Monday, November 29, 2010

Verbond der Dietse Nationaal-Solidaristen or Verdinaso

Since I have talked about the VNV and the Rexisme movement I have remembered that I neglected another similar political party of that period which was the Verbond der Dietse Nationaal-Solidaristen or Verdinaso. It is mostly unique as a first Dutch speaking party that became a Belgian nationalist party, different from its origin. The Verdinaso was started on 6 October 1931 in Ghent by Joris Van Severen, Jef Francois, Wies Moens and Emiel Thiers. They were inspired by the success of the fascists in Italy and, to different degrees as they went along by the National Socialists in Germany. However, they were of course unique to Belgium in ways of course and so were never nearly as menacing as these other parties but they could make frightening noises. Like most fascist-type parties they opposed the established system of parliamentary democracy. What they wanted to replace it modified over the time of the existence of the party.

At first the Verdinaso were a variety of pan-Dutch party specific to Flanders. They wanted Flemish and Dutch nationalism, not Belgian and called, like the similar parties in Nederlands, for Flanders, Nederlands and Luxembourg to come together in a Dietsland or Diets Rijk (Dutch Reich or Dutch Empire) that was much like the “Greater Netherlands” idea proposed by the Dutch Nazi party. As historical justification for this they looked back to the Duchy of Burgundy (which almost became a kingdom). Their symbol combined insignia of work and war and industry. In the early days they had some political success. In 1932 Francois and Van Severen were elected to the Chamber of Deputies. They also became more associated with the German National Socialists at that time when Victor Leemans joined the party and wrote a book defending Nazism called Het nationaal-socialisme. This was an isolated political success though since they did not participate in elections because they were totally opposed to democracy and the existing constitutional arrangement.

This opposition never changed by the still changed quite radically from their original platform. In 1934 Verdinaso dropped the pan-Dutch position and became a specifically Belgian nationalist party. This was a process over several years and also during that time, 1937, keeping in the fashion of the Brown shirts of Germany and the Black shirts of Italy the Verdinaso organized a paramilitary group of their own called DINASO Militanten Orde that wore green shirts. By 1939 they were a French and Dutch bilingual party and were advocated a corporatist society overseen directly by the King of the Belgians. They took their ideas from the corporatist model advocated at that time by many in the Catholic Church as well as the Integralism of Action Francaise which influenced Van Severen in particular. They became very opposed to liberalism and communism. They opposed the Freemasons as dangerous to society and, some trying to be like the Nazis, made anti-Semitic statements at times though they were never as extreme as the Germans. The opposition to Jews was there but it was not seen as very central or important as in Germany.

They were associated with the Vlaams Nationaal Block since 1936 and in the elections that year earned 16 deputy seats and in 1939 won 17 seats which was the most they ever received. At their height the green shirts had 3,000 members under Francois and they published two newspapers. They were devastated by the outbreak of the Second World War. Van Severen was killed in France as part of a series of executions of anyone suspected of having Nazi or communist sympathies (Hitler and Stalin were allies in the beginning) and many Belgian communists and Rexists were executed also. Francois took over leadership but the party was obviously in a confused state. Some welcomed the invasion of Nazi Germany, others opposed it and wanted King Leopold III to take control in this situation in an authoritarian system. Some of them joined the underground resistance when Belgium was occupied by the Germans, others joined the VNV and collaborated with them. No matter which side they chose the Verdinaso was finished.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Possible Changes for Belgium

During the struggle to form a government and increasing warnings of financial danger the Royal Mediator Johan Van de Lanotte (of the Flemish socialists) has given the seven party leaders involved in the negotiations for a new government a document outlining possible changes to come to Belgium dealing with the funding of devolved authorities and transfers of power, still again, from the federal government to the regions and communities. Top question: what about taxes? No specific answer there only a proposal that Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels be able to decide some income tax levels on their own and that in future the people will have to pay a regional income tax as well as a federal income tax. Since my foreign education I have to say this does not immediately seem like a good idea to me. Where I am now there is no local income tax, only national and everyone is doing much better here than the rest of the country (lower unemployment is one example).

The proposals from the former Deputy Premier say that fiscal autonomy for the regions will gradually come into effect over a time of ten years and at the end the regions would have control of half of all income tax generated money. It is also proposed a progressive income tax so that the more one earns the more one has to pay. Again, seeing this play out in other areas makes me skeptical since the argument is that this discourages people to expand and succeed which could cause a stagnant economy. Also some environmental concerns are addressed by a proposal that regions which can cut down CO2 emissions and employ more people will get more money back from the government and those regions that do not do this will have financial sanctions as a penalty for failure. This part has caused some upset voices from the Francophone socialists of PS because they do not think Wallonia will compete very well like this and will be punished for it. My opinion then is maybe try someone else besides the socialists and stop the policies that have so much damaged the Wallonie economy.

