend nothing on the military because we were neutral and really had no need for a military at all. Why would there be any trouble with Germany? They signed a promised to respect Belgian neutrality and Germany was our biggest business partner. When war came everyone was surprised and the country was largely unprepared for such a disaster. The only reason Belgium was prepared at all was thanks to the foresight of King Leopold II and King Albert I. There was also the officers of the army who were almost alone in society as being pro-French when almost everyone else at the time was pro-German and refused to conisder the possible threat. Belgium was at least fortunate to have strong monarchs determined to defend their country even if the government was not supportive of them.

King Leopold II saw, after the war of 1870, that Germany was a new potential danger and he had built the line of fortresses along the Meuse which would be the backb0ne of the defense of Belgium in the future. He tried to have the regular army expanded but the government was totally uncooperative and finally, just before his death, voted some expansion but greatly restricted length of service which would mean that the soldiers would have little training or experience at any given time. Under King Albert I the military was given slightly more attention but even then, best estimates were that, in 1912, it would take until 1918 for the army to reach the strength generals thought the bare minimum needed to defend the country by means of the six field divisions and fortress garrisons defending Antwerp, Namur and Liege. The refusal of the government to spend on weapons meant that the Belgian army was woefully ill-armed. King Albert I tried to get his soldiers better modern weapons in 1913 but the place to get them, the German Krupp company, naturally delayed delivery because of the impending invasion.

Things were not helped by the way the military was unprepared with a working plan. France had Plan XVII and Germany had the Schlieffen Plan but Belgium had no plan at all. Army Chief of Staff De Selliers de Moranville wanted to focus the whole army on Antwerp, leaving the fortresses at Liege and Namur only as a delaying screen. Adjutant-General De Ryckel, on the other hand, wanted to defend all territory starting at the border with special attention on the fortress at Liege, to deal with the enemies as they appeared, fighting for every foot of ground and only falling back to Antwerp as a last resort. To almost the last minute there was no agreement until King Albert I stepped in and settled the dispute, concentrating the army on the left bank of the Meuse with a second defensive line along the Gette and the main reserve at Antwerp. This decision was finally made on August 2, 1914 when German forces were marching into Luxembourg.
No country, certainly not one in so strategic a location, can afford to ignore possible threats or think about the unthinkable. Paper promises are no protection from danger nor are trade agreements and economic cooperation. There must always be those who plan for how to deal with the worst scenarios and we must support the military and thank God for all the men and women who are willing to put their lives in danger to defend their people and country.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visite du palais royal de Bruxelles

Le premier étage du palais royal de Bruxelles est actuellement ouvert gratuitement au public (plus d'infos sur les horaires : www.monarchie.be). Les photos sont interdites. Lors de la période hollandaise (1815-1830), Guillaume Ier choisit comme résidence à Bruxelles les hôtels Bender et Belgiojoso (situés sur l'actuelle place des Palais) qu'il fait relier. Sous le règne de Léopold II, "le roi bâtisseur", le palais royal est considérablement agrandi par l'architecte Alphonse Balat. Après le décès de ce dernier, c'est Henri Maquet qui va transformer la façade et la rendre plus majestueuse, telle que nous la connaissons aujourd'hui.

La visite commence par l'escalier d'honneur qui permet d'accéder à la Grande Antichambre. Celle-ci donne sur le grand balcon et la place des Palais. La dernière apparition au balcon de la famille royale belge remonte au mariage du prince Laurent et de la princesse Claire en 2003.

On traverse ensuite la Salle Empire (ancienne salle de bal de l'hôtel Belgiojoso, c'est là qu'a eu lieu le mariage civil du roi Albert II et de la reine Paola en 1959), le petit salon blanc et le grand salon blanc. Après avoir tourné à droite, on arrive dans le très beau Escalier de Venise dont les quatre murs sont ornés de tableaux de Jean-Baptiste van Moer représentant la ville de Venise. L'Escalier de Venise permet d'accéder au Salon Goya et au Salon Léopold Ier qui donnent sur la cour intérieure du palais royal.

