Napoléon Bonaparte, the first Emperor of France, wrote about Belgium – while he was trying to invade the country – “It is home of the bravest of the brave.”
The Kingdom of Belgium, the tiny nation of 11 million (160,000 of whom live in the capital city of Brussels) has continuously stood for their own independence.
After years of French and Dutch rule, the Belgian Revolution in 1830 Belges come together to demand independence from the United Kingdon of the Netherlands. This revolution climaxed on the night of August 25, 1930. Many upper-class Belges were attending the opera, the audience’s night was concluded with a performance of the patriotic song “Amour sacré de la patrie” (Sacred love of Fatherland). Following the performance, the audience joined the riots taking place in the street and demanded Belgian Independence.
The riots continued for several months. In December 1830, five major European powers (Austria, Britain, France, Prussia and Russia) recognized Belgium as an independent country. The Belgian Constitution of 1831 confirmed this.
Flash forward to World War I – the conflict that nearly destroyed Europe. The German forces demanded passage through Belgium to invade France. The Belgian King at the time, the beloved Albert I, famously replied to Germany:
We are a country, not a road.
The King took control of the German forces and, in preparation for the German invasion, escorted his Queen and children across the Royal Garden on horseback to the Belgian Parliament. It was there that he gave his most renown address. It was there he proclaimed:
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.
For me, this incredible story taught me so much about this tiny European nation. How Belgium, which I only knew for their chocolate, beer and waffles (all of which was delicious) serves as a country of great influence. How Belgium, home of the bravest of the brave, stood up against one of the greatest European powers.
Tills nästa gång, (Until next time)