Naturally almost everyone has some problems with the proposals and are suggesting changes, that is not to be a surprise. They have the greatest talent in the world for finding ways to disagree. Also there are proposals for legal changes that would make the regions responsible for taking care of the law courts, punishing young criminals and working on the big stack of court cases waiting and waiting to be heard. For healthcare 3 billion euros will go to the devolved authorities for child care, handicapped care and old age care. Regional governments also will get more power to deal with unemployment benefits and power to sanction people who have been unemployed so long they don't seem to want a job. Areas for instance animal welfare, traffic, disaster aid funds, tenancy laws and film controls also are proposed to go to the regions. What is left for national government? Who cares since EU will probably handle that anyway.

Is this a good direction? I don't know! Maybe it will help everyone stop fighting, arguing all the time but it also seems to make the national government less and less important so we are sort of less a country than two and that I don't like. Of course we are perhaps not supposed to understand it. Politicians have great talent in making simple matters extremely complicated.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Korea Volunteer Corps of Belgium

Today with the tensions again high between North and South Korea I will look back at the Belgian contribution to the Korean War which was the first major test of the United Nations as a peace-keeping force in the world. It was on 25 June 1950 that the militaries of communist North Korea crossed the border to invade South Korea and the Kingdom of Belgium, acting on the direction of the UN Security Council Resolution for members of the United Nations to aid the Republic of Korea, acted to send a Belgian military force to Korea. Professional soldiers, reservists and conscripts could volunteer for service and in a show of patriotism and concern for the poor people of South Korea some 2,000 Belgians quickly volunteered. However, recruiting was limited and so only 700 of these were chosen for overseas service and given their distinctive brown berets.

The first on service was the Korea Volunteer Corps (Corps Volontaires Corea) which consisted of 900 infantry soldiers. The First Belgium Battalion (1 Bataillon Belge) arrived in December of 1950. For the first wave of recruits there was extensive training to be done to prepare for service on the Korean peninsula but after time the Belgian United Nations Command (BUNC), which also included a platoon of volunteers from the neighbor Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, sailed from Antwerp on the ship KAMINA and arrived at Pusan, South Korea on 31 January 1951. The First Belgium Battalion was attached to the Third Infantry Division of the United States and was later replaced by the Second Belgium Battalion in August of 1951. The Second Belgium Battalion remained in Korea until June of 1955. This included also the forty-four men of the Luxembourg volunteers who served alongside the Belgian battalions throughout the duration of the war.

There had to be further training after arriving in Korea and the Belgians first gained their knowledge of Korean warfare by carrying out patrols against communist guerillas in the area of Waegwan. It was after that that the BUNC was put in the line of battle with the U.S. Third Division close to Seoul along the Han River on 7 March 1951. Only the following month the Belgian forces saw serious combat operations when they received their first battle honors for the engagement along the Imjin River. In August the first battalion was relieved by the second who came by ship and by airplane to keep the Belgian military presence up to strength and maintain the national commitment to the UN “police action”.

Some countries involved in the Korean War could not contribute much and had token forces that saw duty mostly behind the lines, out of danger and with little impact on the war, but certainly very crucial to the overall military operation, however, this was not true of the Belgian contingent which had many combat experiences and earned numerous battle honors in Korea. The BUNC had fought at the battles Haktang-Ni in October 1951, Chatkol in April 1953 and by the time of the armistice cease-fire the BUNC was reduced by combat and attrition to only about 200 men on 30 December 1954 and the last Belgian soldiers left Korea on 15 June of 1955. During their service the BUNC earned four Belgian citations recognized by the Order of Leopold I on the battalion flag, the United States Presidential Unit Citation and two Korean Presidential Unit Citations along with numerous individual decorations, medals and citations for the valiant soldiers. Luxembourg also decorated the unit for their service.

For more information click on to Belgian Volunteer Corps - Korea

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Terrorists in Belgium

The government is reacting more to the recent arrest of terrorists in Antwerp and Brussels. Unfortunately, they seem still to not be receiving the right message of all of this. All seven terrorists have now been formally arrested (not just “detained”) according to Federal Public prosecutors with their investigation focusing on a Chechen terrorist organization. Their plans for an attack in Belgium remain still unclear as to exact targets but it is also believed they were working to recruit more terrorists and raise money for carrying on their brutal war in southern Russia. This is what the website “Ansar Al Mujahadeen” was crucial in for the terrorist operations. The investigation is being led by the Mechelen examining magistrate and the seven terrorists will appear in court on Friday. Unfortunately, I do not think the authorities are taking this as seriously as they should be doing.

Of those detained in the police raids in Brussels against terrorist suspects only two out of fifteen have been kept in detention. This operation has focused on a network of Islamists in Belgium trying to raise money and recruit killers for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Belgian authorities have asked for the extradition of three suspects currently being held in Amsterdam, Netherlands and it is now up to the Dutch courts to cooperate on that issue. However, the Head of the Threat Analysis Centre has come out now, very vocal, to assure everyone that this recent round of arrests is an anti-terrorist operation not directed against the Islamic religion. Does he suppose we will all believe that the fact that all of these terrorists are Muslims has absolutely nothing to do with their actions? He also denied the critics that the police raids were made too quickly and without proper evidence. Where do you suppose these criticisms were coming from? And what would be “proper evidence”? Do they think the police should wait for a national monument to be blown to bits or maybe a crowd of people to be murdered before they take action?