Les trois salons reliant la Salle Empire à la Salle du Trône (Salon Louis XVI, Salon Bleu et Salon des Maréchaux) viennent d'être restaurés en 2010 dans le cadre des travaux pour le sommet de la présidence belge de l'Union Européenne qui y aura lieu. Les tentures et tapis sont désormais dans des couleurs chaudes faisant penser au sud (on y sent toute l'influence de la reine Paola). Dans le cadre de l'introduction de l'art contemporain belge par la Reine dans le palais royal, on a placé six tableaux du peintre Michaël Borremans (né en 1963 à Grammont) dans le Salon des Maréchaux. Ils représentent le personnage du laquais, toujours présent d'une façon ou d'une autre dans la vie d'une Cour.

Place maintenant à la Salle du Trône qui est la salle la plus majestueuse et qui donne sur l'arrière du palais royal. Mesurant 41m sur 27m, elle est divisée en trois parties par des arcades en plein cintre reposant sur quatre pilastres. Inspirée des salons des Tuileries et de Versailles, l'ornementation est composée de motifs décoratifs dorés à la feuille. Des portraits d'artistes du 17ème siècle (Pierre-Paul Rubens, Antoine van Dijck, Jacob Jordaens et Jérôme Duquesnoy) occupent les dessus des portes. Onze grands lustres en bronze à cristaux et vingt-huit appliques éclairent cette salle. Le parquet est fait de lames de chêne, d'érable, d'acajou et d'ébène formant des mosaïques. Dans le haut de la partie centrale, une loge a été aménagée pour un orchestre. Le roi Baudouin et la reine Fabiola se sont mariés civilement en 1960 dans la Salle du Trône.

Les murs de la Salle de Marbre sont lambrissés de marbre vert. Deux grandes cheminées faites de marbres verts, roses et noirs sont surmontées des portraits équestres de Godefroid de Bouillon et Charles-Quint. Après avoir traversé la Grande Galerie, on revient à l'avant du palais royal avec le Salon du Penseur qui a été plusieurs fois transformé en chapelle ardente lors du décès d'un membre de la famille royale (la dernière fois, c'était pour le roi Baudouin en 1993).

Dernière salle à visiter : la Salle des Glaces (26m de long et 11m de large) a été construite par l'architecte Henri Maquet dans le cadre des travaux de renouvellement de la façade entrepris en 1905. Au plafond, des fresques devaient évoquer le Congo, mais suite au décès du roi Léopold II, ce projet sera abandonné par son successeur le roi Albert Ier. On remarque, par contre, une carte de l'Afrique en haut de chacune des deux grandes cheminées. Un siècle plus tard, le plafond sera terminé en 2002 sous l'impulsion de la reine Paola qui avait été séduite par le travail de Jan Fabre. Celui-ci lui proposa le revêtement du plafond par 1,4 million de carapaces de scarabés. Réverbérant la lumière, ces petites coques de 27 mm donnent des tons changeants passant de toutes les teintes de vert à certaines formes de bleu. En vrai mécène, la reine Paola monta un après-midi au sommet de l'échaffaudage et colla elle-même les carapaces formant la lettre P au centre du plafond. [origin]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Historical Uniforms

Musician uniform of the Belgian volunteers to Mexico in 1864 to defend our Charlotte, the Empress of Mexico

Uniform of the Belgian volunteers to the Papal Zouaves of 1860 who fought to defend the Pope against the Italian nationalists.

Soldier uniform of the Belgian-Arab campaign of 1892

Officer uniform from the Belgian-Arab campaign of 1892 to eradicate the slave trade.

Politicians Get Fat, Veterans Cut Back

Le blog des royalistes de Belgique:
Au lieu de donner des subventions a la caste politique pourrie...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Crown Princess Mathilde's Uncle Henri

Een oom van prinses Mathilde wil lid worden van de Vlaams-Nationalistische N-VA. Die partij streeft niet alleen naar een onafhankelijk Vlaanderen, maar is bovendien republikeins. Maar graaf Henri d'Udekem d'Acoz ziet daarin geen bezwaar.

