Special Sub-Topic: Belgium in the XIXth Century
|While the Congress of Vienna was trying to organise Europe's future after the Napoleonic wars, Napoleon (1769-1821) himself escaped from Elba and gathered together another famous army. The British troops lead by the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) met Napoleon's army in Belgium, near Waterloo, on June 18th, 1815. Napoleon lost this battle due to a number of factors, one of which was the weather. How did the weather contribute to Napoleon's defeat?|
It had been raining cats and dogs for some days. A group of scientists had to read several logbooks of ships sailing the Atlantic in order to reconstruct this fact.
If you chose the fog or the snow, you've paid no attention to the date. June 18th is just before the start of the summer in Belgium, so fog and snow are quite unusual.
The French troops marched from Paris towards Brussels, so more or less to the North. This excludes direct sunrays in front of them.
The heavy rainfall during the previous days had soaked the ground, so the French artillery was unable to attain maximum performance. Besides, the wet underground slowed down the attacking cavalry and infantry.
|The Belgian Revolution of 1830 was a consequence of profound differences between the northern part of the Netherlands, and the southern part (that soon would secede as the state of Belgium). The north was mainly protestant, progressive, and trade oriented. The south was mainly Roman Catholic, conservative, and the economy was based upon (heavy) industry.
Daniel Auber's opera "La Muette de Portici" ("The Mute Woman of Portici", nowadays known as "Masaniello") ignited the spark that started the Revolution. A famous patriotic song performed in this opera play, lead to riots, which soon grew crescendo to a military revolt of a few hundred patriots. The inefficient reaction of the Dutch army and the political support of Great Britain and France did the rest: after a few weeks Belgium was declared independent.
But what was the opening line of the famous song that inspired this revolt?|
"Amour sacré de la patrie". "Allons, enfants de la Patrie" is probably the best known of these lines. It is the first verse of the Marseillaise, composed by Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836). You'll find the lyrics and an English translation on www.wikipedia.org/wiki/marseillaise.
"Ô Belgique, ô mère chérie" is the first line of the Belgian national anthem, in the version rephrased in 1860. The original lyrics of this "Brabançonne" were too insulting for the Dutch government. You'll find the official lyrics (version 1860) and an unofficial English translation on www.wikipedia.org/wiki/brabanconne.
The national anthem of Ivory Coast starts with following lines: "Salut, ô terre d'espérance/ Pays de l'hospitalité/ Tes légions remplies de vaillance/ Ont relevé ta dignité." In English I would translate this as: "Hail, land of hope/ Land of hospitality/ Thy watchful legions/ Have raised thy worthiness."
The song by Auber (1782-1871) reads as follows: "Amour sacré de la patrie/ Rends-nous l'audace et la fierté/ A mon pays je dois la vie/ Il me devra la liberté." I'll translate this as: "O holy love for my country/ Give us courage and pride/ To my country I owe my life / My country owes me liberty."
|Leopold of Saxony (1790-1865) accepted the Belgian throne in 1831 and was crowned on July 21st. A few months before, he had rejected the throne of another European country - for reasons that are still not clear. The throne of which country did Leopold reject?|
Greece. Most sources give no reason for this rejection. Some sources indicate that the Greek throne seemed unstable, as different countries had opposing interests in the Balkan area. Russia wanted to control the Bosporus in order to benefit from the Black Sea ports (especially Odessa); Great Britain didn't want to concede this as it would involve the rise of a new marine power, potentially capable of interfering with communications between Britain and India. Turkey wanted to maintain and expand its power in the Balkan area, while Austria wanted to take over a large part of the Balkans. Eventually, this Gordian knot led to the First World War.
The Belgian throne seemed more stable, as France, Britain and Prussia guaranteed the neutrality of the new kingdom. Leopold could of course not foresee that Germany would reunite in 1871 and that there would be a prolonged period of tension between France and Germany (1870-1945) or that in order to avoid the heavily guarded French-German frontier, the German army would cross Belgium in spite of the "eternal" neutrality - both in World War I and in World War II.
|In 1835, Belgium opened the first commercial railway for steam locomotives on the European Continent. Between Brussels and Mechelen, three steam locomotives opened the railway. One of these locomotives was named "Stephenson" after the British engineer having designed the locomotive. Another was called "The Arrow" - an allusion to the speed it could reach. What was the name of the third locomotive?|
Elephant & The Elephant. The name "Elephant" was of course an allusion to the engine's force. This name is also remembered as the name of the bugle Roland blew in the "Chanson de Roland", a medieval epic about a vassal of Charlemagne. I've also found a Danish order of knighthood by the name of "The Elephant", founded in 1462, and of course you'll know the Danish beer "Carlsberg Elephant".
