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Kingdom of Belgium

Koninkrijk België  (Dutch)
Royaume de Belgique  (French)
Königreich Belgien  (German)
Flag of Belgium
Location of  Belgium  (dark green)–   —  [Legend]
Location of  Belgium  (dark green)

–   —  [Legend]

Capital Brussels
Official languages Dutch
Ethnic groups
see Demographics
Demonym(s) Belgian
Government Federal parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy[1]
• King
Charles Michel
Legislature Federal Parliament
Chamber of Representatives
• Declared from the Netherlands
4 October 1830
19 April 1839
• Total
30,528 km2 (11,787 sq mi) (139th)
• Water (%)
• 2011 estimate
11,007,020[1] (76th)
• 2001 census
• Density
354.7/km2 (918.7/sq mi) (33rd)

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union. It has the headquarters of the European Union, NATO and some other famous organisations. The capital city of Belgium is Brussels. Belgium has an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi). There are about 11 million people.

There are three regions in Belgium: Flanders (where the Flemish speak Dutch) in the northern half of Belgium, Wallonia (where most people speak French) in the southern half and the Brussels-Capital Region in the middle (where French is mostly spoken, with some Dutch).

The population is about 60% Dutch-speaking and 39% French-speaking, with a few German-speaking towns on the border with Germany. To look after both groups, Belgium has a complicated system of government.


The Seventeen Provinces (orange, brown and yellow areas) and the Bishopric of Liège (green)

The name 'Belgium' comes from Gallia Belgica. This was a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul. Before Roman invasion in 100 BC, the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples, lived there.[5] The Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A slow shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to change into the Carolingian Empire.[6] The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia. They were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor.[6] Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.[7]

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces and the Southern Netherlands. Southern Netherlands were ruled by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs. This made up most of modern Belgium.

After the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries were added into the French First Republic. This ended Austrian rule in the area. Adding back the Low Countries formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. This happened at the end of the First French Empire in 1815.

The Belgian Revolution was in 1830. [8] Leopold I became king on 21 July 1831. This is now celebrated as Belgium's National Day.[9]

The Berlin Conference of 1885 gave control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II. This was for him personally and not for the country of Belgium. Starting in about 1900 many people did not like how he treated the Congolese people. In 1908 the Belgian state took control of the colony. It was then called the Belgian Congo.[10]

Germany invaded Belgium in 1914. This was part of World War I. The opening months of the war were very bad in Belgium. During the war Belgium took over the of Ruanda-Urundi (modern day Rwanda and Burundi). After the First World War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were added into Belgium in 1925. The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 and under German control until 1944. After World War II, the people made king Leopold III leave his throne in 1951. This is because they thought he helped the Germans.

In 1960 the Belgian Congo stopped being under Belgian rule.[11] Two years later Ruanda-Urundi also became free. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member.

Government and Politics

Philippe of Belgium, current King.

Belgium has a system of government known as a constitutional monarchy, meaning that it has a monarch, but that the monarch does not rule the country, and that a government is elected democratically.

Belgium has had its own monarchy since 1831. King Albert II left the throne on July 21, 2013 and the current king is Philippe.

In Belgium, the government is elected. Between mid-2010 and late 2011, after no clear result in the election, Belgium had no official government, until Elio Di Rupo became Prime Minister. Flanders and Wallonia both also have their own regional governments, and there is a notable independence movement in Flanders. Charles Michel is currently the Prime Minister.


See also: List of cities in Belgium

Belgium is next to France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Its total area is 33,990 square kilometers. The land area alone is 30,528 km². Belgium has three main geographical regions. The coastal plain is in the north-west. The central plateau are part of the Anglo-Belgian Basin. The Ardennes uplands are in the south-east. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium's southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.

The coastal plain is mostly sand dunes and polders. Further inland is a smooth, slowly rising landscape. There are fertile valleys. The hills have many forests. The plateaus of the Ardennes are more rough and rocky. They have caves and small, narrow valleys. Signal de Botrange is the country's highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).


Belgium is divided into three Regions. Flanders and Wallonia are divided into provinces. The third Region, Brussels is not part of any province.

