Recently, the gutter press has produced an infamous book (the latest of several) slandering the Belgian Royal Family. This one, however, is somewhat different than the rest. It is disturbing in its origin, coming from a member of the Walloon press whereas most slanderous attacks on the Royal Family have originated in the vile ranks of the Flemish separatists. In the past, it has often seemed that whenever one side made trouble for the monarchy, the other would instinctively rally to support it. If attacks begin to come from both sides at once, it certainly does not bode well for the wellbeing of all Belgians as a whole. Another is that, in this book, the slander extends beyond the ‘usual suspects’. The King himself has often been a target and he has occasionally ‘put a foot wrong’. The same can be said for Prince Laurent, a fine man but one who any observer would have to say has not always displayed the best judgment. This book, however, also includes slander against the Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Brabant. Additionally, whereas previous attacks often included exaggerations of problems or taking some small bit of embarrassment and trying to stretch it to the level of scandal, this work, frankly, lies blatantly and ostentatiously with no regard for fact or the slightest ounce of believability.
The whole thing is beyond reprehensible and should cause any decent person to recoil in disgust and certainly any proud, patriotic and loyal Belgian (let us pray for those still in existence) in particular. It is, however, the attacks on Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant, that personally infuriate me the most. The same goes, of course, for his lovely wife Princess Mathilde, but she has not suffered the same level of ridicule as her husband though she herself has also been treated with the most gross injustice too. The attitude toward Prince Philippe has troubled me for years. I think he is one of the most unfairly treated royals in the world today, due certainly in part to the fact that, in my opinion, he is one of the best. Of the reigning monarchies, I don’t think there is any royal heir I hold in higher regard than Prince Philippe. Yet, not everyone seems to share my opinion and I cannot imagine why. At least, I cannot imagine any valid reason why and it causes me greater distress to imagine that Prince Philippe is actually being ridiculed not in spite of but because he is such a good, decent, upright and God-fearing man.
A few years ago I saw a story about the low “approval rating” Prince Philippe had in Belgium and this prompted me to put my own perceptions aside and investigate, to see if there was some scandal I was unaware of that would account for this. After all, the report said that his approval rating was even lower than the Prince of Wales who, let us be honest, has had a few embarrassing scandals, had gone through a messy divorce and attracted a great deal of anger (most of it unjustified but what else is new). I scoured royal gossip columns and the royal message boards and I found nothing scandalous at all in the history of Prince Philippe, but I was alarmed at what I did find. Based on my own findings, rather than Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, it is the public and the gossipmongers and royal watchers who are the abnormal ones, who seem too “uptight” and who need to “just relax”. Never have I seen so much made of so little! No, I cannot even say ‘of so little’ since that would imply there is some little something there at all when there is absolutely nothing! It leaves me, frankly, baffled (as a lot of things these days seem to).
There has been no divorce, no affairs (nor even rumors), no international insults, no recorded phone conversations, no interns under the desk and no getting sick on foreign officials. There have been no scandals of any sort and no doubt about the couple being totally devoted to their duties, their people and country. All the criticism I saw was so un-specific and full of phrases starting with, “he seems”, “she appears”, “they come off as” or “I get the feeling that…” For so many people to have such a low opinion of the Crown Princely couple based on nothing more substantial than feelings and appearances is frankly alarming to me. Some things are matters of taste -who “seems” confident or who doesn’t, how the Princess dresses and so on. Other things are just, again, baffling. I noticed the word “clumsy” being tossed around a great deal. Why? Again, there was no substantial reason to point to that would justify it. Prince Philippe never pulled a Gerry Ford and he never dropped one of his children or anything like that. No, it all goes back to “he seems”, “he comes off as” and “I have the feeling that…” which just infuriates me.
Anyone who takes an honest look at the Belgian crown princely couple will see nothing but an upright, dedicated and affectionate couple. Prince Philippe, who is so often described as “stuffy”, “uptight” or “awkward” will see him, when in the presence of his children even to this day, shed his years and appear as a delighted and loving first-time father. One need only look at the photos and videos of the couple, and see them simply look at each other to see the true affection they have for one another. Why did it take so long for Prince Philippe to marry? I have a simple answer; a good woman is hard to find. Sometimes it takes time and for someone in the position of a royal heir, it is certainly understandable to take more time than usual to find that someone special and Princess Mathilde certainly seems to me to be well worth the wait. She has every quality I could imagine being necessary for a future Belgian queen-consort. Likewise, her husband has every quality necessary for a future king though, undoubtedly, many are trying their best to undermine one thing he needs which is the respect of his people.
All of this is why I can only assume that Prince Philippe is being ridiculed for being a good man rather than otherwise. How far Belgium has fallen since the reign of the late King Baudouin. In his time, already his people had fallen far from the character of their monarch, yet, his virtues were still respected even if a majority of his subjects no longer shared them. Today, on the other hand, Prince Philippe seems to be singled out for slander for sharing those same values. Much of this has to do with faith, make no mistake about it. King Albert II and Queen Paola, for all of their difficulties, have raised good and faithful children. Prince Laurent may make the eyes roll on occasion, but he has a lovely family and is devoted to them. Princess Astrid is a member of Opus Dei and takes faith as seriously as one would expect given that. Prince Philippe, who shares many of the same admirable qualities of his late uncle, is often ridiculed because of his faith and morality. When he served his time in the Belgian senate he dared to introduce a bill against pornography and he was met with laughter and derision as though he had made some mistake rather than having stood up in opposition to something which causes the abuse and objectification of women.
No, it is clear, the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess are being slandered not because of anything they have done wrong but because of all they do that is right. It is a deliberate effort by those who wish to see the monarchy destroyed (so as to destroy Belgium itself) to undermine the respect and affection the people should have for the future king and queen. It is also a sign of how far morality has fallen in Europe that virtue is mocked, faith is ridiculed and any who take religion seriously are derided as hopelessly “un-cool”. My heart goes out to them in the midst of these ceaseless slanders and to their faithful and patriotic people who have to endure so much for their good intentions by their very ill-intentioned countrymen. I am glad to see, with this book, the Royal Family ‘hitting back’ (so to speak) more forcefully than in the past and I hope all loyal monarchists and people of good faith everywhere will rally to their defense.