Commercial railroads open to the general public started in Great Britain, with the Stockton-Darlington line which opened in 1825 (and for a major part this line is still in use). However, some of its trains were horse-drawn. The first British, "all steam-powered" railroad for passengers was the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which opened in 1829.
|A Flemish author debuted in 1837 with the historical novel "In 't Wonderjaer 1566" ("The Wonder Year 1566"), about the iconoclast period. He published his major novel "De Leeuw van Vlaanderen" ("The Lion of Flanders") in 1838. This novel gave his impression of the Battle of the Golden Spurs (July 11th, 1302). Who was this author?|
Hendrik Conscience. Conscience was born in 1812 and died in 1883. He started writing in French (the only official language in Belgium in those days), but was the first Belgian author to have success with books in Flemish (a Dutch dialect). The Flemish people know him as "the man who taught his people to read".
Maeterlinck (1862-1949) only wrote in French. His best known books are "Pelléas et Mélisande" ("Pelléas and Mélisande"), a romantic novel on which Debussy based an opera, and "L'oiseau bleu" ("The Blue Bird"), for which he received the Nobel price for literature in 1911.
Streuvels (1871-1969) wrote books about the working class in Flanders, especially about the farmers struggling on a little farm to survive. His books include "De Vlaschaard" ("The Flax Farmer") and "De teleurgang van de waterhoek" ("The Decay of the Water Corner"). He was a nephew of the poet Guido Gezelle.
Rodenbach (1856-1880) was a poet who inspired the Flemish students. Among others, he wrote an epic poem called "Gudrun".
|Karl Marx lived in Brussels from 1845 till 1848. Constantly on the move in order to evade creditors, he managed to find the time to write the "Communist Manifesto".|
t. Marx was born in Trier in 1818 and studied in Berlin. He was banished from Cologne and from Paris because of his radicalism. While staying in Brussels, he was haunted by his creditors, so he moved about several times.
The "Communist Manifesto" appeared in 1848, just a few weeks after the start of several revolutions and riots in Europe.
Because of the radicalism contained in the "Manifesto" Marx was banished again. So he fled to London, where he stayed till his death in 1883 - meanwhile preparing his major work "Das Kapital" ("The Capital").
|In 1853 a Belgian scientist organised the first International Conference on Statistics. This Belgian scientist had already inspired the founding of the Meteorological Institute in Uccle (near Brussels) in 1833, and evolved from an astronomer to a sociologist. He tried to apply statistics to sociological phenomena. Who was this Belgian scientist?|
Adolphe Quetelet. Quetelet was born in 1796 and died in 1874. He gave his name to the index of obesity, known also as the Body Mass Index (BMI). This BMI or Quetelet Index is calculated as the square of the body length (in meters) divided by the body weight (in kilograms). If you have a Quetelet index of over 25, you have overweight.
Gauss (177-1855) and Poisson (1781-1840) have given their name to a typical statistical distribution. The Gauss distribution deals with the frequency of phenomena in a large population, the Poisson distribution deals with the frequency of phenomena in a small population. If you have at least a university degree in maths, you can consult Wikipedia for more details - see www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gauss_distribution
and www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisson_distribution . As I haven't such a degree, I don't risk interpreting this source.
Lagrange (1736-1813) wrote about mechanics, algebraic equations and differential calculus.
|Belgium was and still is a constitutional monarchy. The Head of State is the King, but the most important politician is the chairman of the (national) government. In 1857 a Belgian politician started a third term as "chairman". As the term "Prime Minister" didn't apply in Belgium at that time, we'll call him the "chairman". This man was chairman of the Belgian government in total during 6,261 days (so, for over 17 years). Who was this chairman?|
Charles Rogier. Beernaert (1829-1912) was Prime Minister from 1884 till 1894 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 1909.
