Kingdom of Belgium
(Dutch: Koninkrijk België; French: Royaume de Belgique; German:
Königreich Belgien) is a country in northwest Europe bordered
by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France and is one of
the founding and core members of the European Union. Belgium has
a population of over ten million people, in an area of around 30,000
square kilometres (11,700 square miles).
the cultural boundary between Germanic and Romance Europe, it is
linguistically divided. Mainly two languages are spoken in Belgium:
Dutch is spoken by the 6 million people in Flanders to the north,
French by the 3.5 million Walloons in the south. The capital, Brussels,
is officially bilingual, while the majority of its residents speak
French. Around 70.000 people live in the German-speaking Community
in the east of the country. This linguistic diversity often leads
to political and cultural conflict and is reflected in Belgium's
complex system of government and political history.
derives its name from the Latin name of the most northern part of
Gaul, Gallia Belgica, named after a group of mostly Celtic tribes,
Belgae. Historically, Belgium has been a part of the Low Countries,
which also include the Netherlands and Luxembourg and were covering
a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states.
From the end of the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century, it
was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. From the sixteenth
century until the Belgian revolution in 1830, Belgium, at that time
called the Southern Netherlands, was the site of many battles between
the European powers, and has been dubbed "the battlefield of
Europe" or "the cockpit of Europe". More recently,
Belgium was a founding member of the European Union, hosting its
headquarters, as well as those of many other major international
organisations, such as NATO.
the past two millennia, the area that is now known as Belgium
has seen significant demographic, political and cultural upheavals.
The first well-documented population move was the conquest of the
region by the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, followed in
the 5th century by the Germanic Franks. The Franks established the
Merovingian kingdom, which became the Carolingian Empire in the
8th century. During the Middle Ages, the Low Countries were split
into many small feudal states. Most of them were united in the course
of the 14th and 15th centuries by the house of Burgundy as the Burgundian
Netherlands. These states gained a degree of autonomy in the 15th
century and were thereafter named the Seventeen Provinces.
history of Belgium can be distinguished from that
of the Low Countries from the 16th century. The Eighty Years' War
(1568–1648), divided the Seventeen Provinces into the United
Provinces in the north and the Southern Netherlands in the south.
The southern provinces were ruled successively by the Spanish and
the Austrian Habsburgs. Until independence, the Southern Netherlands
were sought after by numerous French conquerors and were the theatre
of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th
and 18th centuries. Following the Campaigns of 1794 in the French
Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories
that were never under Habsburg rule, such the Bishopric of Liège—were
overrun by France, ending Spanish-Austrian rule in the region. The
reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the
Netherlands occurred at the end of the French Empire in 1815.
1830 Belgian Revolution led to the establishment of an independent,
Catholic and neutral Belgium under a provisional government. Since
the installation of Leopold I as king in 1831, Belgium has been
a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Between independence
and World War II, the democratic system evolved from an oligarchy
characterised by two main parties, the Catholics and the Liberals,
to a universal suffrage system that has included a third party,
the Belgian Labour Party, and a strong role for the trade unions.
Originally, French, which was the adopted language of the nobility
and the bourgeoisie, was the official language. The country has
since developed a bilingual Dutch-French system.
Berlin Conference of 1885 agreed to hand over Congo to King Leopold
II as his private possession, called the Congo Free State. In 1908,
it was ceded to Belgium as a colony, henceforth called the Belgian
Congo. Belgium's neutrality was violated in 1914, when Germany invaded
Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan. The former German colonies
Ruanda-Urundi—now called Rwanda and Burundi—were occupied
by the Belgian Congo in 1916. They were mandated in 1924 to Belgium
by the League of Nations. Belgium was again invaded by Germany in
1940 during the blitzkrieg offensive. Belgium was occupied until
the winter of 1944-45 when liberated by Allied troops. The Belgian
Congo gained its independence on 30 July 1960 during the Congo Crisis,
and Ruanda-Urundi became independent in 1962.
World War II, Belgium joined NATO and, together with the Netherlands
and Luxembourg, formed the Benelux group of nations. Belgium is
also one of the six founding members of the 1951 established European
Coal and Steel Community, and the 1957 established European Economic
Community and European Atomic Energy Community. Belgium hosts the
headquarters of NATO and a major part of the European Union's institutions
and administrations, including the European Commission, the Council
of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions
of the European Parliament, as well as parts of its administration.
the 20th century, and in particular since World War II, the history
of Belgium has been increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its
two main communities. This period saw a rise in intercommunal tensions,
and the unity of the Belgian state has come under scrutiny. Through
constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, regionalisation of
the unitary state had led to the establishment of a three-tiered
system of federalism, linguistic-community and regional governments,
a compromise designed to minimise linguistic tensions. Nowadays,
these federal entities uphold more legislative power than the national
La Brabançonne (Song of Brabant)
- the National Anthem of Belgium
According to legend, the Belgian national anthem
was written in September 1830, during the Belgian Revolution, by
a young revolutionary called Jenneval, who read the lyrics during
a meeting at the Aigle d'Or café.
Jenneval, whose real name was Alexandre Dechet (sometimes
known as Louis-Alexandre Dechet), did in fact write the Brabançonne.
He was at the time an actor at the theatre where, in August 1830,
the revolution started which led to independence from the Netherlands.
Jenneval died in the war of independence. François Van Campenhout
composed the accompanying score and it was first performed in September
In 1860, Belgium formally adopted the song and music
as its national anthem, although the prime minister at the time
edited lyrics attacking the Dutch Prince of Orange.
O Belgique, ô mère chérie,
À toi nos cœurs, à toi nos bras,
À toi notre sang, ô Patrie!
Nous le jurons tous: tu vivras!
Tu vivras toujours grande et belle
Et ton invincible unité
Aura pour devise immortelle:
Le Roi, la Loi, la Liberté! (3x)
Official Dutch-language text
O dierbaar België, O heilig
land der Vad'ren,
Onze ziel en ons hart zijn u gewijd.
Aanvaard ons kracht en bloed van ons ad'ren,
Wees ons doel in arbeid en in strijd.
Bloei, o land, in eendracht niet te breken;
Wees immer u zelf en ongeknecht,
Het woord getrouw, dat ge onbevreesd moogt spreken,
Voor Vorst, voor Vrijheid en voor Recht. (3x)
O liebes Land, o Belgiens Erde
dir unser Herz, dir unsere Hand
dir unser Blut, dem Heimatherde
wir schwören's dir, o Vaterland
So blühe froh in voller Schöne
zu der die Freiheit dich erzog
und fortan singen deine Söhne:
Gesetz und König und die Freiheit hoch!
Unofficial translation of
the French lyrics
O Belgium, O beloved mother,
Thine our hearts, thine our arms,
Thine our blood, o Fatherland!
We all swear it: thou shalt live!
Thou shalt live, ever great and beautiful
And thy invincible unity
Shall have for everlasting motto:
The King, the Law, and Liberty!
Unofficial translation of
the Dutch lyrics
O beloved Belgium, O holy land of
Our souls and hearts to thee are consecrated.
Accept our strength and the blood of our veins,
Be our purpose in work and struggle.
Prosper, O country, in harmony unbreakable;
Be forever thyself and never servile,
True to the word that thou shouldst fearlessly declare:
For King, for Freedom, and for Justice.