Head of the Threat Analysis Centre André Vandoren said, “I think we should await the results of the investigation, but I wouldn’t want people to think that this was an operation that was initiated with undue haste. There is one matter that I want to make very clear: This is not an anti-Islam operation. Not at all. We should appreciate that radicals often only make up a small minority within certain groups”. Give me a break! This is the soft attitude of denial of reality that is putting the lives of all Belgians and all Europeans in danger. Face the facts Vandoren! No one is being fooled anymore. All of these terrorists are not Christians or Jews or Buddhists -they are Muslims. We all know that, we know what it is all about and to continue to deny the problem will only make things worse. Also, for the charge that these arrests were done too hastily, that is just stupid. All of these arrests have been part of investigations that have been going on for years. There has been nothing hasty about it.

Le prince Alexandre de Belgique

Le prince Alexandre, Emmanuel, Henri, Albert, Marie de Belgique est né le 18 juillet 1942 au château de Laeken dans un contexte difficile. C'est la deuxième guerre mondiale et son père le roi Léopold III est prisonnier des Allemands. Son remariage en 1941 avec Lilian Baels suscite la controverse. C'est la raison pour laquelle ils annoncent que leurs enfants n'entreront pas dans l'ordre de succession au trône.

En juin 1944, les Allemands déportent la famille royale belge dans la forteresse d'Hirschtein, puis en Autriche où ils seront libérés par les Alliés. Les Chambres réunies nomment le prince Charles régent du royaume. Suite à la Question Royale, Léopold III, Lilian et leurs enfants vivent en exil en Suisse de 1945 à 1950. Alexandre gardait un excellent souvenir de cette période où il a connu une vie de famille heureuse à la villa "Le Reposoir" à Prégny, face au lac Léman, loin du protocole de la Cour. Ils rentrent en Belgique durant l'été 1950.

De 1950 à 1960, le prince vit avec ses parents dans le domaine de Laeken et participe régulièrement à des activités publiques. Les photos de cette décennie montrent l'amour et la complicité qui régnaient au sein de cette "famille recomposée", un terme peu utilisé à cette époque. Alexandre était très proche de ses demi-frères Baudouin et Albert. Le 10 juin 1954, il fait sa communion solennelle et sa confirmation avec le cardinal Van Roey. Il poursuit ses études à Laeken dans la section latin-grec avec quelques condisciples triés sur le volet. En 1957, le prince est opéré à Boston (Etats-Unis) d'une coarctation de l'aorte par le professeur Grooz, ce qui incite sa mère à créer la Fondation Cardiologique Princesse Lilian. Plus......

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Terrorist Plot Stopped in Antwerp

This is what happens when people do not take seriously the threats of massive immigration of foreign cultures and hostile religion. Today raids in Belgium, Netherland and Germany after more than a year-long investigation resulted in the arrest of Muslim terrorists in Antwerp who were planning an attack on Belgium. What was to be their target exactly is not known but they were all in their twenties, living in Antwerp and, of course, were all Islamists. The killers have been called "international jihadist fighters" and have been linked to the Islamic fundamentalist website Ansar Al Mujahedeen, set up to recruit terrorists. Seven killers were arrested in Antwerp who were Belgians (by citizenship), Dutch (by citizenship), Moroccans and Chechens from Russia. Two more are being held in the Netherlands and one in Germany in connection with the plot. Police reports say they are focusing on the effort of these individuals to recruit more terrorists and to raise money for the Chechen rebels/Muslim terrorists in southern Russia. Most of them are, police believe, linked also to the Chechen terrorist group 'Caucasus Emirate' that wants an independent Islamic Chechnya apart from Russia.

More disturbing is that three of the terrorists arrested in Antwerp are believed to be members of the group "Sharia 4 Belgium" which most know after their threat to murder author Benno Barnard. The effort to stop these plots in Belgium are being coordinated by the federal prosecutor's office. No news have I heard yet of their possible targets. But also in Brussels police have taken action against a number of suspected terrorists as part of a 3-years long international investigation. Seventeen places were raided by police in Brussels, prompted by the desire to stop a possible major terrorist attack in Belgium these Muslims were planning. Many people have been questioned and the action, police say, is being taken against Muslim terrorists in Belgium with ties to Iraq and Afghanistan. A Muslim not-for-profit organization has been active in recruiting terrorists to fight and make attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the targets of the police investigation was the Belgian Islamic Centre in Brussels and has brought up memories of Malika Al Aroud, the corrupted Belgian woman convicted of using her website to recruit more Muslim terrorists. There may even be some connection between her and this present threat but that is not certain right now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Crown Princesse Mathilde Honors Dutch Language

Prinses Mathilde is zaterdag in Brugge bij de viering van de dertigste verjaardag van de Nederlandse Taalunie. Prinses Máxima moet verstek laten gaan vanwege het huwelijk van prins Carlos en Annemarie Gualthérie van Weezel in Brussel op hetzelfde tijdstip.