Malou (1810-1886) was chairman of the government only for a few months: from June 16th till October 26th, 1884.
Woeste never made it to Prime Minister. His most important position was that of Minister of the Justice Department in the government led by Malou.
Rogier (1800-1885) was chairman of the Belgian government from October 20th, 1832 till August 4th, 1834, and again from August 12th, 1847 till October 31st, 1852, and finally from November 9th, 1857 till January 3rd, 1868. We owe to him the official lyrics of the Belgian national anthem, the "Brabançonne".
|In 1858 the Belgian priest Guido Gezelle publishes his first poetry collection, named "Kerkhofblommen" ("Graveyard Flowers"). In which of the following cities was Gezelle born?|
Bruges. Gezelle was born in Bruges in 1830. He was also ordained there in 1854 and started teaching at the seminary in Roeselare. As he was a bit too "modern", he was reappointed to Bruges in 1860 - no more as a teacher but as a parish priest. For his political "meddling", he was transferred to Kortrijk in 1872. He returned to Bruges and died in 1899. Gezelle did not live and work in Ostend.
|During the XIXth Century, Belgium was an asylum for French authors. A French author, known for his poetry collection "Les fleurs du mal" ("The Flowers of Evil"), has declared "I consider it useless and tedious to represent what exists, because nothing that exists satisfies me." According to a TV quiz show, he also said "Belgian cuisine and Belgian women are the worst on Earth". However, I found no evidence for this last quote. Who was this French author?|
Charles Baudelaire. Hugo (1802-1885) stayed in Brussels in 1871. When he decided to open an asylum for fleeing French communards, he was expelled from Belgium. His major works are "Les misérables" ("The Miserable") and "Le clocher du Notre-Dame" ("The Hunchback of Notre-Dame").
Verlaine (1844-1896) and Rimbaud (1854-1891) lived in Brussels together, until one day in 1873 Verlaine got seriously drunk and shot Rimbaud in the wrist. This ended their gay relation.
Verlaine published "Poètes maudits" ("Damned Poets") in 1884. Rimbaud had already published "Le bâteau ivre" ("The Drunken Boat") and "Une saison en enfer" ("A Season in Hell") before he was shot at by his friend.
Baudelaire (1821-1867) stayed in Brussels only a few months before his death. This may perhaps explain the curious quote on Belgian cuisine and women I've mentioned before, but the explanation could be far easier: perhaps he didn't have a good address book...
|Two brothers started their first shop in 1867 near Charleroi. They expanded the shop to a chain that nowadays comprises supermarkets in North America, Europe and Asia. A typical innovation the two brothers introduced in Belgium, was that every product was sold at a fixed price - no matter in which branch of the chain you bought it. Who were these two brothers?|
Jules and Auguste Delhaize. You would of course recognise Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) as a Dutch painter. He started his career in Belgium, near Charleroi. His brother Theo (1857-1890) was an art-dealer.
Adolf Daens was born in Alost in 1839 and died in 1907. He joined the Catholic Party as a priest, but he didn't agree with this party's approach to poverty. The Catholic Party emphasized on alms for the poor, while Daens wanted to install social security (following the example of the anti-clerical socialist movement). Later on, Daens quit the Catholic Party and started a political party of his own. His brother Pieter owned a printing-office and printed pamphlets for the "Christene Volkspartij" ("Christian People's Party") founded by Adolf.
Luc Dardenne was born in 1954, his brother Jean-Pierre in 1951. These brothers directed some social movies, two of which won the "Golden Palm" award at the Festival in Cannes: "Rosetta" in 1999 and "L'enfant" ("The Kid") in 2005.
Jules Delhaize (1829-1898) was a teacher in commercial sciences. He and his brother Auguste had picked up some commercial practises in small British shops, but they were the first to build a world-wide commercial empire on these ideas.
|The French engineer Hippolyte Fontaine and a Belgian colleague of his founded in 1871 a company that produced industrial dynamos. The company was named after the Belgian engineer who is credited with having invented the dynamo. Who was this Belgian engineer?