Hij is weliswaar tegen de splitsing van België en vóór het koningshuis, maar ook ,,rechts-conservatief en zeer Vlaamsgezind'', zo heeft hij vrijdag Het Laatste Nieuws laten weten. Hij vindt het een goede zaak als Vlaanderen zoveel mogelijk zelf kan beslissen ,,wat het beste is voor Vlaamse mensen''.

N-VA-leider Bart De Wever heet 'nonkel Henri', zoals de graaf in België genoemd wordt, van harte welkom in zijn partij. Dat het nieuwe lid vasthoudt aan zijn koningsgezindheid is geen probleem. ,,Van de 1,2 miljoen N-VA-stemmers zal hij wel niet de enige zijn met sympathie voor het koningshuis.'' © GPD; Bron: ANP

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Possible PM Gets Death Threat

(from Flanders News) The Flemish commercial broadcaster VTM has received a letter containing death threats addressed to the man currently leading the negotiations for the formation of a new federal coalition Elio Di Rupo (Francophone socialist). VTM passed the letter on to the Federal Judicial Police in Brussels.

A police spokesman told journalists that the threats are been taken seriously and that an investigation has been launched.
The spokesman added that the very fact that an investigation has been launched proves that the Federal Police don’t believe that the letter is the work of a prankster.

The letter opens with the words “In the name of Allah”.

The writer goes on to say that “A homosexual can’t become the Prime Minister of a future Islamic state like Belgium.”

“The sinner and homosexual Di Rupo will die by the white sword.”

Although Mr Di Rupo keeps his private life very much to himself he makes no secret of his homosexuality.

If he becomes Belgium’s next Prime Minister he will be the European Union’s first openly homosexual PM.

The Interior Ministry’s Crisis Centre has decided not to give Mr Di Rupo extra protection.

The Centre will continue to monitor the situation and make any changes if necessary .

Belgian Marines Deploy to Djibouti

Six Belgian marines are on their way to the former French African colony of Djibouti to take part in Operation Atlanta in the Gulf of Eden. One of the marines will be the second-in-command of the mission for a certain time. The six Belgians boarded a French navy frigate bound for Djibouti at the end of July and are due to arrive on station today where they will join the other forces of the European Union's Atlanta mission in the Gulf of Eden. Belgian Defence Minister Pieter De Crem (Flemish Christian Democrat) tried earlier this year to convince the French to hand over command of the operation to Belgium but the French refused. This will be the first time that Belgian naval personnel will take part in Operation Atalanta. Last year the Belgian Navy frigate Louise-Marie was sent to the Gulf of Eden and earlier this year the Navy supply and logistics ship Godetia participated in the mission also.

Operation Atalanta is part of the multi-national coalition to guard against terrorism and piracy in the seas around the Horn of Africa, mostly originated in Somalia where Islamic terrorists have mostly taken control from the ineffective government. The operation has been underway since 2008 and includes forces from across the European Union as well as Montenegro, the Ukraine and Norway.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Princes de Belgique

Video of a few years back but still very nice.

Marriages of the Kings

King Leopold I and Queen Louise-Marie, origin of the Belgian royal house. Cross of Laeken writes of this historic event for the country.
King Leopold II and Queen Marie Henriette
King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth (sorry no picture!)

King Leopold III and Queen Astrid (no photo of second marriage)

King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola

King Albert II and Queen Paola

Monday, August 9, 2010

Radical Muslims in Belgium (Scary)

La princesse Maria-Laura de Belgique

Deuxième enfant d'Astrid et Lorenz, l'archiduchesse Maria-Laura, Zita, Béatrice, Gerhard d'Autriche-Este naît le 26 août 1988 à 16h aux Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc à Woluwé-Saint-Lambert. Elle pesait 3,135 kg et mesurait 51 cm. Son parrain est son oncle l'archiduc Gerhard d'Autriche-Este ; sa marraine est sa tante l'archiduchesse Béatrice d'Autriche-Este. Maria-Laura est baptisée le 29 septembre 1988 à Laeken par le cardinal Godfried Danneels, primat de Belgique. Suite à l'abolition de la loi salique en 1991, Maria-Laura entre dans l'ordre de succession au trône et devient princesse de Belgique.

