Page 2, 24th March 1950

24th March 1950
Page 2
Page 2, 24th March 1950 — KING LEOPOLD Flemish and Walloon
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Organisations: Congress
People: Leopold
Locations: Brussels, Antwerp, Vienna, Louvain

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KING LEOPOLD Flemish and Walloon

Sta,-I am astonished at your notes on King Leopold. Please, do not think I blame you personally: practically the whole British press leas showu a remarkable ignorance of what is going On in Belgium. May I put the issue slightly better in perspective ? Belgium is a nation which was artificially created by the definitely reactionary Congress of Vienna in 1815. Before this date there was the Dutch Republic, and before the Dutch Republic there were the Low Countries. That part of the Low Countries which centred round Antwerp, Brugge, Ghent and reached Brussels and Louvain was the famous land of Flanders. it was these Flemish people who developed the weavers' trade, book-trade, painting, music and tither civilizing forces to a truly international standard. •

The Flemish remained however a simple people, deeply rooted in their soil, and keenly alert to their freedom and independence. During the uneasy period of Austrian and Spanish, and then again Austrian domination, they often provided great diplomats and exercised R deep influence on the shaping of modern Europe.

In the beginning of the last century Belgium was made an independent country and included both Flemish and the Walloons of the East. These are French by inclination and language. This Eastern part suddenly took on an added importance because of the industrial revolutiou : most of the mineral resources of Belgium are roughly situated in the South-Easternpart. The shortlived French domination gave these good people very high ideas : not merely of fraternity, etc., but also of imitating French ways and customs, particularly that of a very enlightened and very lax attitude towards the Catholic religion. They made much money and began to dominate the scene, to emphasize which they acquired titles in huge quantities on the principle of mass production. They began to look down on the Flemish, their ways and their language, as only halfcivilized although they produced great painters, writers and musicians. The antagonism has increased and has been exploited by 'non-Belgian forces. I remember the resentment of the Flemish against the ways the Flemish soldier was kept away from promotion but constantly sent to where, during the first World War, most casualties were expected. It is the great glory of King Leopold that he set himself up as a conciliatory force. He refused to be a puppet of one side or the other, but had his children educated in a liberal way, learning the two languages, patronizing both cultural developments, supporting the Flemish Universities as well as the French ones. This roused a strong Walloon opposition, but it gave the oppressed Flemish self-confidence and strength. The curious part of this issue is that Leopold's case has shown up the modern falsity of identifying the working class with the industrial class. Work is as diverse as human life, a principle often forgotten by the Socialists.

If with these notes. too rough 1 admit, you look at the result of the election you will see why the Flemish and the Catholic vote went to Leopold and the Walloons either abstained or voted against him.

Leopold has shown that he is still as determined to let the monarchy be a cornerstone for unification of his people and he deserves far more credit than our insular and illeducated journalists care to investigate.

T. L. WESTOW.

rOur readers will he grateful for this further light, but it seems to us to reinforce the point of our Comments last week rather than go against thenz.-Editor, C.H.1




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