The story of Belgium’s independence goes back to the July revolution of 1830. At the time, Belgium was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch dominated the political, economic and social institutions, even though Belgians outnumbered them in population size. There were religious tensions between the Catholic south and Protestants in the north, and trade tensions as the north favoured free trade while the south supported tariffs to protect their underdeveloped industries.
Inspired by the French revolution in July 1830, years of pent-up frustration boiled over, and riots began in Brussels the following month. The protestors seized control of government buildings and confronted King William I’s forces, rallying around the newly created flag of the Brussels independence movement.
The Burghers of Brussels met with the King’s sons, Crown-Prince William and Prince Frederik, and convinced them that separating the north and the south was the only solution. The King rejected this proposal and tried to restore order by force. He sent in 8,000 troops, but they failed to retake Brussels following bloody street fights over three days at the end of September, so they withdrew. The Belgians declared independence on 4th October.
In November 1830, the National Congress of Belgium was established and tasked with creating a new Belgian constitution. They decided that the country should be a constitutional monarchy but rejected any candidate from the Dutch royal family. They offered the throne to a Frenchman named Leopold of Saxe-Coburg who was initially reluctant to accept the role. He eventually took his royal oath on 21st July 1831, which is why it became Belgium’s National Day.
At the London Conference in December 1830, the five major European powers (Austria, Britain, France, Prussia and Russia) met to discuss Belgium’s quest for independence. France was the only country to support Belgium, while the others sided with the Netherlands. However, no action was agreed.
King William didn’t accept the declaration of independence, and the Dutch invaded Belgium again in August 1831. Known as ‘the 10 Days’ Campaign’, it was halted once the French army intervened on the side of the Belgians. The European powers, including the Netherlands, finally recognised the state of Belgium by signing the Treaty of London in April 1839.
Here at Xpress Money, we’d like to wish Belgians all over the world a Happy Independence Day! We’re pleased to have recently launched out remittance service in Belgium through our partnership with Travelex. You can read more about it here.