Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else ) In Ten Easy Lessons


Yet another Arfastic guest-post 😀

Belgian Royal Couple: King Albert II. and Queen Paola. Pengovsky’s been to their crib 🙂

It was an attempt of our neighbouring countries to have a king on the throne with ties to just about everyone of them, so as they would be guaranteed to have a friendly nation and retain their favourite battlefield. Little did they know that over time, the power of the royal family would dissipate and become all but non- existent…


It used to be a powerful monarchy, just like everywhere else in the 19th century. But just like everywhere else, the nobility got overtaken by capitalist wealth and the introduction of democracy. And after WWII, the King Issue arose and that was kind of the start of a slow, fatal blow to the Belgian monarchy, which has become the head of state only in name, with an ever increasing number of voices on Flemish side to restrict the king’s role to merely ceremonial. And if you know who’s to come, that would not be such a bad idea in my opinion. But then, I am a republican by nature (not the American kind; the kind that opposes monarchist rule)…


… Is not on the menu today because, frankly, while it has some political significance, I would like to stick to what I know best about them and leave the rest to Wikipedia, where you can read all about the monarchs up to and including the ones I’ll address today. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of subject matter there which could translate well into a historical royal soap opera. But it would just take me too long and I’d probably bore the death out of you anyway…


When young Baudouin (Boudewijn in Dutch) rose to the throne, he had a lot of public sympathy. After all, he lost his mum in a car accident and had to put up with – allegedly – a wicked stepmother who was rumoured to be after his cherry; a capital sin in the then very catholic Belgium. And he lost the Congo Colony, established by his great- grand uncle king Leopold II (whose bloody reign of terror decimated the Congolese populace after he established it as a colony). He got even more sympathy when he married the Spanish Fabiola de Mora y Aragon. A Spanish beauty for sure, but unfortunately also even more catholic than the pope. Still, after several miscarriages, the people loved and supported them, even though it was clear that religion had instilled some sort of messianic complex in him. Later evidence about talks between him and the dignitaries of those days clearly show that. Imagine that : Jesus came back in the shape of Belgian king Baudouin… I don’t think so. :mrgreen:

But times change. And Belgium became less and less devout. And Baudouin became more of a fanatic catholic, letting Opus Dei and the Charismatic Movement into the Royal Court, largely due to Fabby. Also, he decided not to sign the Abortion Act in April 1990, allowing abortion under some circumstances, saying that it went against his conscience. The prime minister of that time, Wilfried Martens, had to perform a trick by declaring the king ?unfit to rule’ for one day so parliament could sign the act to make it law. So our king was declared insane for a day. That’s Belgium for ya…

And what to say about the persistent rumour that after he let Congo have its independence, he knew of and agreed with the arrest and assassination of Congo’s Communist leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961? All this surfaced after he died, though, long after the facts.

Nevertheless, Baudouin still garnered a lot of support from the people, because he showed interest in them and always was the first to arrive after natural or other disasters had stricken a portion of Belgium’s populace. When he died on the last day of July ’93, it caused a mass reaction and people queued up at the palace for a week to greet his dead body. He was the last king that kind of kept Belgium together.


Some sort of crisis emerged after Baudouin died. His brother Albert’s eldest son, Filip, was originally destined to become king, but was found unfit for the job. So his dad, who up till then had led a life of leisure, parties, mistresses and fast cars and motor cycles, grudgingly took to the throne, kind of like Emperor Claudius who was also a victim of circumstance (although Baudouin was anything but a Caligula :P). There’s not a lot to say about Albert, other than he is somewhat invisible, which is fine to most Belgians. That and the fact that in back in the day, he married the very hot Italian princess Paola Rufo di Calabria. She’s rumoured to have had her fair share of affairs when her hubby was doing the same, and given her looks back in the day, you can’t blame her. One of Albert’s sidesteps brought forth an illegitimate daughter : Delphine Boël. When this became public knowledge (it had been known for a while but never said out loud) the public outrage was more about him not acknowledging his daughter than having her in the first place. But The Palace won’t hear of it, to this day and to the dismay of poor Delphine.

