Wednesday, August 31, 2011

volontaires belges thuin st Roch 2010

I wish I could have been home to join in that.

Prince Laurent in Potsdam

I almost forgot to mention that our Prince Laurent was in Potsdam this weekend to represent the Belgian Royal Family at the wedding of the head of the House of Hohenzollern, Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia to Princess Sophie von Isenburg. From the pictures I saw it looked a nice wedding, not much of a royal gathering but if the Germans are going to insist on being a republic they have to expect it will not be like London or Monte Carlo. Of course, although I wish them all all of the best, for obvious reasons the Prussian royal family are not my favorites. Maybe this influences me but I cannot help wondering if there was a subtle message from the King to this Hohenzollern wedding? Do you think the King said something like, "Okay, to show that we are all friends and all, we will send a representative to the Prussian royal wedding ... but since this is the wedding of the great-grandson of the Kaiser who invaded our country and forced us into World War I, the occupation, the rape of Belgium and all of that, he will have to be satisfied we are sending -Prince Laurent!"

At least the Prince can say he did not fall down this time in front of everybody, tripping over the carpet like in Monte Carlo.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Remembering Queen Astrid

The Cross of Laeken remembers The Death of Queen Astrid, a great queen, and a queen who seemed somehow unreal or too good to be true, like she stepped from the pages of a storybook.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Joyeux Anniversaire, Maria Laura!

It is the birthday today of "Her Imperial and Royal Highness" Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, also Archduchess of Austria-Este who is today 23 years old. I really love Princess Maria Laura best and not just because she is so pretty, really, but because she is not so shallow like most of the really attractive, wealthy or highly born girls seem to be. She is not just flying around to lavish parties and fashion shows, she seems very sweet and shy and she must be very smart, she spends most of her time in study and when she speaks at length you can tell at once she is not just a pretty  face but has a real head full of brains on her shoulders. This is a princess with the 'whole package', beauty and brains and I think she's the best!

Monday, August 22, 2011

King & Queen Visit Pukkelpop Disaster Site

Story here. Something similar happened I heard in the United States recently. Someone should take greater precautions for the bad weather or see that the stages are built more sturdily.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Joyeux Anniversaire, Gabriel!

The young Prince Gabriel is now eight-years-old today. Best wishes to the Prince! I confess to having some trouble to not refer to him as our future King. I really don't want to seem sexist or anything like that but in spite of the law changes I just cannot "see" Belgium with a Queen with her brothers standing beside her all the time. Belgium has kings, has always had only kings. There is nothing wrong with a Queen but, I guess because it has never happened before in our history, it is hard to visualize for me. I cannot resist thinking that Prince Gabriel should be king someday even I know he cannot be. I'm sure he would be good at the job, he would be probably King Baudouin II, but the government will prevent that from happening. King or not, best wishes to Prince Gabriel for his birthday today! I wish I was home to have a chance of seeing them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Belgians Aid Defense of Ethiopia

You can always learn something new and recently, talking to a friend about the second Italian-Ethiopian War, I did also. In that conflict, one of the predecessors of World War II, the only Belgian connection I knew of was Crown Princess Maria Jose, wife of Crown Prince Umberto of Italy, and neither of them had anything to do with the conflict. However, I have learned there was a fairly significant Belgian contribution to the war on the Ethiopian side. Here is how it happened: Clearly, since the first war between Italy and Ethiopia (which the Ethiopians won at their favorite battle of Adwa) there had been tensions between the two countries. Later, however, they signed a something like a friendship treaty. It seems doubtful though that either took the document seriously. The Italians extended their most favorable trading relationship to Ethiopia and assumed or expected that Ethiopia would be their customer and obtain all of their foreign goods from then. Ethiopia, however, was wary of the Italians and began buying weapons and recruiting military advisers from foreign countries other than Italy in case there was another war. The Italians were upset by this but that was expected and there were also internal problems in the country that made the famous Emperor Haile Selassie think it best to have the strongest army that he could.

The contribution of foreign experts to the instruction and modernization of the Ethiopian military was considered crucial and the largest probably came from Sweden. However, there were Swiss, British, Dutch, Finnish and an array of other foreigners represented in helping the Ethiopians prepare themselves to fight the Italians. The Belgian government sent a military mission to Ethiopia in 1934 which established itself at Harar to build up two completely modern infantry battalions, in addition to squadrons of horse cavalry, camel cavalry and armored cars. In 1935 one Belgian Colonel Reul commanded the "Unofficial Belgian Mission" to Ethiopia, all modern soldiers where he reported to Emperor Haile Selassie at his headquarters at Dese. The Belgian Congo also sent many military instructors and these were highly prized since the Force Publique was the most feared military force in Africa made up of African soldiers. They helped to organize and modernize the Ethiopian army and Belgian officers even led some of these troops into battle such as Captain Cambier who was killed in one of the early battles with the Italians.

