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Belgium  History of Belgium

  • Roman Period ( 57 B.C. to 455 A.D) :

Between 57 and 50 B.C. Julius Cesar conquered the northern part of Gaul, the area lying roughly in the basins of the Scheldt and the Meuse. The land was inhabited then by Gallo-Celtic tribes, including the BELGAE. Between 15 B.C. and the fifth century it was under Roman occupation as Gallia Belgica until Rome weakened and the Francs began to penetrate the region.

  • Frankish Empire (455-843) :

As a result of the advance of the Franks, a Germanic people, in the 5th century, the Flemings prevailed in the north (an area stretching from the lower Scheldt to the Ardennes) , separating them from the WALA (Walloons or Romanized Celts), whose Latin influence underlies the French language of the region. And so, the ethnic and linguistic frontiers of today had their beginning.

Upon Charlemagne's death, the area later known as Belgium, was among the first objectives of invaders and remained a battlefield for hundreds of years.

The Treaty of Verdun in 843, divided the area we know as Belgium between Charles the Bald and Lothair. Charles, King of West Francia (more or less France as we know it), received a narrow strip of land west of the Scheldt. Lothair received the remainder, which was to become the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia.

Feudal Period and The Communes (9th to 14th centuries) :

While Flanders, through marriage between dynasties, became strong and unified, Lotharingia broke up into a number of minor courts and principalities.

Through several treaties, which allied Flandres, Brabant, Hainaut, Zeeland and Holland, Flanders was reduced to being virtually a French province.

  • Burgundian Period (1384 - 1555) :

In the 15th century, an influential and powerful Burgundian duke, Philip the Good, united the communities, dutchies and principalities that would later form the Belgium of today.The long reign of Philip the Good was Belgiums cultural highpoint, with the cities of Ghent and Bruges flourishing as centers of art and culture.

Philips descendants, through marriage into the house of Habsburg, became sovereigns of the low countries and much of the continent as well, including Spain.

  • Revolt of the Netherlands (1555 - 1585) :

During the reign of Philip II of Spain, controle of the Netherlands began to dwindle. Revolts broke out and the Catholics in the south (Spanish Netherlands) remained faithful to Spain while in the north the "United Provinces" broke away from Spain and were called the Kingdom of Holland or the Netherlands.

  • Habsburg Rule (1585 - 1792) :

After thirty years of war between the Habsburg and the Bourbons, the independence of the United Provinces was acknowledged.

The Spanish Netherlands passed from the Spanish to the Austrian Habsburgs in 1715.

  • French Domination (1792 - 1814) :

In 1792 war broke out between revolutionary France and Austria and Belgium was occupied by the French till 1814. The foreign regime, distasteful as it was, did transform the country into a modern state.

The "Napoleonic Code of Law", the basis of the Belgian juidicial system, was then introduced.

  • United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815 - 1831) :

Upon Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the allies amalgamated Belgium and Holland into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands under Prince William of Orange.

Religious, financial and political differences between the Dutch and the Belgians caused 15 years of controversy.

  • King of the Belgians (1831) :

In 1830, the people of Brussels rebelled, gained their country's independence from Holland, and, after a few months as a republic, established a constitutional monarchy.

Prince Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg, an uncle of Queen Victoria, was elected king on July 21, 1831. His son, Leopold II ascended the throne in 1865. It was during his reign that Belgium's rich central African landholdings were acquired. King Albert I succeeded him till he died in 1934 after a fall whilst rock climbing. Leopold III reigned till 1951, when he was forced to abdicate because of political problems.

The fifth king in the Coburg line Baudouin I, began his reign in 1951. He died in 1993 of a heart attack in Spain and is succeeded by his brother, King Albert II (Queen Paola).

The king rules without governing, although his role is of vital importance.

The person of the king has immunity, his ministers are liable for him. Not a single deed can have any consequence without its being countersigned by a minister.