Ter gelegenheid van de verjaardag brengt de Nederlandse Taalunie voor de allereerste keer alle landen bijeen waar het Nederlands een rol speelt. Beleidsmakers uit deze landen gaan op zoek naar samenwerking om de positie van het Nederlands in de wereld te verstevigen.

In dat proces speelt de jeugd een belangrijke rol. Daarom nodigde de Taalunie vooral jeugdige creatieve taalgebruikers uit. Het thema van het feest is: Nederlands, wereldtaal! Aan prinses Mathilde de taak de nieuwe website 'De Wereld van de Nederlandse Taal' te openen.

De Vlaamse krant Het Nieuwsblad uitte verbazing over de uitnodiging van Mathilde. 'Een Franstalige die het Nederlands moet verdedigen, is dat niet vreemd?' vroeg Het Nieuwsblad aan de Taalunie. ,,Nee", aldus Luddo Permentier van de Nederlandse Taalunie. ,,Haar Nederlands is meer dan behoorlijk en bovendien wilden we de klemtoon leggen op buitenlanders die Nederlands willen leren. In dat opzicht is ze een uitstekend voorbeeld."

"Splitting the country will be incredibly difficult"

"Splitting the country will be incredibly difficult"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Francis, Baron Dhanis

Francis Dhanis was a Belgian national hero of the Congo Free State. He was the son of a Belgian father and an Irish mother, being born in London in 1861, and when he had grown up he studied at the École Militaire to enter the Belgian military service. Upon graduation he joined one of the great heavy infantry regiments, the grenadiers, and did good service to achieve the rank of major. But before that, when he was still a lieutenant, he volunteered to accept great danger and enter the service of King Leopold II in the Congo Free State. In 1887 he was sent for his first duty tour in the Congo and he accomplished great service there. His duties did not at first have much military requirements since he was mostly building outposts, roadside stations and trying to extend and build up the infrastructure of the country. However, there was soon a problem when the first Belgian agents came in contact with the massive slave-trading operation of the Arabs in the Upper Congo where some had established their own little kingdoms devoted to only slavery. Something had to be done to stop this and Francis Dhanis was chosen to command an expedition into the Upper Congo to eradicate the Arab slavers.

In April of 1892 Francis Dhanis and his force of African soldiers set out to kill, capture or drive off the enemy in the Upper Congo to disrupt and destroy their slave-trading network. This was a long and hard campaign, chronicled by Dr. Sydney Hinde who went along, in his book "The Fall of the Congo Arabs". Dhanis and his men captured the Arab slave fortresses at Nyangwe, Kasongo and then Kabambari, finally securing the area in January of 1894. The next year, for his great service to the Congo Free State, King Leopold II made Dhanis a baron and appointed him vice-governor of the Congo Free State. Was this job perhaps in a nice office behind a desk? Absolutely not!

Not long after taking his post in 1896 Baron Dhanis commanded another expedition into the Upper Nile region. However, Baron Dhanis had problems with his native soldiers who were mostly of the Batetela tribes. Some of their chiefs had been executed for cannibalism (Belgian authorities were trying to stop this horrific tradition) and the natives were unsatisfied about that. Finally they made a rebellion, breaking discipline, murdering their European officers and going off on their own. This was called the Batetela Rebellion. Baron Dhanis had to forget about the Arabs as he had his own well armed soldiers trying to kill him while far into an almost unexplored wilderness that was heavy with disease. For two long years (1897-1898) Baron Dhanis and his remaining soldiers fought constantly in a struggle for their own survival. Baron Dhanis was not the kind to surrender and as well as his own survival he was determined to bring to justice the bandit soldiers. It took time but you know Baron Dhanis found a way to one by one break up all of the groups of rogue soldiers. Many historians have said this was an even more impressive achievement that the victorious campaign against the Arabs earlier.

Baron Dhanis had shown great cleverness in covering the ground, keeping himself and his men alive and always accomplishing his mission, in whatever way he could find, no matter how impossible the scenario seemed to be. When Baron Dhanis returned home finally to Belgium he held the honorary title of vice-governor general of the Congo Free State. He died in Brussels, a celebrated national hero, on November 13, 1909.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Latest Royal News of Belgium

Delivered by his parents, Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz of Belgium, His Imperial Royal Highness Prince Joachim of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este began his basic military training yesterday, 17 November 2010. When he completes this training the prince in uniform will go on to do training with the navy.

Today the Majesties King Albert II and Queen Paola welcomed many royals such as Queen Silvia of Sweden, Britain's Duchess of Gloucester, the Duchess of Palma de Majorca, Infanta Christina of Spain and our Princess Mathilde, Duchess of Brabant, Princess Astrid and Princess Claire of Belgium to the conference on 'Vulnerable unaccompanied minors'.