Ethiopia did not win, mostly because they simply did not have enough of the latest technology that the Italians had. However, they put up a very fierce struggle for seven months and this was possible, not because they were, like many think, a huge mob of primitive warriors, but because, thanks in part to the help of the Belgian volunteers, they became a modern, organized army that would have been a formidable enemy for any force in Africa. Also, the Free Forces of the Belgian Congo also helped in the liberation of Ethiopia from Italian rule during World War II and played an instrumental role there.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Address by King Albert to the Belgian Parliament, 4 August 1914


Never, since 1839, has a more solemn hour struck for Belgium: the integrity of our territory is threatened.

The very force of our righteous cause, the sympathy which Belgium, proud of her free institutions and her moral victories, has always received from other nations, and the necessity of our autonomous existence in respect of the equilibrium of Europe, make us still hopeful that the dreaded emergency will not be realized.

But if our hopes are betrayed, if we are forced to resist the invasion of our soil, and to defend our threatened homes, this duty, however hard it may be, will find us armed and resolved upon the greatest sacrifices.

Even now, in readiness for any eventuality, our valiant youth is up in arms, firmly resolved, with the traditional tenacity and composure of the Belgians, to defend our threatened country.

In the name of the nation, I give it a brotherly greeting. Everywhere in Flanders and Wallonia, in the towns and in the countryside, one single feeling binds all hearts together: the sense of patriotism.

One single vision fills all minds: that of our independence endangered. One single duty imposes itself upon our wills: the duty of stubborn resistance.

In these solemn circumstances two virtues are indispensable: a calm but unshaken courage, and the close union of all Belgians.

Both virtues have already asserted themselves, in a brilliant fashion, before the eyes of a nation full of enthusiasm.

The irreproachable mobilization of our army, the multitude of voluntary enlistments, the devotion of the civil population, the abnegation of our soldiers' families, have revealed in an unquestionable manner the reassuring courage which inspires the Belgian people.

It is the moment for action.

I have called you together, gentlemen, in order to enable the Legislative Chambers to associate themselves with the impulse of the people in one and the same sentiment of sacrifice.

You will understand, gentlemen, how to take all those immediate measures which the situation requires, in respect both of the war and of public order.

No one in this country will fail in his duty.

If the foreigner, in defiance of that neutrality whose demands we have always scrupulously observed, violates our territory, he will find all the Belgians gathered about their sovereign, who will never betray his constitutional oath, and their Government, invested with the absolute confidence of the entire nation.

I have faith in our destinies; a country which is defending itself conquers the respect of all; such a country does not perish!

Belgium Responds to German Ultimatum

Delivered by the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Davignon, to the German Minister in Brussels, Herr von Below Saleske in response to German ultimatum demanding free passage of German troops through Belgium in order to attack France, claiming that France was preparing to do the same.

3 August 1914

This note has made a deep and painful impression upon the Belgian Government. The intentions attributed to France by Germany are in contradiction to the formal declarations made to us on August 1, in the name of the French Government.

Moreover, if, contrary to our expectation, Belgian neutrality should be violated by France, Belgium intends to fulfil her international obligations and the Belgian army would offer the most vigorous resistance to the invader.

The treaties of 1839, confirmed by the treaties of 1870 vouch for the independence and neutrality of Belgium under the guarantee of the Powers, and notably of the Government of His Majesty the King of Prussia.

Belgium has always been faithful to her international obligations, she has carried out her duties in a spirit of loyal impartiality, and she has left nothing undone to maintain and enforce respect for her neutrality.

The attack upon her independence with which the German Government threaten her constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. No strategic interest justifies such a violation of law.

The Belgian Government, if they were to accept the proposals submitted to them, would sacrifice the honour of the nation and betray their duty towards Europe.

Conscious of the part which Belgium has played for more than eighty years in the civilisation of the world, they refuse to believe that the independence of Belgium can only be preserved at the price of the violation of her neutrality.

If this hope is disappointed the Belgian Government are firmly resolved to repel, by all the means in their power, every attack upon their rights.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remembering King Baudouin

Yesterday at Notre-Dame de Laeken Queen Fabiola and about three hundred loyal supporters visited the royal crypt to remember the passing of the late King Baudouin. A delegation of veterans also attended, members of Pro-Belgica and also Princess Lea, widow of Prince Alexandre, who also left followers at the tomb of King Leopold III so that, in a touching way, the tombs of the father and son kings, Leopold III and Baudouin, were both brightly covered with petals. Boths kings I am sure would be touched. King Baudouin was a great and good man, I am sure he would be distressed to see how his people are not now getting along with each other, to the great distress of his brother, and although people like me can look back on the time of King Baudouin with nostalgia and think, if he were alive things would not be like this, also I have to be realistic and think that given the uncompromising attitude of the parties I cannot see what King Baudouin could do to effect a reconciliation that our King today has not already tried. It is still good to see King Baudouin remembered and I hope he is resting happily in whatever plain of existence he is in today.