Zenobe Gramme. Gramme (1826-1901) and Siemens (1816-1892) worked at the same time to improve the dynamo in order to permit its mass production. The invention was attributed to Gramme, but it was Siemens who took the most advantage of it (thus founding an industrial conglomerate that nowadays spans the world).
Edison (1847-1931) obtained over thousand patents, not always for original inventions but for major improvements of existing ones. His best known patents are the light bulb and the phonograph.
Bell (1847-1922) is known as the inventor of the telephone - which was probably also an improvement of existing apparatus instead of a brand new invention. He also experimented with visual communication over phone lines, but without success.
|In 1878 a painter born in Liège takes up realistic portraying of the working class. After a few paintings on this theme, he started sculpting the same subjects. His best known sculpture is that of the dock labourer which you'll find in Antwerp (next to the town hall). Who was this artist?|
Constantin Meunier. Meunier was born in 1831 and died in 1905. He is the only Belgian among these sculptors.
Brancusi (1876-1957) is a Romanian sculptor who represents the abstract art. His most important work is "The Kiss" - an abstract composition based upon the naturalistic approach by Rodin to the same subject.
Moore (1898-1986) is a famous British sculptor specialising in female statues. His sculpture of "King and Queen" is exhibited in Antwerp, in the Middelheim open air museum.
Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916) is probably not as famous as his brother Ettore, the designer of racing cars. Rembrandt Bugatti specialises in bronze sculptures of animals in realistic style.
|It was not an archaeologist that made one of the most important archaeological findings in Belgium, but a miner. Indeed: in 1878 a group of miners discovered the skeletons of 29 dinosaurs in a mine shaft near Bernissart (in the region of Charleroi). Which species did the miners discover?|
Iguanodon. Fossils of the Diplodocus and of the Tyrannosaurus have only been discovered in North America. The Tyrannosaurus was a carnivore and could reach a length of 14m. The Diplodocus was an herbivore that could grow up to 22m.
The Mosasaurus was an herbivore of over 20m living mostly in the region of the river Meuse. It was named after this river.
The skeletons of the iguanodon (full name: Iguanodon bernissartius) are nowadays the property of the Museum for Natural History in Brussels. It was rather a small species of dinosaur, compared to the other ones I've mentioned: it only reached a length of 6 to 11m.
|The son of a pub owner in Sint-Eloois-Vijve (province of West Flanders) had a first artistic success in 1882 with his rather morose painting "Hanengevecht" ("Cock-Fight"). After moving to Astene (East Flanders), near Ghent, on the banks of the River Lys, he was inspired by the light in that region, and his paintings radiate much light. One of the best examples of this later work is "Fruit Garden in Flanders". Who is this painter?|
Emiel Claus. Claus (1849-1924) was member of the First School of Latem, together with for example Constant Permeke. Although the members of this school all painted in expressionistic ways, you would still recognise one of Claus' paintings immediately. He is considered to be the inventor of "Luminism".
Ensor (1860-1949) is an impressionistic painter born in Ostend. He is fascinated by masks and skeletons, which appear on almost all his paintings. His best known painting is "De intrede van Christus in Brussel" ("Christ Entering Brussels").
Rops (1833-1896) is an impressionistic painter born in Namur. His paintings and engravings raised quite a scandal for the erotic themes he worked on. His most famous painting is "Pornocrates".
Khnopff (1858-1921) is a symbolist painter born in Grembergen (near Dendermonde). His most famous work is "De kunst, de liefkozingen en de sfinx" ("Art, Caresses and the Sphinx").
|In 1888, a violin player born in Liège gives his first concert at the "Cercle des XX", an association of about 20 Belgian composers. Who was this violinist and composer?|
Eugène Ysaye. Ysaye was born in Liège in 1858 and died in 1931. He gave his name to a violin competition that was later transformed by Queen Elisabeth into a competition for young musicians in three disciplines: piano, violin and singing.
César Franck was born in Liège in 1822 and died in Paris in 1890. He was a famous pianist and composer.
Peter Benoît was born in Harelbeke (near Kortrijk, West Flanders) in 1834 and died in 1901. He composed piano music and flute music. His best known work is the oratorio "The Scheldt".