Quelques semaines plus tard, sa grand-mère la princesse Paola confie à l'hebdomadaire "Femmes d'aujourd'hui" : "Assister à la naissance de mes petits-enfants fut, sans conteste, le cadeau le plus touchant que pouvait me faire ma fille Astrid. Vivre ces naissances équivalait à participer une nouvelle fois au merveilleux moment de la création, répété par tant de femmes au monde. Une véritable continuation de soi". [plus]

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Parc du Cinquantenaire

The Parc du Cinquantenaire is one of the famous monuments of Brussels and one of the most beautiful in the world. It was planned, as the name implies, to be the center of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence and was commissioned by King Leopold II. He wanted something of simple design but sufficient grandeur and majesty to show that in those 50 years the Kingdom of Belgium had become a magnificent and prosperous country. Gideon Bordiau was the primary architect who labored on the project for 20 years until he died in 1904 after which King Leopold II employed the French architect Charles Girault to finish the job. However, it was a struggle to complete and meant a fight with the government that only one as firm and determined as Leopold II could win.

As with almost everything in those days the Belgian government did not want to spend alot of money on anything (as opposed to these days when the government wants to spend too much money on everything) and they fought Leopold II for every penny that was to go for the project and this put construction far behind schedule. The ground where it was built was originally an empty field where the Belgian army was drilled. The centerpiece of the parc was to be the magnificent triumphal arch, bigger even than the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. However, because of the struggles with the government over money this was not even finished when the 50th anniversary celebrations were held. A wooden temporary arch had to be put up for the occasion and the final version was not done until 1905 and so the full glory was at least available for the 75th anniversary of independence. Even then, it was only done when a frustrated King Leopold II paid the expenses from his own money to finish the parc.

Today the Cinquantenaire is still a monument of proud, independent Belgium. The main attractions now are the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History which goes back to 1910 when such displays were so popular a full museum was established. It houses artifacts from the entire military history of Belgium from the colonial forces of the Congo, both World Wars, volunteers sent to Mexico and Italy, expeditions to the Orient and modern peace-keeping missions. There is also a magnificent art museum displaying treasures from ancient Egypt, classical Greece and Rome, the Orient, the Middle East and creative objects and items from the local area back to the Middle Ages. There is a museum called Autoworld displaying historic automobile models from across Europe and the United States. In the northwest corner is the Great Mosque of Brussels. Originally a pavillion built in the Muslim-Arabic style, in 1967 to mark a visit by the King of Saudi Arabia to Belgium King Baudouin decided to turn the pavillion into a functioning mosque. It also has an Arabic language and Islamic religion schools.

The Cinquantenaire, as a parc, has undergone many modifications over the years from its begining as a setting for the exhibition and independence celebrations. It will surely undergo more modifications in the future depending on the need. It is a glorious spectacle, displaying well the accomplishments of the past and present alike. It must also be one of the most welcoming to visitors and interactive national monuments in the world. The country owes a debt of gratitude to King Leopold II for the laborious completion of this exceptionally beautiful tribute to the Kingdom of Belgium.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trust Growing of Prince Philippe

