The blog The Cross of Laeken, written by a regular reader of this blog and an expert on the Belgian monarchy, answers some of the rather lurid scandals flung at the modern Belgian royal family in Paul Beliën's controversial book, A Throne in Brussels: Britain, the Saxe-Coburgs and the Belgianisation of Europe (2005.) Please note this article is confined to the modern Belgian royals as covered in the latter half of book, rather than the earlier generations, which were covered in excellent if harrowing books like Adam Hochshild's ''King Leopold's Ghost'' (1998). I'm afraid I haven't read specific biographies of Leopold as a person, either the first or second. For the early twentieth century Belgian royals, Theo Aronson's "Crowns in Conflict" or Denis Judd's "Eclipse of Kings" both have good chapters. To the best of my knowledge there isn't a biography in English of Leopold III, the king during the Second World War, but I may be wrong. On this more modern focus, the principle gist of this book seems to be to try and attack the Belgian monarchy today through sexual slurs, as Matterhorn writes: -
"Of course, using sexual slurs to discredit public figures is nothing new. Consider, for example, all the feverish, torrid, and, in fact, false accusations launched against Anne Boleyn, Marie-Antoinette, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Queen Louise of Prussia by their political opponents. The same process is underway today, in Belgium. We need not be conspiracy theorists to conclude that many people, in powerful positions, simply do not want this battered little kingdom to exist. There is no other explanation for the endless, paralyzing political problems, the bitter divisions, growing ever greater and ever deeper, that afflict a nation which has weathered the worst storms in history triumphantly. Therefore, it is not surprising that sordid little tales are sedulously spread, to undermine Belgians' respect for their monarchy. The Saxe-Coburgs are portrayed as lascivious, promiscuous creatures by definition. How accurate is this image?"
For The Cross of Laeken's full and thorough article on the royal house of Belgium, click here. It mentions the book covering the modern royals towards the end.
Thank you for the link!ReplyDelete
"Consider all the feverish, torrid, and, in fact, false accusations launched against Anne Boleyn, Marie-Antoinette, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Queen Louise of Prussia by their political opponents." I wonder why people throw sexual slurs at _women_ of significance. The fact that Charles I or Edward VII were unstoppable sexual predators hardly gets a mention.
Of course I am perfectly aware that critics throw other slurs at _men_ of significance.
Hi Hels. It was Charles II who was the noted womaniser; his father, Charles I, was a strictly one-woman kind of guy. :) In terms of either being predators though, I'd have to say that in comparison to many other men who maybe had numerically fewer lovers, Charles and Edward both treated their mistresses and paramours relatively well - Charles perhaps more so, but that's relative. I think the major difference is that when a man has an active libido it is not always viewed as being a particularly negative impact on his role, especially within politics. Charles II and Edward VII are, for instance, considered successful monarchs, despite their private sexualities and we can see that in more recent years, the bed-hopping antics of men like JFK haven't done their reputations any harm. When it comes to women, however, there is still a deeply unpleasant attitude which holds that their sexuality is THE definition of both their personalities and their accomplishments. An attitude which, interestingly, extends both to homosexuals and to men who are seen to be dominated by women, as Matterhorn discusses in his post on the attempts to discredit the Belgian royal dynasty. In the case of these groups, what they do in the bedroom has somehow (and unfortunately) come to be seen as the ultimate definition of what they are, whereas in the case of heterosexual men, it usually isn't. Hence, Charles II and Edward VII can still be praised (and rightly so) for their political accomplishments as sovereigns, particularly in the field of peace-keeping (one internal, the other foreign), whilst any one who writes on the subject of Anne Boleyn or Marie-Antoinette, for instance, will tell you that the first thing they often have to confront when talking to other people is the slew of historical rumours regarding these women's (often fabricated) sexualities. I'm sure enthusiasts of Maria-Carolina, Louise of Prussia or Eva Peron would say the same thing! As the marquise de Merteuil says in "Les Liaisons dangereuses," 'You can destroy our lives or our reputations with a single word.' And, unfortunately, that word is usually 'whore.'ReplyDelete
Yes, when I wrote that sentence about the maligned queens, I thought: "It's odd, all these examples are women." But that is another weird aspect of the attacks on the Belgian RF, the fact that it is generally more the men who are attacked in this case, which is unusual, as you and Hels point out.ReplyDelete
But I also find that men like Edward VII, Louis XIV and Louis XV, even if they are not attacked the way many royal ladies have been, *are* used to create stereotypes of kings in general as compulsive womanizers. This makes it easier for people to believe questionable or even false stories about other kings.