A cataclysm, the beginning of a new era, a change of era… The death of Queen Elizabeth II marks a turning point for the image of monarchies around the world. Because before being the most popular living monarch, icon of pop culture, the late “queen” was at the head of the royal family whose image seems the coolest on earth. The aura of British crowned heads often relegates those of other countries to a category that one would think straight out of the attic.
Good taste and glitter are not necessarily the prerogative of all royal families. For two centuries and the entry of Belgium into a monarchy, the line of Belgian kings has never been distinguished by its good taste or its flashy image. How did the death of Elizabeth II awaken Belgians’ disinterest in their monarchs? Attempt to explain.
When you ask a Frenchman what he knows about the Belgian political system, he often replies that it is a monarchy. It is true, but when it comes to declining the identity of the one who is at the head of the country, it gets complicated. Not very popular outside the kingdom, Philippe and Mathilde, respectively king and queen of Belgium, are neither glitzy nor sensational. Far from the scandals between Harry and his family or the fascination generated by Kate Middleton at each of her outings, they maintain a simple image, while performing their royal obligations.
So when Elizabeth II died, it was time to take stock. “It’s a shame that our royal family is not as interesting to follow as that of the United Kingdom”, laments Sophie after having followed a special edition tribute to Queen Elizabeth II broadcast on RTBF. This 31-year-old from Brussels was immediately moved by the death of the British nonagenarian while she regrets never having felt equal sympathy for the “a little annoying but not mean” kings, queens, princes and princesses appearing on the royal family photo of the country of fries.
“Our royal family is less dreamy… It looks more like ordinary people,” confirms Margaux, 27. Residing in the south of Brussels, the young woman nevertheless accumulates cups bearing the effigy of members of the royal family across the Channel. She hopes to soon drink her “tea” in a container bearing the image of Prince Louis, the youngest of Kate and William, to complete her collection. “I find that the British royal family has more charisma and carries more of a magical universe with it. »
Monarchy “in coach” vs. the one “by bicycle”
“Upset”, the Belgian-British historian Marie Cappart says she felt a grief similar to the loss of her grandmother than when she learned of the death of Elizabeth II. She claims to have been also “very sad” at the death of King Baudouin, uncle of Philippe of Belgium, but not in such an intimate way. “The Belgians look at their royal family with affection but without really idolizing them as is the case with the British crown”, she analyzes.
The universe established by the Windsors in the United Kingdom is equipped with four-ton coaches, in gold, drawn by eight white horses, castles more impressive than each other and a royal guard drawn to the nines. “The British monarchy has retained all the trappings of power. The Crown did not invent anything, we are really in a super production “made in England” ”, analyzes Bertrand Deckers, Belgian writer and columnist passionate about the royal families. Opposite, the Belgian monarchy has gradually separated from monarchical symbols. “We separated from the royal carriages, we no longer have a mounted guard… It’s all these elements that create the magic. »
According to the specialist, the attraction of Belgians for the British crown more than for their own monarch lies in the lifestyle of royal figures. “A monarchy that travels by bicycle does not interest anyone except the Dutch who find it cool because it is green. »
Glossy News Vs. two speeches per year
During the national holiday, at Christmas or after a traumatic event such as the floods that occurred in Belgium during the summer of 2021… Appearances by members of the Belgian royal family in the national press are rare. “It’s a choice to have discreet communication, which doesn’t prevent them from doing their job well,” says Marie Cappart.
On the other side of the Channel, the Windsors are scrutinized, singled out, hunted down and their 150 million subjects regularly revel in them on the glossy paper of magazines. “The British feel close to their royal family because they have news every Sunday in the tabloids”, describes the historian born of a Belgian father and an English mother.
What pleases Margaux about the Windsors is the narrative side of their escapades reported in the media. She finds there elements of British culture that interest her a lot: “Tea time, prestigious universities, castles…”
“American Series” vs. series produced by “AB production”
Because the Windsors carry with the “bling bling” preserved from royalty all that is most romantic, starting with a five-star cast. Bertrand Deckers evokes a “perfect casting” where the very controversial Meghan Markhle responds to the fascinating Kate Middleton in a storytelling with small onions which gives rough edges to the plot. But contemporaries have nothing to envy their predecessors. “When Elizabeth married Philip in 1947, he was ultra-handsome and the marriage was carefully scrutinized by the media,” points out the specialist.
He places their Belgian counterparts in another register: “It’s like comparing an American series to a series produced by AB production, the cast is not the same at all! »
In its recent history, Belgium has nevertheless experienced some royal adventures such as the rants of Prince Laurent, Philippe’s brother or the recent arrival in the family of Delphine, 54, illegitimate daughter of Albert II. Bertrand Deckers sees in these episodes Belgian-Belgian escapades, the fruits of a series that would have difficulty expatriating itself.
Elisabeth to follow in Elizabeth’s footsteps?
Philippe, Mathilde and their family are still trying to break into the small circle of royalty. It is on the shoulders of the heiress to the throne, Princess Elisabeth, that the hopes of coolness of the Belgian monarchy would rest. “We saw her return to university in Great Britain in a recent media episode”, recalls Marie Cappart who recalls that if they are less visible, fans of the crown of Belgium exist.
In a final confidence, Margaux also confides that she “would be delighted to have a Princess Elisabeth cup”. It remains to be seen whether his appeal will be heard by his Royal Highness.