Monday, April 30, 2012

Charles van der Burch

Charles Albert Alexandre Louis Henri van der Burch was born into a prominent Belgian noble family in Aubry-du-Hainaut on April 24, 1779, the first born of three brothers. As a boy he served as a page to King Louis XVI of France. His brothers, Aimé and Louis chose to fight for the Emperor Napoleon after France annexed Belgium but Charles refused to do so. He showed his political opinions to a degree when he married the noble daughter of an Austrian baron, Baron von Vincent who was the Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands for three months in 1814. When the French were first expelled from Belgium, Charles was one of the first to wear the red, yellow, black cockade of Brabant. The Allied commander in Belgium, Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar, gave Charles permission to raise a light cavalry regiment for Allied service in the Belgian Legion.

He became colonel and on February 13, 1814 was given his commission. On March 31, 1814 the Tsar of Russia awarded him the Order of St Vladimir for his commitment to the coalition. Unlike his brothers, he had no military experience but his younger brother Aimé served in his regiment as a lieutenant before his resignation on January 7, 1815. On April 10, 1815 Count van der Burch and his light cavalry were transferred to the command of his lieutenant-colonel Edward Mercx of Corbais. He was then made an aide-de-camp to King Willem I of Orange. This was compensation since, as in the days of the ancien regime, he viewed his regiment as his own property. His regiment then became the 5th Light Dragoons in the new Dutch-Belgian Army.

On February 20, 1816 for his service Charles was made Commander of the Order of the Netherlands Lion and later on May 6, 1816 was promoted to major-general and appointed military governor of the southern province of Brabant. He was made an honorary lieutenant-general in 1830 because of his distinguished record and he resigned on October 28, 1830 because of the political situation. He retired on November 24, 1838 and was made a Knight of the Order of Leopold by the new King of the Belgians. He died on March 4, 1854 at his estate d’Ecaussines. He is buried in the church there next to his wife along with his ancestors.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Princess Astrid Honors 10 Days Campaign

On April 21 (Birthday of the British Queen -happy birthday!) SAR Princesse Astrid attended a special memorial ceremony for the 10 Days Campaign of 1831 in Houthalen-Helchteren where a special cross stands to mark the graves of the Dutch and Belgian soldiers who died in that short outbreak of hostilities. Princesse Astrid attended the ceremony alongside civil and military officials, remembering the Ten Days Campaign. This happened in 1831, not long after the Belgian Revolution when the Dutch were making an effort to re-conquer Belgium from the pro-independence Belgian leaders. As I made mention last time the Dutch King Willem I was very reluctant to accept the independence of Belgium and had to be pressured by the other powers into giving up his claim to the country and hope of eventually retaking it. The 10 Days Campaign was an early effort led by the Prince of Orange (who was very well liked by most Belgians) and other royal princes which actually led to some defeats for the Belgian volunteers were not well organized or prepared at all. Most were not professional soldiers at all. However, and Belgium must be grateful for this, the Kingdom of the French intervened on behalf of Belgium and the arrival of the French troops convinced the Dutch to abandon the effort and return home. It is pleasing to see Princesse Astrid honoring this link with Belgian history and to honor the brave volunteers who gave their lives defending independence. Since we are now thankfully good and close friends with the Netherlands we also should appreciate the duty and sacrifice of the Dutch soldiers for their King and also should remember with gratitude the French royal soldiers who provided such vital assistance.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kingdom of Belgium Born!

On April 19, 1839 the Kingdom of Belgium was officially recognized by the European powers in Treaty of London. I find it a little funny to see sources indicate this as the "birthday" of Belgium or the day when the Kingdom of Belgium was "born" since Belgian independence had been asserted a decade before and SM King Leopold 1er had been reigning as King of the Belgians for almost as long already. However, this was the day in history that the status of the Kingdom of Belgium was firmly settled and established in the international community, because it was only in 1839 that the European powers finally pressured King Willem I of the Netherlands to recognize the fact of Belgian independence that had already existed. He had still been hoping that he would be able to re-conquer Belgium and force it back into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. But Belgium resisted with ferocity and the other powers really did not want to see the Low Countries going into a long and ugly war so they finally stepped in and put the pressure on King Willem I to recognize that he would have to sleep in the bed he had made and recognize Belgian independence. So, hurrah for the Treaty of London then! At one time it seems that treaties gave national independence instead of taking it away .... or am I speaking impolitic? ;-)

A Benelux Army?

This causes me some mixed feelings I will confess. A new law has just been signed into effect to allow for the greater cooperation and coordination of the military forces of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. I have no hesitation at all about this and think it is a very good thing for everyone concerned. Always I have advocated a closer relationship between the three "low countries" which share so much common history between us. Always I have wished the Benelux group would be more active and that the countries would cooperate more to have a greater impact in world affairs. However, I have some trepidation about this news only because of the extra words of Defence Minister Pieter De Crem who said that this could open the way for the creation of a "Benelux Army".