Jaak Lemmens was born in Zoerle-Parwijs (province of Antwerp) in 1823. He died in 1881. This famous organist founded a school for religious music that now bears his name.
The list of the members of the "Cercle des XX" is to my regret not available in English. You can find the full list in Dutch on http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_vingt.
|Jozef de Veuster died of leprosy in 1889. Although many people died of leprosy in that year, Jozef de Veuster is the only one who became famous. This Belgian was born in Tremelo (near Leuven) in 1840 and was ordained a priest in 1864. He worked as a missionary in Hawaii, where he became the only priest for the lepers' colony Molokai in 1873. What was the name he adopted as a priest, the name we still know him by (in English)?|
Father Damien & Pater Damiaan. Father Damien's body was repatriated to Belgium about fifty years later. Yet the body was intact. This phenomenon was recognised as a first miracle, which led to his beatification in 1995.
The Australian movie director, Paul Cox (born 1962), made a biographical movie about Father Damien in 2000. According to this movie (and historical research proves this as a fact), Father Damien was quite controversial during his lifetime: there were many quarrels with his direct superiors.
The Roman Catholic Church is examining some strange phenomena attributed to Father Damien. If these phenomena are recognised as miraculous healings, he could be canonised in the following years. However, the process of canonisation frequently takes a very long period.
|In 1894 Lieven Gevaert opened a factory in Antwerp that produces photographical emulsions. About sixty years later, Gevaert's company was competing with Eastman Kodak and Fuji for the largest turnover in photographic products worldwide.|
t. Lieven Gevaert was born in 1868 and died in 1935. His company has evolved: the division "Consumer Products" (old-fashioned photography) has been sold. The two remaining divisions are "Healthcare" (with systems to produce, store and distribute radiographies, CT scans, MRI scans etc.) and "Graphic Systems" (mostly pre-press systems, but also "True Type Fonts").
|In 1899, the "Volkshuis" of a famous Belgian architect is opened in Brussels. This masterpiece is one of the most famous buildings in Art Nouveau style. Alas: the building was demolished in the XXth Century. The Belgian brewery Palm has opened a "grand café" ("great pub", this means a pub that also serves meals) named after this architect and in the construction of which some of the original elements of the "Volkshuis" are used. Who was this architect?
Victor Horta. Surely you didn't pick Walter Gropius (1883-1969). He is the only foreigner in this list, while all the others are Belgians. Gropius was a German architect and founded the "Bauhaus" movement.
Poelaert (1817-1879) designed the Brussels Palace of Justice. In order to construct this building, he moved a whole district (mostly inhabited by poor people). This rendered him the nickname "schieven architek" (Brussels dialect for "crooked architect") - at first intended as an insult, but nowadays rather to please.
Beyaert (1823-1894) constructed in neo-renaissance style. His most famous building is the regional office of the National Bank in Antwerp.
Horta (1861-1947) produced a great number of buildings - houses as well as commercial and industrial buildings. Four of them are now protected as World Inheritance by the UNESCO, among which the famous Hotel Solvay (a house for the famous industrial's family).
|Camille Jenatzy was the first person ever to drive a car at more than 100km/h (more than 66mph). He achieved this world record in 1899 with a car he designed himself. What was the name of this car, which vaguely resembled a cigar on wheels?|
Jamais Contente. The "Jamais Contente" had an electric engine. According to the "Belgian Chronicle", this car didn't have a steering wheel. I've found no confirmation of this bizarre allegation on the internet - nor a clear refutation, either. However, the photos placed on internet seem to refute the claim. If the "Jamais Contente" ("Never Satisfied") had really had no steering wheel, this might be one explanation of the name: I'm never satisfied with driving without a steering wheel.
Did you recognise the other answers I gave? If you have some notions of French and Italian, you could observe that I've translated into French the marks "Silver Spirit" ("Esprit d'Argent"), "Spider Veloce" ("Araignée Rapide") and "Testarossa" ("Tête Rouge"). These marques belong of course to well known car brands: Rolls Royce Silver Spirit, Ferrari Testarossa and Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce.
Did you find these entries particularly interesting, or do you have comments / corrections to make? Let the author know!
Send the author a thank you or
Submit a correction