And the royal women are a feisty bunch too, to say the least. Baudouin’s step mother, princess Liliane, couldn’t stand Fabiola and the dislike was mutual, so when Fabby became queen, she gave Liliane her marching orders, together with former king Leopold (who had to abdicate because of his dubious attitude during WW II in favour of Baudouin in 1950; the so called ?King Issue’).
Fabby didn’t like any of the other women either, as she was at odds with Dolce Paola. Guess what happened when Paola became queen? You got it : Fabby got the boot herself and aside of her religious fervor, is nowadays mostly recognized for her absurd hair style and choice in hats (she’s the one on the right). Oh, and she used to write fairy tales too (no surprise there :P)…

There is a lot more to say about his sons, Filip and Laurent, though. Compared to Filip, Prince Charles is a jovial chap. Filip walks, talks and acts like he has a rod up his rectum and is equally convinced that he – and I quote – ?is on a mission (from God)’. He got that idea in the aforementioned Charismatic Movement and from his uncle and aunt, key supporters of the CM within the palace. Also, the future king is supposed to remain neutral about everything involving politics, but since he feels he IS on a mission, he repeatedly has spoken out in favor of or against policies and even political parties. His latest blunder was at the Palace’s new year reception for the press, where he summoned two editors in chief and read them the riot act about their critical views on him. A famous stand up comedian has made a living just by chronicling the acts of stupidity of both Filip and his little brother year after year. Best known quote of Filip, after his first daughter was born : ?It’s a female’ (instead of ?It’s a girl’). Filip doesn’t speak Dutch very well, you see. Another reason why no one up North wants him to be king. He’s also rumoured to be gay and his kids being the product of artificial insemination. Whether or not that’s true can’t be determined at this time. It’s most likely a wild rumour, if you ask me. Sure, he has a rod up his butt, but that doesn’t mean squat in these days of sexual liberty, now does it? 😉 Incidentally, he shares his birthday with… me. Oh, the joy! 😈 Luckily, that’s where all similarities end…

And the prime beef of the family has to be Laurent. Everyone seems to be kind of moving between pity and ridicule when it comes to Laurent. Pity, because he’s always been the wild child, is not very intelligent and is clearly not liked by the rest of the family members. The late king Baudouin is rumoured to have sanctioned an abortion for one of Laurent’s girlfriends, after having gotten the blessing of Belgium’s cardinal Danneels, and he had a law passed that enabled women to become throne successors, in order to prevent Laurent from ever having a chance at the throne (his sister Astrid is now third in line, Laurent’s now 11th).

He lives a rebellious life, had several affairs, one of which was reportedly with the aging Natalija Verboten of Belgium, Wendy van Wanten (trust me, you DON’T want to know what her name stands for), who gave birth to a son by the name of Clément.
He loves fast and gas- guzzling cars, but at the same time has a foundation that ?studies’ ecological projects. However, this is only a construction to keep him occupied, installed by one of the previous governments.
Recently, he was named and summoned in a corruption scandal in the Belgian Navy, where the Navy had ?donated’ their money to the restauration of Laurent’s Villa Clémentine (daughter of king Leopold II, also much a rebel) and to his foundation. Laurent testified and said he knew nothing about the money. An enraged Albert then paid back to the Navy what Laurent supposedly owed him.

Laurent also complained that he ?was poor and didn’t have succifient funds to live on and support his family’ (he’s married to Claire Coombs, daughter of an English father and a Belgian mother and has one daughter and twin sons).
He’s also the royal with at least a – questionable – sense of humor, but you’d have to at least know Dutch rather well in order to get his jokes. He’s been interviewed drunk, dressed up as Santa Claus and at festivals (which he called ?sports’). His interest in beautiful women is also highly documented. And his love for dogs is a point of ridicule for the whole nation.

Nevertheless, when the Dutroux affair happened, he was the only royal who stopped his car when an angry mob was outside the Palace of Justice and tried to talk to them in order to get them to calm down. And he bravely took some insults (?Why don’t you go and write another book about doggies!’; a reference to him saying he ?wrote a book about doggies’. No, they really don’t speak Dutch all that well in the royal family). Laurent is a controversial guy, but if there still exists some sympathy for the royals in the Belgian populace, I think it lies largely with him.

