Thursday, September 30, 2010

Current Royal Events

As protests and strikes occur across Belgium in opposition to EU austerity requirements the royals are doing their best to find help. Crown Prince Philippe and Princesse Mathilde went to God, going to a special mass for the Belgian EU presidency on Tuesday at Our Lady of Sablon in Brussels. Today the royal couple attended a gala this night in benefit of the King Baudouin Foundation in Oostende. Princesse Astrid had more fun duties going to Milan, Italy for Milan Fashion Week Womenswear which from the photos she enjoyed with lots of smiles. For the King and Queen the days are also full. SM King Albert II met on Wednesday in an audience with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa at the Royal Castle in Laken-Laeken, Brussels. Only yesterday Queen Paola visited the elementary school at Oostduinkerke as part to congratulate them for the twp entries from this school that have won the Prize for Education from the Queen Paola Foundation.

It is good that the royals stay so busy because, despite to appear very busy, their politicians do not seem to be accomplishing anything. The absence of government is driving up the cost of everything, foreign countries don't know what to make of it and now that the national debt is over 100% of what Belgium can produce there are still protests over cutting back on spending. I am not very comfortable with the EU but I have to say, there is no way Belgium or any country can go on spending with such a huge debt. The government will have to cut back, there is just no other way, but they then would get voted out office so they do not want to do that. Maybe they will just give up total economic control to EU and so that the EU leadership can adopt the austerity measures and no one can vote them out of office while the Belgian government can claim opposition the whole time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Belgium's Princesse de Monaco

Yesterday the blog Mad for Monaco noted the anniversary of the marriage between SA Prince Charles III de Monaco and his Belgian consort Princesse Antoinette de Merode-Westerloo. I had not heard of her before but she seems to have been a very good consort and make her country proud. I also can say that the Monegasque Princely Family and the Royal Family of Belgium remain very good friends to this day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Princesse Mathilde Visits CKG

On the morning Friday of 24 September 2010 the Princesse Mathilde was in Antwerp to visit the Centrum voor Kinderzorg en Gezinsondersteuning, a place of help and assistance for children and their families in Borgerhout. This is an opportunity to give my opinion that Princesse Mathilde is a great asset for the Belgian Family Royal. I do not know any other heir to the throne of the countries of Europe that has married such a beneficial spouse. She has showed no stress, no difficulty in adapting to the royal life (which everyone knows there is) and has always been the face of a supportive wife and affectionate mother. Princesse Mathilde rocks! She is great for the country and she does alot of work, sometimes tough jobs as we see... when a precocious child grabs you by the earring! Ouch!! Keep the good working at your role Princesse Mathilde, we love you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Belgian Unity and Fighting Malaria

The Radical Royalist from Australia posts on a poll showing only 12% favor a division of the Kingdom of Belgium while a large 40% of Belgians desire a return to the unitary state and an end to the constant arguments over the federal division.
Also, the Belgian Royal Family blog posts on the efforts of Princesse Astrid fighting the disease of malaria.

Friday, September 24, 2010

S.M. King Baudouin in Africa

The Congolese love the King and Queen
King Baudouin leaves the car -still has his sword

King Baudouin arrives for last visit as King-Sovereign of the Congo

King Baudouin with Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba

Looking very cool in his white uniform

King Baudouin watching native dancers -almost out of the picture

Meeting King Mutara III of Rwanda

Giving his speech in Leopoldville

Waving to the crowd of admirers

riding in his car

looking like cool guys cruising the drag

a little tin soldier of the King

The King on his last tour as sovereign over Congo

Speech giving Congo their independence
My thanks to my friend the Mad Monarchist for sharing some of his photos with me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

President Herbert Hoover

From what I have heard I think Herbert Hoover must be one of the most unpopular presidents the United States has ever had. This was somewhat surprising for me since Hoover is one name from American history I had at least heard before and I associated with positive feelings. If President Hoover is not popular in the United States he should still be popular in Belgium where he did considerable work to help the people (before he was elected president) during the most severe days of our history in the Great War. Some people think it was the reputation Hoover gained as an impartial, getting-things-done, humanitarian during this work was what helped put him into the position of becoming President of the United States. His accomplishments are impressive.