S.A. Prince Philippe, Duc d'Brabant is considered more trustworthy by most of the country now. This does not completely match his popularity, and that is unfortunate, but a study taken by Flemish tv shows that more people than not now consider that Prince Philippe is qualified and prepared better than anyone else to be the next monarch with 53% saying he is "ready" for the job. What I did not like about this poll was that it presented the poll like a contest between the family since it also said that 21% favored Princesse Astrid and 4% favored Prince Laurent. They will not be monarch so why even ask opinions about them? This should not be about having favorites among the family royal or have them compete for popularity between themselves.
Anyway, I never understood why some people have had a problem with Prince Philippe. He has always seemed to me like a regular, normal guy who is correct and dignified, seems a good family man and I think he will be a good king who will have concern for his country and his people. From where comes the opposition to him over the years? But, I am glad to agree with the majority on this. I also agree with what the poll said about Princesse Mathilde that she was a big help to the popularity and public image of her husband. I love Princesse Mathilde and I would agree she could only make Prince Philippe better to have her with him. However, I have to again complain about the poll too for also pointing out that she is more popular than Queen Paola who is also they find not as popular as Queen Fabiola (again with the competition!) which I think is unfair and just a rude and unkind way of asking the questions. Queen Paola has been victim to alot of gossip lately and it makes me angry. I like all three of the great royal ladies and I do not have to like any less to like the others more.
I was also unhappy that results said 67% said the next king should have less responsibility for the government. Less? How much less can he have already? I think he should have more to deal with the corrupt politicians I was just talking about in the previous posting. The King is the only one in the government I really trust to at least have the best intentions and committment to keep the country together and try his best to want what is best for everyone. I think Prince Philippe will make a good king and I think he should have more responsibility and a bigger part in government that is now the situation.

News, Important, Not Fun

S.M. King Albert II has met again with Elio Di Rupo, leader of the francophone Socialist Party about the government-building efforts. This was said on Friday. Di Rupo met the King at Laeken Castle for another report on the progress of the cabinet, trying to bring together Christian Democrats and Socialists. The idea that the Flemish secessionists could be included in any government is considered atrocious by most patriots. As one blogger put it, would you hand the keys to your house over to someone who said openly they wanted to loot and destroy it? Yet, the secessionists cannot be isolated. Their agenda has been helped all along the way by the immoral leaders of both language communities. They have been helped by the prejudice-fueled politics pushed in Flanders by politicians wanting power. They have been helped by ignorant politicians in Wallonie who hang on to failed policies and blame Flanders for the problems caused by their own failures in order to hang on to power. Anyone can see the similarities.

I have heard from people lately, good people, who are showing signs of resignation and discussing the possibilities of becoming Flanders and French-Belgium. That is sad because it should be unthinkable. Perhaps I read too much about the past but I cannot help but feel that if Belgians part company they do not understand others will not welcome them. I know there are some Dutch who think if Flanders leave Belgium they can annex them to realize the "Greater Netherlands" dream. However, I cannot believe that the secessionists of Flanders would be any happier in the Netherlands. Many of these secessionists just want to be the center of attention anyway, they want people bending over for them and they would not want to be in another country where they would not be treated as "special". In the same way I cannot forget all the history, because of those in Wallonie who think France will be a new home, that the French have often been unfriendly toward Belgium regardless of language.

It also seems so ridiculous that while the country is being overrun by immigrants of a completely alien nationalities, culture and religion the two peoples of Belgium continue to argue with each other while the country, the economy, is in crumbles. But, that is because of the same power seeking politicians who continue to try to win favor by being prejudiced to prove how "devoted" they are to their language community and who continue to try to gain power by blaming all problems on the "other" side. They just care about the next election and they do not even care about the consequences of their vitriol to spread division and possibly bring the ruin of the country by setting Belgians against their brothers. Some people are in poor spirits and I hope that improves like past trends. But I think it is clear this situation cannot go on. This nonsense has to stop!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ordre de Léopold II

The Order of Leopold II is a distinction of Belgian knighthood and one that is unique in many ways from the others. In origin it was not Belgian at all but African being instituted by S.M. King Leopold II as king-sovereign of the Congo Free State. It was instituted on August 24, 1900 as a way to recognize those who had performed some act of daring or bravery or someone who had otherwise shown great talent in their service to the king. In 1908, when the Congo Free State was taken over by the Belgian government, the Ordre de Léopold II became a Belgian distinction of knighthood. Today it still remains and is often awarded at the appropriate times throughout the year. The general qualification is still the same as it always had been; performing meritorious service for the King of the Belgians. It is seen as more flexible than other knight medals and a little more as a gift of the King's favor than other national distinctions.

