Page 4, 17th March 1950

17th March 1950
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Page 4, 17th March 1950 — The Tragedy of Belgium's King
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The Tragedy of Belgium's King

By Michael de la Bedogere

SUNDAY'S referendum in Belgium for or against King Leopold was really a culminating act in a tragedy which began in

France and England ten years ago.

King Leopold has never outlived the bitter criticisms made against

him in the heat of the moment in the dark days before Dunkirk.

Those criticisms, which we believe to have been deeply unfair to a monarch who wished to stand by his army and his people, were seized upon by the left element in Belgium whose aim has always been, despite its protests, the overthrow of the monarchy, because the monarchy is Catholic and a defence of the Belgian people against the secularist and socialist tin the fully Marxist sense) revolution.

With considerable ingenuity point after point has been utilised against the King in the confident expectation that no exiled monarch could survive such criticism against his public and private life.

King Leopold has well enough understood the nature of the manoeuvre and its ultimate aim. and he has courageously and patiently fought against the revolution and for all that a Christian monarchy means to his people in these days.

Victory of Secularism Unfortunately. his gallant fight has been from the start against hopeless odds, and in the circumstances he would probably have been wiser to abdicate at a much earlier stage in favour of his son. despite the heavy risk to the monarchy involved in this step. for the fall of the King would not have appeased the enemies of the monarchy.

A monarch cannot successfully return to a nation divided by unscrupulous propaganda during his exile. A monarch is a symbol of unity, and once the unity has been openly broken his monarchic fumelion ceases.

It is true that not even a king is above the law which, in modern times at any rate, rests with the people as a whole. That is why there were really only two courses open to the Belgian people. The accusations against the King should either have been set aside or he should have been solemnly tried by his country for his alleged breach of the constitution. But his enemies were too clever for that. The King could hardly have been found guilty, so they preferred to keep him in exile, while long preparations were made for the referendum which, short of an impossible overwhelming vote in his favour, must destroy him personally and lastingly undermine the whole conception of monarchy in Belgium.

Strange as it may seem, the long drawn-out tragedy which is a victory for secularism just at the time when Europe can least afford the triumph of irreligion, has proved to be the outcome of words spoken by such champions of the " Right " as Mr. Winston Churchill and M. Reynaud.

ANGLICANS AND THE

scHooLs

THE Anglican Canon Howard

Dobson has written a valuable letter to the Spectator in which he shows that the present problem of the Catholic schools is really just as much the problem of the Anglican schools.

" I have no sympathy with the Roman Catholic campaign for preferential treatment." he writes. " I have every sympathy with what the Roman Catholics desire. for we desire it, too, but it is too late. 1 he pass has been sold. We ought to have fought the building regulations front the start, for they have nothing to do with real education at all. and we should have seen that the Slate was not, as some supposed, behaving very generously towards the voluntary schools, but was in fact prepared to pay a very high price to obtain control of therm" We must protest, however, against the suggestion that Catholics are out for preferential treatment.

The late Cardinal Hinsley was most anxious for the defence of all religious schools on the basis of the natural rights of all parents to have their children educated according to their faith. Alas, Archbishop Temple, in other ways so admirable a man, felt himself unable to stand out against the drift of modern educational reform which harmonised with his own political outlook. The consequence was that Catholics had to fight alone and in far less favourable conditions, not only for themselves, but for the Anglican minorities which, with Canon Dobson. understood the real religious issue at stake.

Occasionally, Catholics may since that time have given the not unforgiv.eable impression that they are no longer interested in the Anglican fate. But this has certainly never been the view of this paper, which has constantly declared that the fight for religious schools should be conducted on the broadest possible front. We do not ask for preferential treatment ; the fact is that we have been isolated.through the unfortunate defection of Anglican leaders.

THE NEW PARLIAMENT

THE early days of the new Par liament will hardly have rai,sed the prestige in the eyes of the electorate of either of the almost equally divided parties.

It is perfectly true that government in this country is not by referendum, and that therefore Labour is entitled to take its small majority as a mandate for carrying out its programme, even though that small majority is cancelled out by its substantial minority with the electorate as a whole, But it should be remembered that our constitutional practice • was evolved in times when no radical differences separated the political parties. With a measure so radical in present circumstances as the nationalisation of iron and steel, a measure in effect just put before the vote of the electorate, we are dealing with something totally different from the issues of the past. In the circumstances. the Government would have shown sounder judgment in letting it he understood that the Act would not he put into operation for the time being.

On the other side, the Opposition looks like coming out rather badly from its somewhat reckless electoral claims and promises. At any rate, Mr. Bevan, whose housing record is very far from being above reproach, had no difficulty in challenging the Opposition to stand by and make good electoral claims hardly consistent with their own earlier (and wiser) insistence on substantial economies if the country is to pull through its coming economic difficulties.

Parliamentary leaders on both sides, we believe, will still further lower their own prestige in the people's eyes if they lack the courage in the present equal state of the parties to insist on realistic and moderate courses designed to ensure vitally needed economies which need not be inconsistent with the intelligent planning of the real priorities, of which housing is certainly the first The Opposition at least is right, we believe, in holding that an economic housing programme could be achieved by doing away with a good deal of the present control whose purpose is not the building of more houses, hut the socialist control of the houses built.

SERETSE KHAMA

ONE must sympathise with the

Government in its having to face so early in the new Parliament the excessively difficult question raised in connection with Se retse Khania.

We do riot believe that the electorate is really edified by the attempts to make party capital out of the problem, for it is perfectly well aware that the Tories, had they been in power, would have acted in much the same way as the Government.

As Christians, we for our part oppose in principle any colour-bar, and we hold that if the parties concerned wish it, then marriages between black and white should not be opposed or socially penalised. But It is mere demagogy to pretend that in all circumstances and anywhere such matters can proceed smoothly and without raising grave practical difficulties.

It is possible to condemn as wrong and short-sighted Dr. Malan's policy in South Africa and yet at the same time to acknowledge that the white race in South Africa is faced with an anxious future and has the right to seek a formula which will ensure the peaceful development of the country In the interests of both white and black.

It looks as though the Government has in fact blundered over this particularly anxious case, hut it would he better for all concerned in this country and in South Africa if it was helped to find a constructive solution instead of being attacked allround on the facile. superficial and largely sentimental outcry against the colour-bar and the rights of the married couple concerned.

AIR DISASTER

E circumstances of the air disaster in South Wales have inevitably deeply shocked the whole country. Sudden death in the midst of joy and festivity must always profoundly impress us human beings who, however much we may try to forget the solemn truth, always realise in our hearts that the moment of death will he the acid test of the worth of our lives, War, the hazards of modern rapid and mechanised life and, above all, the widespread loss of the sense of the supernatural have largely conspired to deceive modern man into the illusion that death and what happens after, if anything, are details of relatively little importance. So much so that it now takes the shock of so gruesome a tragedy to recall to men generally the fundamental truths of life and death.

As far as one can see, air travel must always involve the possibility of such tragedies, for with it mechanical fault or human error— failings which can never be entirely overcome — will always involve the risk of absolute disaster and the danger of death for all concerned.

This hazard will presumably keep some people from ever flying. For the others, there is perhaps some blessing in the constant reminder that however far man may progress and defy the elements, there always remains the final risk of death in life—indeed that this risk, while it may become rarer, actually becomes more decisive and tragic with progress.




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