As soon as the world war began Herbert Hoover helped get 120,000 Americans (tourists, students, businessmen etc) out of Europe where they were in danger. He also organized 500 volunteers to bring food, clothes, tickets for overseas transportation and money to the refugees. While he was doing this Mr. Hoover was aghast by the plight of the poor Belgians. The kingdom had been overrun, the heroic army under King Albert only hanging on to a small corner of the territory national. Naturally the Germans took all the resources for themselves in the occupied zone and there was a terrible food shortage that caused very much suffering for the people of Belgium. Into this situation Mr. Hoover stepped in to help. He launched a civilian relief effort such as the world had never seen before under the organization of the Committee for Relief in Belgium or CRB.

The chairman of the CRB was Emile Francqui but Hoover was the real driving force of the effort as the chief of operations. Almost like a sovereign entity the CRB had its own flag, navy, factories, mills and railroads all geared to bringing help to the suffering Belgians. Their efforts combined with government grants and generous donations from people (mostly Americans) gave the CRB an amazing (for that time) budget of eleven million dollars a month! Mr. Hoover won fame around the world as he worked 14-hour days to see more than 2.5 million tons of food sent to 9 million Belgian victims of the war. He had to deal with numerous problems such as German submarines sinking his ships, but also the British blockade which proved to be a cause of great frustration as they wanted nothing to go to the continent that the Germans could possibly get their hands on. Hoover, working out of London, crossed the channel himself to meet with German leaders to persuade them to allow food shipments for the Belgians into the country.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917 the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson put Hoover in charge of the U.S. Food Administration where he helped save food at home so that what was needed could go to the brave soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force. After the war was over Hoover was put in charge of the American Relief Administration to send food to the millions of starving people in Central Europe, victims of both the overreaching needs of their own governments, the ravages of war and the British blockade of Europe. Once again Hoover clashed with the British allies as he wanted to send food to the starving people of Germany while the British blockade remained in effect even after the Germans had signed the armistice. Hoover saw the starving women and children and this, combined with the problems the British had given him in getting food to occupied Belgium, meant that Hoover never had a very cordial relationship with the British Empire. Nonetheless, he finally did send food to Germany as well as Russia which upset many people but Hoover said, “Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!”

I do not know about the politics of Hoover or what he did right or wrong as President of the United States but he certainly seems to me a great humanitarian and should be remembered fondly, particularly for the Belgians, because of all of his efforts to help the helpless, feed the hungry, even opposing his own allies if necessary because he saw no ethnicities, parties or flags when he saw suffering people. I think there is a park named after him somewhere but regardless of that, when today we so much talk about our problems with each other and the negative things maybe we should at least remember someone like President Hoover who did so much good for so many people and give some thanks for that, from one country to another.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

General Felix Wielemans

Lieutenant-General Félix Maximilien Eugène Wielemans was born on January 10, 1863 and was destined to become one of the most important military commanders in one of the most important wars Belgium has ever fought. From 1913 to 1915 he served as Head of the Military Cabinet of the Minister of War Charles de Broqueville during which time, obviously, World War I came to Belgium with the Germans invasion. Starting in 1914 Lieutenant-General of the Infantry Wielemans also began service as the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Army until 1915 when he was promoted to Chief of the General Staff. This made him carry a great deal of responsibility and he was in many ways the most important figure in the army at that time next to S.M. King Albert I. In December of 1915 at the Allied War Council Wielemans he represented Belgium, reporting on the combat potential and possibilities of the Belgian army in the upcoming Allied operations of 1917. He also represented Belgium at the Paris Conference in March of 1916.

During his career General Wielemans was highly decorated. He was made a Commander of the Order of the Crown , an Officer of the Order of Leopold, awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Military Cross 1st Class and the Medal Commemorative of the Reign of Leopold II. His foreign decorations were the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Stanislaus and the Order of St. Anne with Swords of Russia , he was made a Grand Officer of the Order of Bath of Great Britain, an Officer of the Order of the Sword of Sweden , made a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau of the Netherlands, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and was made a Commander of the French Legion of Honor by Marshal Joffre. Many think that generals in World War I always stayed far away from the front, living in luxury while their soldiers suffered. This is really not true as anyone can see by the number of generals killed in combat during the whole war. Even a "desk soldier" like General Wielemans often visited the trenches. While on such a visit he came down with pneumonia and quickly died on January 5, 1917 at Houtem before his plans for the army campaigns could be launched.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Photos from the Congo