That I do not like the sound of. Greater cooperation is good, greater coordination is good, closer collaboration is also good but uniting them all into one military as not a good idea at all I think. We are not all the same country and I think this would mean the loss of at least some independence and freedom of action for the country if it were to happen. Who would command the Benelux army? I would not want anyone but the King being commander-in-chief of Belgian armed forces. Certainly I think the Benelux countries should work together and help each other whenever possible but I do not want to have a shared army. Also it seems a strange thing to talk about when Belgium still has some unity problems of its own and don't we already have close cooperation through the European Union? Is this suggested Benelux army going to be the testing ground for the EU Army? Perhaps I am being too suspicious but it makes me worried to hear about the Benelux sharing a military one day. I wish Benelux were more significant, more active and closer but I want the Belgian army to stay Belgian and the others to stay their own as well.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Prince Philippe is Ready

Prins Filip is klaar om zijn vader op te volgen wanneer hem dat wordt gevraagd. Dat zei hij aan het slot van zijn handelsmissie naat Vietnam. Zes dagen was hij in Hanoi en Ho Chi Minh-stad om de Belgische economie te promoten.

In het gesprek met journalisten na afloop werd de prins gefeliciteerd met het vooruitzicht dat hij in 2013 koning wordt. Dat immers had Le Soir geschreven: op 21 juli is de troonsoverdracht. ,,We zijn nog altijd 2012. Als u mij wilt feliciteren, is het omwille van de geslaagde missie", aldus Filip, die het gesprek snel over een andere boeg gooide.

Maar de verslaggevers lieten de kans niet zo maar voorbij gaan. Is de prins klaar voor het koningschap? ,,Het is niet aan mij om dat te beoordelen. Ik vind dat mijn vader zijn werk goed doet. Ik help hem zoveel mogelijk. Wanneer men mij het vraagt, als het mij wordt gevraagd, dan sta ik klaar om hem op te volgen."

Geen ongebruikelijk antwoord, maar volgens een aantal Belgische media een signaal dat de troonswisseling niet langer een taboe onderwerp is. Vorig jaar in China zei Filip nog, doelend op zijn vader koning Albert II ,,Ik praat niet graag over anderen als ze er niet bij zijn." © GPD

My opinion is that I think Prince Philippe is absolutely ready and would be an ideal King, I always think he has performed excellently and I hate when people insult him. I do not like though the feeling of "rushing" the King out of his job. I prefer the King to reign until his death and then the next generation take over. That has always been the tradition, only one time has a King abdicated before his death and that was with very unfortunate and unfair circumstances for Leopold III. Also it would concern me then that how quickly the media would be asking when Philippe is to step down for his daughter? Of course, the King has had to deal with tremendous difficulties and there would be no fault in him wanting to retire to peace and quiet for his elder years. That should be his decision alone. For myself though I prefer the old mentality that the Crown is a commitment for a lifetime of service. When the time comes, whenever it comes I think Philippe and Mathilde will be a great King and Queen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lt. Col. Lambert-Paul Coenegracht

Lambert-Paul Coenegracht was one of the many Belgian officers who lost their lives at the epic battle of Waterloo in the Dutch-Belgian Army contingent of the Allied forces under the overall command of the British Duke of Wellington and HRH Willem, Prince of Orange. Coenegracht began his military career in 1790 and like many of the Belgian soldiers who fought with the Allies at Waterloo he had previously served with the armies of Napoleon. He became a captain in 1804 and later reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Dutch army of King Louis Bonaparte of Holland (brother of Napoleon I). He commanded the 2nd Curassier Regiment (heavy cavalry) and, also like many others, he passed from the Kingdom of Holland into the service of the French Empire military and he commanded the troops that served as escort to French Marshal Auguste de Marmont during the campaign in Spain. Marmont is remembered for owing his rank of Marshal of France mostly to his friendship with Napoleon and for remaining loyal to the Bourbon monarchy throughout the return of Napoleon and the Waterloo campaign. In 1814 Coenegracht left the French army and took command of the Dutch 1st Carabiniers in Trip's brigade (Dutch-Belgian Army) which he led into the battle of Waterloo. During the battle he was badly wounded at the intense fighting around La Haye Sainte and died the next day. Today his sword and watch can still be seen at the Wellington Museum at Waterloo. Because so many Belgians (and Dutch) had, like Coenegracht, served previously with the French army some of the British doubted their loyalty but obviously there could be no question of the devotion of men like Coenegracht who gave their lives to the Allied cause and the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in which Belgium was supposed to be an equal partner.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Queen Paola and Guests

The Queen with the Queen of England in 1966

The Queen with King Mswati III of Swaziland

The Queen (to be) with former King Leopold III

The Queen with Princesse Grace of Monaco

Long live our great Queen!