In history today also marks the anniversary (105!) of the lovely late Queen Astrid, sadly Queen of Belgians for too short a time. The Cross of Laeken points to this occasion.

Monday, November 15, 2010

King's Day!

Today is King's Day in Belgium, celebrated on the feast day of St Leopold of Babenburg, a tradition started in 1866 by King Leopold II. With changes in the Church calendar some talked of changing the date but King Baudouin decided to keep it the same.

Prince Philippe Salutes the Unknown Soldier

"Reines de pouvoir : la face cachée des reines de Belgique"

Les deux premiers mariages royaux sont des unions politiques destinées à renforcer la position de la Belgique : Louise-Marie pour avoir le soutien de la France, Marie-Henriette celui de l'Autriche. Elles ne seront pas heureuses et devront vivre avec les infidélités de leur époux. Marie-Henriette quitte même la Cour pour s'installer à Spa. Excepté quelques apparitions publiques, elles n'ont aucun rôle et aucune influence sur la vie du pays. Ainsi la reine Louise-Marie est contre la peine de mort et tente sans grand succès de rallier son mari Léopold Ier et son père Louis-Philippe à sa cause. [plus]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cartoons Mock Royal Family

This is not really "new" news as a habit some cartoonists have of mocking the Royal Family but still some people like me are very upset this time with new cartoons appearing now that try to humiliate the King and Family Royal by showing efforts of them to find other jobs after Belgium is divided out of existence and the monarchie has no more use. Of course I think these crude jokes are terrible. The threat against the unity and sovereignty of the kingdom is nothing about to make jokes! Neither is the King and the family who did not lobby for their positions but who accepted the duty of trying to keep the feuding people together. I just wish all the energy expended on attacking the language regions of each other and the country and the King could be put to a constructive use. If we could do that I wager Belgium would become a super-power! This is all so certainly without dignity and so many people showing up with no "class". It really depresses me. I look at how these likes behave and I think only that King Leopold II was right then and maybe still right now, we are really looking like a small country of small people.

The Royal Allies of the Great War

Top row: King George V of the British Empire, King Albert I of the Belgians and Czar Nicholas II of the Russias.
Second Row: King Victor Emanuel III of Italy, King Petar of Serbia, Prince Nicholas of Montenegro and King Ferdinand of Romania

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Day the War Ended

On November 11, 1918 the Great War ended, the first formal war ever fought by the independent Kingdom of Belgium, a war on which depended the very survival of the country. In the United States this holiday is called Veterans Day to honor all the heroes who gave service in the military for their country. In recognition of the heroes of Belgium and the land of my exile I have this post:
King Albert I, Queen Elisabeth and General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) that turned the tide against the Germans for the Allies.

General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing of the A.E.F. meeting S.M. King Albert I

The United States of America and the Kingdom of Belgium ready to fight side by side

Yesterday I talked about the great Belgian war hero Baron Jules Jacques. After the war he became the commander of the Belgian army and in 1921 he visited the United States and was honored to attend the convention of the American Legion in Kansas City as well as the famous Arlington National Cemetery where he movingly placed his own Croix de Guerre on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Baron Jacques had commanded the first troops to stand against the Germans and he was key in leading the counter-offensive at the end of the war to liberate his country. He was also very clear about Belgian-American friendship and support during the war. In 1919 he said to the United Press International:

"When America came to the war, just the mere knowledge of it had an enormous effect on Belgium. Belgium gave a great sigh of relief. Our spirits rose by bounds, while the Germans' began to drop. When American soldiers entered the Belgian line to join in the conflict, words cannot express our feelings. We knew the end was near and that the outcome of the war had practically been determined."

Happy Veterans Day to all the American Friends and salute to the military heroes of the United States and Belgium and all the Allied powers!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Baron Jules Jacques

Jules Marie Alphonese Jacques was born in Stavelot on 24 February 1858. He entered the Military Academy on 1 May 1876 and graduated as a second lieutenant on 4 May 1878. His military career was solid and he advanced regularly. He had become commanding captain when he was first sent to the Congo Free State by the by the Belgian Anti-Slavery Society. He would serve four consecutive tours of service in the Congo until 1905. This service would not be without some controversy, as is to be expected. In 1892 he founded the town of Albertville (now known as Kalemie) and from 1895 to 1898 he directed the harvesting of the rubber in the Inongo region. He also helped extent state control and eradicate the slave trade in the eastern Congo in the campaign against the Arab-Swahili slavers. The Church supported this and Jacques was given an audience with Pope Leo XIII when he was on his way to Africa.

The controversy involved his inclusion in the infamous “Casement Report” of 1904, written by the British consul, which aroused foreign opposition to the activities in the Congo Free State. Captain Jules Jacques was soon sent back to Belgium anyway and was promoted to colonel. His greatest service was to come during the Great War when he was mobilized and later took command of the Twelfth Line Regiment. His led his soldiers with great skill and extreme bravery, becoming a hero of the Belgian army in the first days of the harsh attacks from the powerful German forces. He encouraged his men and they were so devoted to him that his presence alone would raise their spirits. It was said that his name was like a flag to his brave soldiers especially at the battle of Sart-Tilmant. In the early days of the invasion his troops successfully repelled two heavy German attacks near Antwerp that was crucial in giving the Belgian forces time to withdraw to the Yser.

Colonel Jacques was then put in command of the defense of Diksmuide with only his few soldiers and some French marines. He vowed that the Germans would not pass so long as he lived and he led his soldiers in fierce resistance, enduring terrible enemy bombardment and heavy attacks. When their commander, General Meiser, was evacuated to hospital it was Colonel Jacques who took command of the brigade of the 11th and 12th line. His glorious defense of Diksmuide, longer than anyone on both sides of the war thought was humanly possible, earned Jacques great fame in the Allied armies and of course Belgium particularly. In 1915 he was promoted major general and then in 1916 to lieutenant general commanding the famous Third “Iron Division” that was so tough on the Germans at Liege. He commanded various sectors of the Yser front during the hard years of trench warfare.

Every one of his soldiers knew him and respected him because of how close he was to them all the time, sharing danger and privations. He encouraged his men to use the difficult circumstances to toughen themselves and resolve their wills to prepare for the great counteroffensive they were determined to make that would drive out the Germans and liberate Belgium. His men were so proud of him that they referred to their unit as the “Jacques Division”. In 1918 when the Germans launched their last major, massive offensive of the war General Jacques and his men were hit hard in a crushing blow. Their front lines were broken through and they were almost overwhelmed but the preparations Jacques had made proved worthy and the they held on tenaciously. General Jacques organized special attack battalions to drive the Germans back and after hours of heavy fighting the Belgian army was victorious and had driven out all of the Germans from their sector.

Properly honored for his great achievement King Albert I entrusted to General Jacques the center group of his armies for the counter-attack on 28 September 1918 including the No. 3 and No. 9 divisions as well as a French division. With his typical courage and skill, leading his bold and fearless troops with reckless abandon General Jacques captured Flanders Ridge and the Stadenberg et de Westroosebeke. It was costly and hard fighting but General Jacques had promised the King he would conquer and he accomplished the task given to him. The next month, in the joy of victory, his troops paraded for King Albert I. Belgium was liberated, independence restored, the country secured and for his great, strong defense at Diksmuide the King gave him the title of Baron Jules Jacques de Diksmuide. He died in 1928 but memorials in his honor stand in several battlefields to remember him.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Children of King Leopold III

Princess Josephine-Charlotte was the first child of King Leopold III and Queen Astrid. She was born in Brussels in 1927 and was educated in the palace and at boarding school. During World War II she was taken with her family to Germany as prisoners at the end of the war. When it was over she studied in Switzerland then went home to Belgium to help those struggling with recovery and to encourage the arts. In 1953 she married Prince Jean, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In 1964 they became the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Josephine-Charlotte was very popular and the picture of refinement, style and charitable generosity in Luxembourg. Through her marriage she and Grand Duke Jean had five children; 3 sons and 2 daughters. She was very glamorous but loved nothing more than working in her garden or going hunting and fishing. A beloved daughter of Belgium she became a national treasure in Luxembourg, strengthening ties between the two countries. She died in 2005.

Baudouin, who would be the fifth King of the Belgians, was born to King Leopold III and Queen Astrid in 1930, close to the anniversary of Belgian independence and so the birth of an heir to the throne was particularly celebrated. However, family tragedies became rather routine in the early years of Prince Baudouin. Toward the end of World War II he had to endure horrible conditions with his family in German captivity which was followed by the “Royal Question” which troubled Prince Baudouin greatly who would rather have been a priest than become king. But, his father was going to abdicate and two abdications would potentially ruin the monarchy. At the age of 21 in 1951 he became King of the Belgians in a very traumatic and difficult atmosphere. The country was going through many social upheavals and agitation. The Belgian colonies in Africa were lost, the division of the country between Flanders and Wallonia occurred and King Baudouin was greatly troubled by the moral decline in society. He never had children and died in 1993.

Albert II, our esteemed reigning King of the Belgians, is the second son of King Leopold III, born in 1934. In 1940, with his siblings, they fled to France and then Spain from the Germans but came home later in the year. Like the rest he spent time in captivity by the Germans, then in exile in Switzerland only to see his father abdicate and his brother become King. In 1959 he married our Queen Paola from an Italian princely family and began work as an important trade official for Belgium. He also started a family, eventually having three children. He served as President of the Belgian Red Cross and set up his own foundation to also help in the area of trade and business. When his brother died in 1993 he became King Albert II of the Belgians. Since that time he has worked tirelessly to promote Belgian interests, unite the country and encourage the political parties to work together. Since the internal division of the country between the Flemish and Walloon the King has been forced to shoulder an ever greater burden in bringing the factions together to form coalitions for effective governments. He has always accepted the will of the people but has refused to deal with those who would see Belgium destroyed.

Prince Alexandre was the first son of King Leopold III and his second wife Princess Lilian who he married during the war (she was never queen). Alexandre was born during the war in 1942 and so was only a baby when the family was shuffled around to Germany, to Austria to Switzerland and finally able to return to Belgium. Because of political prejudice against the marriage of King Leopold to Princess Lilian their children together were not included in the succession to the throne but with two sons already this did not matter much but there was some distance between the two parts of the family. Prince Alexandre studied first medicine but then decided on business, looking to a career in trade. His mother raised him according to high standards thinking he would have official duties with the monarchy but this did not occur. He married in secret in 1991 because he feared there would be disapproval over his choice of wife; a twice divorced mother of two. Prince Alexandre died in 2009 of pulmonary embolism.

Princess Marie-Christine is the second child of King Leopold III and Princess Lilian. She was born in 1951 in Laeken and has been, much the pity, the “black sheep” of the children of Leopold III. She was given the best upbringing her parents could give but in the end she totally rebelled against them and really all of her background completely. This would have been only moderately bad if she had chosen to go and live her own life but she instead tried to actually harm her family while still enjoying the privileges of her status. She has spread the most horrid lies about her youth and her family (Princess Lilian especially) and mocked the monarchy while living the high society life. She has been married twice, once in Canada and once in the United States and tried to become a famous actress without success. She publicly denounced her half-brother King Baudouin and refused to attend his funeral or that of her full brother Alexandre. She has also expressed republican sympathies. I am sorry but she is a bad princess!

Princess Marie-Esmeralda, the youngest child of Leopold III and Princess Lilian, is thankfully a much better person than her sister. She was born in Laeken in 1956 and, like the others, did not have an especially easy time growing up, much of the tensions probably resulting from the politically imposed division between the family that made the children of Princess Lilian somewhat of “second class” royals. However, Marie-Esmeralda had a more mature attitude than her sister and remained attached to her parents through the good and not so good times. She has defended King Leopold III and Princess Lilian from the heavy unfair criticism they have faced, before and even after their deaths. Using the name Esméralda de Réthy she succeeded in becoming a journalist and in 1998 in London married a British Honduras pharmacologist. She has happily had two children; a daughter and a son both born in London and she enjoys her work as a journalist and a writer as well as trying to continue the good works of her parents. She described her character as like that of her mother, in the good and bad ways.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Children of King Albert Ier

Leopold III was the first child of King Albert and Queen Elisabeth, born on 3 November 1901. As a youth he defended his country in the Great War as a common soldier. Educated in the UK and US he married Princess Astrid of Sweden in 1926. She died in 1935 to the great sadness of all. As king Leopold had to deal with rising radical factions in the country and increased regionalism. He was sympathetic to the complaints of the Flemish. He tried a policy of neutrality but this was not respected by the Germans. In World War II he led the army in defending the country, fighting for 18 days before being forced to surrender. Refusing to escape he remained with his people to help them endure the occupation. In 1941 he married Lilian Baels. Hitler tried to enlist his cooperation but Leopold refused. He also had trouble with his government who had fled to Britain. The Germans took him out of Belgium and at the end of the war he moved to Switzerland. Because the public was so divided over his return he abdicated in 1951 to spare his country.

Prince Charles, Count of Flanders, second child of King Albert and Queen Elisabeth was born on 10 October 1903. His personality was very different from his older brother. He became Count of Flanders in 1910 and trained with the navy and the army of Great Britain before taking up his own position in the Belgian service. During World War II he defended the country as a colonel with the cavalry corps. After the surrender he retired to his home in Brussels. When the Allied invasion of Europe came he moved to a secret home in Wallonia. When the Allies entered Belgium he was named regent by the government while the King was in Switzerland. Many important changes took place during his regency. The US “Marshall Plan” was put into effect, women were given the vote, a social welfare system was set up, the Benelux union was formed and Belgium joined the United Nations and the NATO alliance. When the Royal Question was settled he retired to Ostend to devote himself to his love of art, drawing and painting.

Princess Marie-José was the only daughter of King Albert and Queen Elisabeth, born on 4 August 1906. On 8 January 1930 she married Crown Prince Umberto of Italy and became a very fashionable figure in Rome and Italian society. This marriage was arranged because the Italy was about the only royal Catholic monarchy left besides Belgium. However, the marriage was not exceptionally happy but the couple did have four children. During World War II Princess Marie-José set an example of sacrifice for the war effort and was made president of the Red Cross. However, she did not support the fascist regime and was able to act in a subtle way as a bridge between the fascist government and the Allies when Italy was moving toward discharging Mussolini and switching sides in the war. Her husband took charge of Italy and in 1946 her father-in-law abdicated and she became Queen of Italy alongside her husband King Umberto II. However, after only 35 days as nominal queen the Italian monarchy was abolished by a referendum. She parted from her husband and lived in exile forever after.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Thoroughly Evil Men

Julien Lahaut

Jean-Pierre Van Rossem

These men did their best to ruin solemn national occasions for the whole country because of their own selfish views. One got what he deserved, the other at least went to prison for a time (though not because of doing this of course but for a crime of fraud -cheating people of their money, very rich for two Marxists).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Birthday of King Leopold III

Today is the historic birthday anniversary of the great King Leopold III. The Cross of Laeken shares the sentiments of Queen Elisabeth and the royal house. He would go through many trials in his life, being the joy, the inspiration, the strong leader, protector and finally sacrifice of his country. He was first and always devoted to his duty: Belgium!

The Children of Leopold II

Princess Louise-Marie was the first daughter of King Leopold II, born on 18 February 1858 in Brussels. Her relationship with her parents was not ideal, her father being too busy for her and her mother being overly strict. As is often the case this led Princess Louise to become a rebellious character and the most famous flirt of the Belgian royal house. In 1875 she was married to Prince Philippe of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry and later had two children. However, the King disliked the marriage because he was growing distrustful of the Prussians/Germans but her mother approved only because Philippe had a connection with her beloved Hungary. However, it was not a happy marriage at all. While in Vienna Princess Louise-Marie suggested the marriage of Princess Stephanie to the Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf. In 1897 she left her husband after falling in love with an officer in a Croatian regiment of the Austrian army. Her children left her and her husband was wounded in a duel with her lover. The man later went to prison for forgery but in 1906 Louise-Marie and Philippe were finally divorced. Her high living left her with little money and she went to an asylum. When her old lover, Géza Mattachich, got out of prison he helped spring her and they ran away to Paris where they lived till his death. The Princess was then taken care of by Queen Elisabeth until her own death in 1924 in Wiesbaden.

Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant, the only son of King Leopold II, was born in Brussels on 12 June 1859. His birth was a great joy for the country and the royal house; the promise of the continuation of the dynasty. His parents did not have the best marriage but his birth was what it was all about and it was the hope for a son and heir, more than anything else, that kept the King and Queen together for the good of the country. His older sister had been named after her grandmother and Leopold was named after his grandfather (and his father too). When Leopold II became king in 1865 the little Prince Leopold became the Duke of Brabant and he was groomed with the expectation that he would one day be King of the Belgians. However, that was not to be since his young life was cut short when he fell in a pond at Laeken when he was only 10 years old in 1869. He did not drown but came down with pneumonia (it was January and very cold) and died because of that. The usually stern King Leopold II was crushed by the death of his son, collapsing in sobs in public beside the coffin of his little boy. Those who are quick to characterize Leopold II as cold and unfeeling should remember that very public emotional moment. Prince Leopold was buried at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken in Brussels.

Princess Stéphanie was born at Laeken on 21 May 1864, the second daughter of Leopold II and even at a very young age was considered her duty to marry for the country. The Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria was looking for a wife and Princess Louise-Marie suggested her sister Princess Stéphanie and in the absence of any other royal Catholic princess the agreement was made for another Belgian-Austrian marriage. Because she was so young the wedding had to be put off until she was mature enough to have children and in 1881 the couple were married in Vienna in a very glamorous ceremony. Alongside the members of the Austrian Imperial Family the future Kaiser Wilhelm II attended as did the famous King Edward VII of the British Empire. However, the marriage was not very successful and Rudolf was known for being unfaithful. The Austrian Empress Elisabeth did not welcome her and neglected by her husband Princess Stéphanie fell in love with a Polish count. In 1889 Rudolf killed himself and his mistress and in 1900 in Italy she married a Hungarian count and moved to his country. She survived both world wars and had to flee from the Soviets before her death on 23 August 1945.

Princess Clémentine of Belgium was the last child of Leopold II, after his birth the King and Queen lived apart feeling their was no chance of having another son and heir. Her mother raised her strictly but Leopold II allowed her more freedom until the death of her mother when she had to become the leading female royal of Belgium. She had a good relationship with the King until he opposed her romance with Prince Victor Napoleon Bonaparte. She asked again and again to marry the Prince but the King did not want his daughter marrying a Bonaparte. However, Princess Clémentine was patient and persevered. After Leopold II died she finally married her Prince Napoleon in Italy in 1910 with the blessing of the new monarch King Albert I. Prince Victor later became head of the Bonaparte family (Napoleon V), making Princess Clémentine the wished-for “Empress of the French” for those loyal to the Bonaparte family. After so many years of endurance and sacrifice for others it is satisfying that she was so happy with Prince Victor Napoleon who she absolutely adored and loved. They had two children, a daughter and a son and heir for the Napoleonic dynasty (Napoleon VI). Sadly her husband died in Brussels in 1926 and she must have worried terribly over her son who was almost killed a number of times during World War II in the French Resistance and German captivity. She died in Nice in 1955.