Also, unlike, perhaps, as in times past, there is much more standardization for the decisions of who becomes a chevalier. Some cases are still awarded as they always have been; for some great act of military bravery or being distinguished in civilian life so that the King wishes to recognize them. However, in probably most cases the Order of Leopold II is now become more of a "long service award" since it is usually automatically given to soldiers for certain years of service, officers are usually automatically given one when they retire and usually automatically are given the order if they are appointed as an aid to the King or Duke of Brabant. Usually a person must be over the age of 42 to be given the award but this restriction does not apply to people in the military who are considered.

The order is available in eight degrees starting with a bronze medal, a silver medal and a gold medal. Then there is the degree of knight, then officer, then commander, then grand officer and finally the highest degree with is the grand cross. The design is a Maltese cross topped by a crown with the Belgian lion symbol in the center surrounded by the national motto. When the award was first made before 1908 the centre was decorated with the national emblem of the Congo Free State and surrounded by the Free State motto, "Travail et Progrès". There are also other minor distinctions that may be awarded depending on the act which merited the award or if it is done in war or peace. The Foreign Affaires ministry is in charge of the national distinctions of knighthood though there are always some spaces reserved for people who merit the award but not for the usual criteria. It is considered the third greatest honor of the Belgian knighthoods.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Versailles, 2003

De gauche à droite, Mme. Chirac, Princesse Mathilde de Belgique, Princesse Lalla Salma,
épouse dur Roi Mohammad VI du Maroc, Mme. Giscard d'Estaing et S.M.I. Farah Pahlavi.

Activités royales en juillet 2010

16 audiences pour le Roi : le président de la NVA Bart De Wever (reçu 2 fois), le président du PS Elio Di Rupo (reçu 3 fois), le président du Parlement flamand Jan Peumans, le premier ministre Yves Leterme, les ambassadeurs de Slovaquie, Grande-Bretagne, Tchad, Cap Vert, Pays-Bas, Estonie, Italie, Tuvalu et Panama.

6 activités officielles pour le Roi : concert de José Van Dam and friends à Laeken, arrivée du Tour de France au pied de l'Atomium, inauguration des nouvelles salles du palais royal ouvertes au public, concert de la fête nationale au palais des Beaux-Arts, Te Deum à Bruxelles et défilé militaire.

6 activités officielles pour la reine Paola : concert de José Van Dam and friends à Laeken, inauguration des nouvelles salles du palais royal ouvertes au public, concert de la fête nationale au palais des Beaux-Arts, Te Deum à Bruxelles, défilé militaire et visite de la foire agricole de Libramont.

4 activités officielles pour la reine Fabiola : concert de la fête nationale au palais des Beaux-Arts, Te Deum à Bruxelles, défilé militaire et messe à la mémoire du roi Baudouin en l'église Notre-Dame de Laeken.

7 activités officielles pour le prince Philippe : concert de José Van Dam and friends à Laeken, visite de la représentation permanente de la Belgique auprès de l'Union Européenne, soirée Best of Belgium au Stade Roi Baudouin, soirée I love Europe devant le Parlement Européen, concert de la fête nationale au palais des Beaux-Arts, Te Deum à Bruxelles et défilé militaire.

8 activités officielles pour la princesse Mathilde : concert de José Van Dam and friends à Laeken, visite de la représentation permanente de la Belgique auprès de l'Union Européenne, soirée Best of Belgium au Stade Roi Baudouin, soirée I love Europe devant le Parlement Européen, visite d'une plaine de jeux à Maasmechelen, concert de la fête nationale au palais des Beaux-Arts, Te Deum à Bruxelles et défilé militaire.