King Baudouin visiting the Congo

A typical Congolese village

Residence of the Belgian Governor-General in Boma

Belgian plantation house in the Congo

Jesuit mission cathedral in Kisantu

The Congolese countryside

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Belgian Crown Prince in Mexico

Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant, seen in the picture with the Spanish Minister of Culture Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde joined heads of state and dignitaries representing numerous other foreign countries were photographed at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, Mexico on September 14. This is a special occasion as tomorrow Mexico will celebrate the bicentenary of Mexican independence from Spain. Although Prince Philippe may be just one more face in the foreign crowd on this occasion, Mexico has a special significance for Belgium ever since 1864 when Belgium's Princess Charlotte accompanied her Austrian husband Archduke Maximilian to become Emperor Maximiliano and Empress Carlota of the revived Mexican monarchy. Charlotte effectively gave the last of her life in the service of Mexico and many Belgian soldiers also lost their lives fighting for the preservation of the Mexican Empire. So the histories of Mexico and Belgium are tied together from now on because of that period.

Belgian Soldiers in Afghanistan face new threats

(Prince Philippe on an earlier inspection in Afghanistan)

12/09/10 - VRT News has sent a team to Afghanistan to take a look at the work that Belgian soldiers are doing in this troubled land. The war in the country is now waging in areas that used to be at peace. In Kunduz in the north where the Belgians are stationed the confrontation with the Taliban is becoming increasingly fierce.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The 'Christian' Soldier-King

S. M. King Albert I is remembered best as the "Soldier King" but the Cross of Laeken weblog shows The Piety of King Albert I, he was a sincere Christian. I was baptized and I go to church on occasion, I admit then I am not an extremely religious person. I believe in God and all, I think my church is the right one and all but I am just not the very religious type I suppose. I have to say also that I think religion is a good thing, I admire those people who excel at it and King Albert I seems all the more admirable to me for that. Religion used to be one of the things that united all Belgians. Regardless of region or language, everyone was a Catholic and always had been. That was very important I think to the national identity. Now that is not much the case anymore and I will confess that my generation and people like me are probably in part to blame for being more casual about it. I may not be very zealous but I would hate to see the religious identity of the country disappear and reading that posting about King Albert I, this makes me question, what would the great Soldier-King think about the state of religion in Belgium today and more pointedly what would such a strong Catholic man think about the number of Muslims in Belgium today? The more I read the more I think he would not be very happy in fact for a man who was such a strong Catholic and wanted and fought for a strong, Christian, united and independent Belgium I think he would be heartbroken to see what the country he passed on has come to. My apologizes for seeming so negative today, I really try to look for good views but sometimes...

Our Heroes from Afghanistan

Monday, September 13, 2010

Actual and Potential Belgian Empire - 3

This time the update includes the areas/countries in which Belgium had concessions such as in Guatemala and the Lado enclave (I did not show the whole country in that case since it was not entirely in any modern country but part of what are now three countries).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Book on King Leopold II

Fils du roi Léopold Ier et de la reine Louise-Marie, Léopold naît en 1835 à Bruxelles. Des professeurs viennent lui enseigner l'histoire, la géographie, l'économie politique, la religion, etc. L'écrivain Henri Conscience lui apprend le néerlandais. Son enfance est assombrie par le décès de sa mère en 1850.

En 1853, le prince Léopold devient sénateur de droit. A plusieurs reprises, il prononce des discours suggérant l'agrandissement du port d'Anvers, la nécessité d'une politique d'expansion coloniale et de grands travaux dans la capitale. Sa vie familiale n'est pas très heureuse : mariage politique sans aucun amour avec l'archiduchesse Marie-Henriette d'Autriche, décès de leur fils Léopold, mariages ratés de leurs filles Louise et Stéphanie. Seule la princesse Clémentine trouvera le bonheur...après la mort de ses parents.

