Friday, June 29, 2012
King Leopold I was the first King of the Belgians, and a very greatly admired and respected national leader all over the world, but the throne of Belgium was not the first kingdom he was offered to preside over. The Greeks had claimed independence to break away from the Ottoman Empire of Turkey in 1830 and were in need of a monarch. A prince from a powerful royal family or with, at least, family ties to powerful countries, was preferred to help secure Greek independence as a policy of insurance against efforts by the Turks to retake Greece. Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was considered and was asked to come reign over the new Kingdom of Greece. The cause of the Greeks had been a popular one in Europe, seen by many as a great romantic adventure and there was much sympathy for the Greeks against the Turks. Prince Leopold was not unaffected by this and he considered seriously accepting the offer to become the first King of Greece or King of the Greeks.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Monday, June 11, 2012
This is a letter from King Leopold II to Minister Beernaert of the Congo Free State, July 3, 1890
I have never ceased to call the attention of my countrymen to the need to turn our view toward overseas lands.
History teaches that countries with small territories have a moral and material interest in extending their influence beyond their narrow borders. Greece founded opulent cities, bastions of arts and civilization, on the shores of the Mediterranean. Later, Venice built its grandeur on its maritime and commercial relations no less than on its political success. The Netherlands have 30 million subjects in the Indies who exchange tropical products for the products of the mother country.
It is in serving the cause of humanity and progress that peoples of the second rank appear as useful members of the great family of nations. A manufacturing and commercial nation like ours, more than any other, must do its best to secure opportunities for all its workers, whether intellectual, capitalist, or manual.
These patriotic preoccupations dominated my life. It is they that caused the creation of the African effort.
My pains were not sterile: a young and vast State, led from Brussels, has peacefully taken its place in the sun, thanks to the kind support of the powers which have applauded its beginnings. Belgians administer it, while other compatriots, more numerous every day, are already making a profit on their capital.
The immense river system of the Upper Congo opens the way for our efforts for rapid and economical ways of communication that will allow us to penetrate directly into the center of the African continent. The building of the railroad in the cataract area, assured from now on thanks to the recent vote of the legislature, will notably increase the ease of access. Under these conditions, a great future is reserved for the Congo, whose immense value will soon shine out to all eyes.
Soon after that memorable act, I thought it my duty, when death will come to strike me, to make it easy for Belgium to profit from my work, as well as that of those who helped me to found and direct it and to whom I give thanks here once again. I thus made, as Sovereign of the Congo Free State, the will that I am sending you; I will request that you communicate it to the legislative Chambers at what seems to you the most opportune moment.
The beginning of enterprises such as those that have so preoccupied me is difficult and onerous. I insisted on bearing the charges. A King, to give service to his country, must not fear to conceive and pursue the realization of a project so adventurous in appearance. The riches of a Sovereign consist of public prosperity. That alone can appear to his eyes as an enviable treasure, which he should try constantly to build up.
Until the day of my death, I will continue with the same thoughts of national interest that have guided me until now, to direct and sustain our African efforts, but if, without waiting for that date, it makes sense for the country to contract closer ties with my Congo possessions, I would not hesitate to make them available to it, I would be happy, while I am alive, to see it in full benefit towards the Chambers as towards the Government for the aid that they gave to me on several occasions in this creation.
I do not think I am mistaken in affirming that Belgium will gain genuine advantages and will see opening before her, on a new continent, happy and wide perspectives.
Believe me, dear Minister,
Your very devoted,
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
For achieving sixty years on the British throne (and her others) Belgium sends congratulations to her friend and relative Queen Elizabeth II!
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with King Leopold III and Princess Lilian in 1966
Queen Paola and Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Paola, King Baudouin, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Queen Fabiola and King Albert II
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Queen Fabiola, King Baudouin and Princess Margaret
Queen Elizabeth II and King Baudouin
The Emperor of Japan, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the state funeral of King Baudouin, I think the only foreign funeral the Queen has ever attended, a show of her great friendship with the King.