Paola, Queen of Belgium

Such a beautiful Queen we have!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Belgium: Center of Europe

Everyone today knows that Belgium is "cockpit of Europe", the center of power, the headquarters of the European Union and the NATO alliance. What is not always realized is that this is nothing new, throughout the historie of western civilization Belgium has been at the center of power and a place where decisions were made that impacted peoples all across the continent and in some cases all around the world. The first great ruler in Western Europe after the fall of Rome was the Emperor Charlemagne, king of the Franks, who the Pope made the new western Emperor. He built his cathedral at Aix-la-Chapelle and kept his favorite residence there and when he was not out fighting barbarians (which was most of the time) he liked staying in Aix-la-Chapelle. Today this is just inside the border of Germany (Aachen) but for most of the history of Europe this area was considered to be part of Belgium, not on the very edge of Germany, but the heart of the Franco-German empire of Charlemagne that covered western Europe. Aix-la-Chapelle was long considered part of the diocese of the bishop of Liege whose territory even considered Emperor Charlemagne a saint. For many years this was the most important and central city to the Holy Roman Emperors.
For many, many years, especially in the 16th Century but some time before and long after, the city of Antwerp was the most important center of commerce probably in the world. No other city in Europe was as central to the economy of the whole continent as Antwerp was. This was because of its central and strategic location which is also why in earlier years King Edward III of England made his base there during the Hundred Years War and the famous Crusader and first King of Jerusalem, Godfrey de Bouillon (who has been blogged about) was also having the title of Marquis of Antwerp. When ships from all over Europe but especially the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish ships but also French, English, Nordic and their Italian navigators in many cases were all going out to explore the oceans and discover the unknown parts of the world Antwerp was most often the home base and Antwerp then became the most important city for international global trade as French ships with furs from Canada, Dutch ships with rum from the Caribbean Sea and Portuguese ships with spice from the Far East and others brought their ships to Antwerp.
Finally of course there is Brussels which was a major center of power in Europe long before there was an EU or even a Kingdom of Belgium. The Dukes of Lower-Lorraine first started developing Brussels in the late 900's. After Margaret III of Flanders married the Bold Duke Philippe of Burgundy the houses of Valois and Hapsburg began to come together and because of that Brussels became the capital city of the whole region considered the Low Countries. The future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was first proclaimed King Carlos I of Spain in Brussels and the city was the central hub in the Spanish-Austrian-Hapsburg empire that stretched all across Europe and even to the Americas. The palace at Coudenberg was where Charles V finally abdicated and, because of its location at the heart of Europe and because of the importance of the Flemish ports Brussels really was the unofficial first city of the continent and was certainly so during the era of Hapsburg rule.

Obviously, even when this began to change with the breaking away of the Dutch (so we have the Spanish Netherlands and Austrian Netherlands) Brussels was never going to be just another European city. After the French Revolutionary Wars when all the Low Countries were united under the Dutch House of Orange, in the Kingdom of the United Netherlands, Brussels, as the first city of Belgium, was to be the co-equal capital of the kingdom alongside Amsterdam. The intention was for Belgium and the Netherlands to be partners in the new kingdom but of course that did not work out and led to the Belgian Revolution eventually, which started in Brussels as well. However, the Prince of Orange (future King Willem II of the Netherlands) lived in Brussels, he had his son and heir there and was more sympathetic to the Belgians and more popular in the country than his father was.

The city of course became the capital of the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, who tore down the city walls and started a new era of industrial buildup. Ever since the city has been on the cutting edge of advancement and, as most know, in 1949 became the headquarters of the NATO alliance against the forces of the communist Eastern bloc and as early as the 1960's was well on its way to becoming the capital of Europe with the first steps, starting economically, being taken toward what would become the European Union. I know a few people who would say that we have come from the Dark Ages to the new Dark Ages but, opinions aside, from all that time to this Belgium has been in the middle of things in the circles of power in Europe.
The Palace of Coudenberg favored by Emperor Charles V
Kings of the Belgians Royal Palace