Léopold II monte sur le trône en 1865. Grâce à son statut de neutralité, la Belgique réussit à se maintenir en dehors des conflits internationaux du XIXème siècle. Léopold II s'efforce de rendre notre pays moins vulnérable : il obtient la construction des fortifications de Liège, Namur et Anvers, et la réforme du service militaire qu'il signe quelques jours avant sa mort en 1909. Auparavant, le recrutement de l'armée belge se faisait sur le volontariat et le tirage au sort avec possibilité de se faire remplacer (moyennant une somme d'argent). Ce système est aboli en 1909 et remplacé par le service d'un fils par famille.

C'est sous le règne de Léopold II que sont votées d'importantes lois sociales : suppression du livret d'ouvrier, droit de former des syndicats, âge d'admission des enfants dans les usines fixé à 12 ans, interdiction du travail de nuit aux enfants de moins de 16 ans et du travail souterrain pour les femmes de moins de 21 ans, réparations pour les accidents de travail, repos dominical, etc.

Fortement industrialisée, la Belgique manque de matières premières. C'est la raison principale pour laquelle Léopold II s'intéresse à l'Afrique centrale et plus précisément à la région du fleuve Congo que vient de reconnaître l'explorateur anglo-américain Stanley. Dès son retour en Europe, il rencontre le Roi qui fonde en 1878 le Comité d'études du Haut-Congo. Le Congrès de Berlin en 1885 reconnaît l'Etat indépendant du Congo avec le roi Léopold comme souverain. Ce dernier lègue sa colonie à la Belgique en 1908.

Surnommé le roi bâtisseur, Léopold II entreprend de grands travaux dans la capitale : transformation du palais royal, création de grandes avenues et de parcs publics, construction des serres royales de Laeken et des arcades du Cinquantenaire, etc. Il développe également la station balnéaire d'Ostende où il séjourne régulièrement.

Matthieu Longue a écrit une biographie objective, sérieuse et agréable à lire. Il parle à la fois de la vie privée et du règne de Léopold II, tout en rappelant la situation politique, économique, sociale, religieuse et militaire de la Belgique à cette époque. Seule lacune : il manque un chapitre sur les origines et le fonctionnement de la Donation Royale, créée en 1903 par Léopold II.

Je laisse à l'auteur le soin de conclure : "Léopold II s'est vu affublé d'une bien vilaine étiquette dans la mémoire collective belge et ne mérite pas la réputation infamante qu'on lui attribue généralement car, d'après nous, sans sombrer dans l'apologie léopoldiste, il demeure, sans doute encore plus que son père, notre plus grand roi et nous lui souhaitons de reposer en paix, pour l'éternité, au panthéon des hommes illustres qui, de par leur destinée, ont écrit l'Histoire. Toujours à notre avis, seules ses frasques et sa passivité complice concernant les crimes du régime léopoldien au Congo ternissent le blason royal. Pourtant, sans oublier ce fait déplorable, cette bien vilaine souillure ne suffit pas à effacer le souvenir de l'action bénéfique d'un souverain qui oeuvra au service de ses compatriotes et de la grandeur de la nation".

"Léopold II : une vie à pas de géant" de Matthieu Longue, éditions Racine

Friday, September 10, 2010

The King and Political Situation

Over in neighboring Belgium, King Albert II is not only seeking a government form, but also keep his country from disbanding. Clashes between the Dutch speaking Flemish and the francophone Walloons continue to trouble the Kingdom, with calls to split the country becoming more strife.

Last Saturday, the mediator between the warring parties quit, sending Belgium back into political crisis. This happened almost three months after an election that was meant to restart the Belgian government.

Earlier this year, another coalition collapsed when the two warring linguistic communities could not settle an electoral dispute over the region around Brussels.

King Albert’s next step is to ask representatives from each community to negotiate once again.
“The King … charged the speakers of the lower house and the senate with the mission of mediation of restarting negotiations to form a government,” the palace said in a statement.
While the Flemish parties are pushing for more powers for their region, the Walloons fear that their region, which is poorer, will lose out, and that the process will eventually lead to Belgium breaking up.
Also, Royaliste de Belgique comments on the possible division and the precedent this would set for countries across Europe -something not often considered!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Belgian Volunteer Corps in Mexico

The Mad Monarchist reports in some detail on the story of the Belgian Volunteer Corps in Mexico. This was sent to protect Empress Charlotte of Mexico by her beloved father Belgian King Leopold I. Even in these modern times there are still Belgians who remember the adventure in Mexico: