Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Emmanuel Van der Linden Baron d’Hooghvorst

Some people remember with respect the name of Emmanuel Van der Linden Baron d’Hooghvorst. Other people maybe recognize him only as the man in the uniform in a group picture of the founders of modern Belgium. He was a leader of the early days and a “founding father” of the Kingdom of Belgium known for his part in the Belgian Revolution. D’Hooghvorst was not like others though, he was not a natural revolutionary. He was very much associated with the moderate faction that did not want to have turmoil with the Dutch and was also the brother of the famous political leader Joseph van der Linden d‘Hooghvorst. He was born in 1781 and he was the mayor of Meise after 1807. He was known for being a zealous Catholic and a very generous man who paved the roads with his own money and also gave funds to build the village back again after a devastating fire in 1826. Because of this he was very popular with the people who admired and respected him.

He became the commissioner of land and forestry and representative for southern Brabant. When riots broke out in 1830 as the first stages of the revolution d’Hooghvorst took command of the Civil Guard when others refused the position but he was concerned for the safety of the people and property in Brussels. He also hoped he could manage a reconciliation of the dissidents and the Dutch government. He addressed the local Dutch officials with the idea of sending a delegation of moderate, middle class Belgians to peacefully and respectfully express their complaints and ideas to King William I of the United Netherlands Kingdom. However, they were refused permission to do this. But, he did manage to dissuade the local Dutch officials from bringing in Dutch army soldiers which he believed would only inflame the situation and lead to terrible violence. He promised that he would maintain order and security with his Civil Guard.

Along with other leading Belgians d’Hooghvorst came to a meeting with the Prince of Orange at Vilvorde where the Prince was with his army to meet with the Brussels authorities. However, the Prince was alarmed by the appearance of the Belgians and their separatist flag and he made them wait some time before seeing them. When he did finally meet them he commended the Civil Guard for their efforts at keeping order but also criticized the uprising and the use of the Belgian colors. Hooghvorst stated that he was doing his best but that the rebelliousness was because of sincere desire for redress of grievances and suppressing them would not be wise. The Prince of Orange said there would be no concessions as long as the Belgian colors were being displayed. He said if the colors were abandoned he would grant an amnesty and gave the delegation a day to consider the offer. They decided finally not to give up their colors but to bring the Prince to Brussels protected by the Civil Guard only.

Hooghvorst again tells the Prince that concessions must be made or his troops will not be able to control the public anger but nothing is done and later he warns the Prince that he must leave Brussels for his own safety and a delegation urges him to support the separation of the ‘southern’ and ‘northern’ Netherlands (the Prince of Orange and his father the King disagreed on the policy toward Belgium). He finally agrees to this on the condition that the Civil Guard maintains order and that loyalty to the Orange Royal House is assured. The King, as we know, did not go along with this settlement and in Belgium a regency was established with d’Hooghvorst put in charge of public safety which he accepted on the condition that independence would be pursued through legal channels. However, the uprising only became larger and part of the Civil Guard was disarmed with Hooghvorst commanding the remainder. The people began to arm and government officials wanted the Civil Guard to defend the city from the rebels but Hooghvorst refuses but remained committed to keeping order and protecting property.

Later efforts to make peace were ineffective and Hooghvorst is elected to the provisional administrative commission. He was involved in the earliest formative efforts of the new Kingdom of Belgium but remained always a reluctant revolutionary and supported offering the Belgian throne to the Prince of Orange to maintain in some way the original system. This, we know, did not happen but he was still elected to the National congress as a temporary member and was later appointed commanding general of the civil guard for life. Later he also became mayor of Wolvertem in the new Kingdom of Belgium. He became a baron and was known for his efforts at rebuilding the Church in Wolvertem in 1834 and building the Church in Nieuwenrode. He was made a commander of the Order of Leopold and was a very honored hero to his death in 1866.

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