So there you have it : sex, no drugs (that I know of, although… Looking at Filip, he must be on a permanent high :twisted:) more sex, religion, even more sex and more religion and a bit of rock ?n roll at the end. That’s the Belgian monarchy for you. I don’t mind them existing, but I feel the institution is outdated and absorbs too much of our national budget. If we have to work for a living, why shouldn’t they? But chances are that the institution will become ceremonial, largely because Filip is viewed as a liability for the Belgian reputation. So we’ll see about that in a few years. At times, their antics are highly entertaining, but mostly they exist in a different dimension, far removed from the real life you and I live in. Vive la république!! :mrgreen:
Next week my post will coincide with the Belgian National Holiday. High time for some scandals, methinks… 😉

P.S. : Now I’m thinking of it : at the end of this guest series, I’d like to answer some questions you might have about all this. I’m very busy right now, so I don’t always have the time to answer right after posting. So perhaps you can think of some questions, I’ll provide you with an email address at the end of this series and I’ll pick 20 to answer. How about it?

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

7 thoughts on “Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else ) In Ten Easy Lessons”

  1. Belgian scandals… huh – that’s gonna be a whole mini-series unto itself :))) Dutroux, dioxin, Augusta, the list is (I believe) long and destinguished 😉

    BTW: Is it just me or did one of your kings re-mary after his first wife died? I have a distinct memory of a rather feeble looking king being married to two hot babes…

    And of course: What does Wendy van Wanten’s name stand for? 😈

  2. Leopold III remarried after his first wife, queen Astrid – the Diana avant la lettre in her day – died in a car crash in Küssnacht, Switzerland in 1935, merely one year after Leo III had been crowned. He was driving the car, by the way. He remarried Liliane Baels, daughter of a former province governor. This, as well as Leo’s dubious attitude during WW II (he negotiated with Hitler about making Belgium a sovereign state within Gross Deutschland both through his mother, Elizabeth of Bavaria who was close with ‘Uncle Heiny’ Himmler’s personal physician. Big aside : this also resulted in getting some Jews off the deportation list, so contacts like that had their positive benefits as well), led to what we call ‘The King Issue’. The issue was : should Leo be allowed to return to Belgium after the war and take his place as king again? In the only binding referendum this country has ever had, he was allowed by a narrow margin (58%) to return. Ironically, the Flemish voted overwhelmingly for his return, while nowadays they are the most vehement republicans and the Walloon government is looking at Albert as the glue that keeps this country together (and their pockets lined with Flemish money, see last week’s guest post)…

  3. Oh, and Wendy van Wanten can be loosely translated as ‘Wendy Knows Her Stuff, because ‘van wanten weten’ means exactly that. No guessing what ‘stuff’ she implies to know… :mrgreen:

  4. It seems to me that many Belgians, you included :), would be bored if you didn’t have this lunatic royal family to make fun of. Just look at the number of lines you wasted to report on their scandals. I think you should keep your royalties in some large enough castle, have them grow roses (or whatever) that can be named after each single member of this noble family. I do have another suggestion about what to do with them but the days of kmečki punti (peasant’s uprisings) are over and it would be difficult to find big enough bonefire for the purpose.

  5. @ alcessa : didn’t say she did, said she implied it. It’s all about suggestion with her. And singing, apparently. Aren’t these the things the notorious Natalija Verboten does as well? 😆 But Wendy is getting on in age. Her heyday was about 15 years ago.
    @ venera : I’m not really bored, but thanks for asking. Or implying. :p The royals messing up don’t interest me in my daily life (as opposed to, say, the mother of my Slovene ex gf, I kid you not) but it makes good copy for a guest post over here, even if you prefer to see it as wasting lines. :mrgreen:
    Your point about keeping them around just for entertainment value is valid, because, as I said, at least one stand up comedian makes a living off heckling their antics. But if you see how much they cost the state in tax payer’s money, I’d rather be entertained some other way (which I usually am anyway) and have that money either back in my own pocket or spent on something worthwile.
    Oh, and we Belgians (if there exist such a species :P) are good bonfire builders… 😉

  6. I don’t have very much time to read all of this, with school and work and everything, but this is really exciting to read about.

    I was just wondering though, were there ever and Baudouin families members kicked out for being communists?

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