The Belgians celebrate their National Day on 21 July, although why exactly that date, most of them do not know. It is, in fact, the day Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha officially became the first King of the newly-founded country, now exactly 180 years ago.
As you may have guessed from the flag, this is not about the famous railway station in London, nor about the equally famous story of Wallis Simpson hailing a taxi after a heated argument with Edward VIII. Tomorrow will be another National Day for Belgium without government – the second in row – and as usual, the King addressed the nation on the day before. A speech much anticipated by the political and royal-watching world, as it became increasingly obvious that the King was unhappy with the current situation. But the King isn’t just unhappy. This time there’s no mistake. The King’s cross.
In early March, Andrew, Duke of York, was – yet again – in the middle of a major controversy: the favourite son of Queen Elizabeth II was linked to convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and many other dubious “friends”, putting his position as trade envoy for the UK (temporarily) in question. Some weeks later, his Belgian colleague, Prince Laurent, also caused havoc, after word came out the Prince had made a trip to Congo against the express wishes of the government and the King.
Today it made the front pages of most Belgian newspapers. King Albert has an illegitimate sister, born from a romance between King Leopold III and Austrian-Belgian ice skate champion Liselotte Landbeck. The information emerged in a new book about the Belgian monarchy which focuses on the period after Queen Astrid’s death until 2002, the year in which Lilian died. The Palace declines to comment on the subject. “We do not comment on personal issues,” the Palace spokesman says.
The times are changing, and – taking in account the age of many of the monarchs worldwide – it is safe to assume that the coming years, we will see at least a few changes in the succession lines. Time to take a closer look at all those heirs, how they have prepared for their duties and how they are perceived among the public. This blog will discuss Prince Philippe, the Duke of Brabant, heir to the – shaky – Belgian throne.
Today it is exactly 50 years since King Baudouin gave his Belgians a most wonderful Queen: on 15 December 1960, he married doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón. It was a cold December day, but that didn’t stop thousands from lining the streets to see a glimpse of the happy couple. Time to take a moment to consider the wedding of this iconic royal couple of the 20th century.
Today is the 105th birthday of Queen Astrid of Belgium. In honour of this day, I have written a book review about one of the biographies written about her: Vännen Min (My Friend) by Anna Sparre. In this touching and warm biography and autobiography, Anna Sparre talks of her friendship with Queen Astrid, the fourth Queen of the Belgians.
Every year on 15 November, Belgium celebrates its King and - as a matter of course – also the monarchy. Although it may not be all that self-evident in a country torn apart by republican and separatist tendencies, it is, especially these days, a matter of respect for the sovereign. It is therefore meaningful that not only did the three children of King Albert attend the usual ceremony, but so did the entire government and numerous politicians from different political backgrounds.
The First World War officially ended at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918 after the signing of the armistice by representatives of the Allied forces and the German government in the railway carriage of Marshal Foch in the Compiègne Forest, France. This war had been grinding on since August 1914 and there had been massive loss of life on all sides.
Belgium is a political mess, there’s no way around it. For about four years now, the country has basically been paralysed by the differences and tensions between the (politicians of the) two main populations of the country: the Flemish and the Walloon. After months of difficult negotiations, the water seems deeper than ever. And at the margins of the chaos caused by these childish politicians who put ego before country, the role of the one man who has been a constant in this political turmoil is brought into question.