A Throne in Brussels

Brussels Travel Blog

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Paul Belien claims his book "A Throne in Brussels" is the only history of Belgium in the English language, which is about as accurate as the rest of the novel.

To set the scene, in Belien's Belgium, Flanders was one of the richest parts of Europe from the early middle ages up to 1830 (the Belgian revolution that lead to the founding of the modern Belgian state), when the Belgian monarchy started a war of attrition against the Flemish that continues to today. He ignores the reality of a decline in the wealth of Flanders from the 13th century that accelerated after the beginning of the 80 years war in 1568, and the role of the Spanish occupation and Catholic Church in the economic stagnation. Belien continually pontificates on Belgium being not a real country but an artificial country, as if it is unique in borders being shaped by conquest, political alliance and deals between kings.

The "history" is still readable up until the 20th century, where it enters a delusional and confused rewriting of history. Belien ignores the peaceful Flemish nationalists and blatantly lies about the role of the extremist Flemish nationalists in collaborating with the Nazis. In his mind, Flanders was the only region of Europe that did not have a local fascist party to collaborate with the Nazis, and the VNV (by coincidence the precursors of his own party) were democratic-minded and anti-racist, only joining the Nazis for the good of Flanders. By contrast, the anti-democratic pro-racist pro-Belgian French speakers, who Belien sees as the natural collaborators of the Nazis, wanted to join but instead joined the resistance because they hated the Flemish that much. The VNV then managed in collaboration with the Nazis to save more Jews than any other organisation, and they themselves would have been sent to concentration camps except the Nazis were afraid of the Flemish uprising that would occur if they moved against the VNV.

You would think that the Nazi plan ended in 1945. Not so, Belien argues. Pro-Nazi King Leopold III, via his adviser Henri de Man who mentored Paul-Henri Spaak, managed to implement the King's Nazi-inspired plan for a pan-European dictatorship via founding the EU. Or maybe the EU is a conspiracy by French-speaking Belgians to keep Flanders subjugated, he is a little unclear on this point.

One thing Belien is very clear about, I should be very very scared about stepping foot outside my apartment. As part of a Francophone conspiracy the Belgian government has made massive numbers of French-speaking Islamic extremist terrorists Belgian citizens, to keep Brussels out of the hands of the Flemish forever. The extremist mosques now run Brussels and even have their own police force roaming the streets to enforce strict Islamic law. Oddly, I have never noticed any of them, despite living in one of the most immigrant-rich neighbourhoods in Belgium and no one seems to have told the young North African children in the park across the road from me that they are not mean to be playing games with the Flemish and Walloons.

As a history, "A Throne in Brussels" is worse than useless. But it is valuable as an insight into the mind of modern neo-fascist parties like Vlaams Belang, the British National Party and One Nation. I'm still not sure if he believes everything he wrote or if he has justified his deceptions as contributing to his cause. I am sure that the cordon sanitaire around Vlaams Belang needs to stay - Belien is intelligent enough to get enough fact in his book to distort the fictions. Vlaams Belang's pollution might become obvious after a term in office, but the racist hate they monger would cause enormous harm to real people. Out of power their victims are not just the immigrants and Francophones he preaches against, but also reasonable Flemish nationalists, a sour distaste left on their political stance by Vlaams Belang's claim to represent them.
yheleen says:
thanks for sharing info about Brussels
Posted on: Dec 14, 2009
Adrian_Liston says:
Actually no, we've never been to that square. It isn't far from St Gilles town hall, so I know the area, and we've been meaning to go to the Horta Museum just across the road, but we haven't made it yet.

I really like St Gilles as an area though, very mixed living. You know there is a small square in St Gilles near the train station (Place de Bethleem) where there is a pub that people go to every week to recite poetry in Brussels dialect Flemish? Just to keep the language alive.

BTW, Dutch must be a great language for scrabble, letting you add words together.
Posted on: Nov 30, 2009
Adrian_Liston says:
On the citizenship laws, as far as I can tell they have been legislated for but won't be implemented until the actual test has been agreed upon. With a little luck it'll take another three years to agree on the test so I can skip it.

I agree that language is important, otherwise I wouldn't be trying to learn Flemish. But using a punishment system doesn't help anyone. So instead of having a citizen who doesn't speak the language you have a permanent resident who doesn't speak the language? I can't see any advantage in that. Plus the legislation just requires the applicant to pass a language test in either Dutch or French (not German even). In reality, most of the unemployed immigrants already speak French, and need Dutch and/or English to become more employable.

BTW, there is already a language course available to all immigrants, in both French and Dutch. But there are three stupid things. Firstly, you are only allowed to start it once you have your work visa (so Lydia wasn't allowed to take the course during the three months she was waiting for her visa). Secondly, it is only during the week during the day (so you can't do it if you have a job). Thirdly, it is free unless you don't pass - then you get fined (which is a big reason not to start).

On Flemish independence, my argument isn't that civic nationalists shouldn't try for independence just because Belgium works. Afterall, I am pro-Republic for Australia and Australia is working as a monarchy. What I am arguing (like you, because I enjoy the discussion) is that because the practical difference is minor it is hard to get the public's attention for the civic nationalist argument. The thoughtful civic argument has to compete for media space against the latest stupid racist thing Vlaams Belang has said, the last political scandal, who is winning America's Top Model, etc. I think it is an unfortunate truth that today you need to have a thirty second sound-bite to sell to get more than 10% support.
Posted on: Nov 30, 2009
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