Province Dutch name French name Capital Largest city Area
Antwerp Antwerpen Anvers Antwerp
(Dutch: Antwerpen)
(Dutch: Antwerpen)
2,860 1,682,683
East Flanders Oost-Vlaanderen Flandre-Orientale Ghent
(Dutch: Gent)
(French: Gand)
(Dutch: Gent)
(French: Gand)
2,982 1,389,199
Flemish Brabant Vlaams-Brabant Brabant flamand Leuven
(French: Louvain)
(French: Louvain)
2,106 1,037,786
Hainaut Henegouwen Hainaut Mons
(Dutch: Bergen)
Charleroi 3,800 1,294,844
Liège Luik Liège Liège
(Dutch: Luik)
(German: Lüttich)
(Dutch: Luik)
(German: Lüttich)
3,844 1,047,414
Limburg Limburg Limbourg Hasselt Hasselt 2,414 805,786
Luxembourg Luxemburg Luxembourg Arlon
(Dutch: Aarlen)
(German: Arel)
(Dutch: Bastenaken)
(German: Bastenach)
4,443 261,178
Namur Namen Namur Namur
(Dutch: Namen)
(Dutch: Namen)
3,664 461,983
Walloon Brabant Waals-Brabant Brabant wallon Wavre
(Dutch: Waver)
(Dutch: Eigenbrakel)
1,093 370,460
West Flanders West-Vlaanderen Flandre-Occidentale Bruges
(Dutch: Brugge)
(French: Bruges)
(Dutch: Brugge)
(French: Bruges)
3,151 1,130,040


The Belgian Armed Forces have about 46,000 active troops. In 2009 the yearly defence budget was $6 billion.[12] There are four parts: Belgian Land Component, or the Army; Belgian Air Component, or the Air Force; Belgian Naval Component, or the Navy; Belgian Medical Component.

Science and technology

Adding to science and technology has happened throughout the country's history. cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens[13][14][15][16] and mathematician Simon Stevin are among the most influential scientists.[17]

Chemist Ernest Solvay[18] and engineer Zenobe Gramme[19] gave their names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo in the 1860s. Bakelite was formed in 1907–1909 by Leo Baekeland. A major addition to science was also due to a Belgian, Georges Lemaître. He is the one who made the Big Bang theory of the start of the universe in 1927.[20]

Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet in 1919, Corneille Heymans in 1938 and Albert Claude together with Christian De Duve in 1974. Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.[21] Two Belgian mathematicians have been awarded the Fields Medal: Pierre Deligne in 1978 and Jean Bourgain in 1994.[22][23]

In February 2014, Belgium became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia without any age limits.[24]


Fine arts

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (inside view), painted 1432 by van Eyck

There have been many additions to painting and architecture. Several examples of major architectural places in Belgium belong to UNESCO's World Heritage List.[25] In the 15th century the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden were important. The 16th century had more styles such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert Lombard's showing of the antique.[26] The style of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck was strong in the early 17th century in the Southern Netherlands.[27]

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters started. These include James Ensor and other artists in the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. The sculptor Panamarenko is still a remarkable figure in contemporary art.[28][29] The artist Jan Fabre and the painter Luc Tuymans are other internationally known figures in contemporary art.

Belgian contributions to architecture were also in the 19th and 20th centuries. Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde were major starters of the Art Nouveau style.[30][31]

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were major violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugène Ysaÿe and Arthur Grumiaux. Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1846. The composer César Franck was born in Liège in 1822. Newer music in Belgium is also famous. Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and singer Jacques Brel have made global fame. In rock/pop music, Telex, Front 242, K's Choice, Hooverphonic, Zap Mama, Soulwax and dEUS are well known. In the heavy metal scene, bands like Machiavel, Channel Zero and Enthroned have a worldwide fan-base.[32]

Belgium has several well-known authors, including the poet Emile Verhaeren and novelists Hendrik Conscience, Georges Simenon, Suzanne Lilar and Amélie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé is the best known of Franco-Belgian comics. Many other major authors, including Peyo, André Franquin, Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fame.[33]

Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen. Belgian directors include André Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. Well-known actors include Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain. Successful films include Man Bites Dog and The Alzheimer Affair.[34]


Brussels waffles, commonly known as Belgian waffles outside of Belgium

Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries. French fries were first made in Belgium. The national dishes are "steak and fries with salad", and "mussels with fries".[35] Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Côte d'Or, Guylian, Neuhaus, Leonidas, Corné and Galler are famous.[36] Belgium makes over 1100 varieties of beer.[37][38] The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world's best beer.[39][40] The biggest brewer in the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Leuven.[41]


Kim Clijsters was WTA Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010

Since the 1970s, sports clubs are organised separately by each language community.[42] Association football is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming and judo.[43] With five victories in the Tour de France and many other cycling records, Belgian Eddy Merckx is said to be one of the greatest cyclists of all time.[44] Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is said to be one of the greatest in the history of football (soccer).[45] Belgium and The Netherlands hosted the UEFA European Football Championship in 2000. Belgium hosted the 1972 European Football Championships.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the Year in the Women's Tennis Association. The Spa-Francorchamps motor-racing circuit hosts the Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix. The Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Grands Prix and six 24 Hours of Le Mans. Belgium also has a strong reputation in motocross.[46] Sporting events held each year in Belgium include the Memorial Van Damme athletics competition, the Belgian Grand Prix Formula One, and a number of classic cycle races such as the Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp.

Other pages


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Government of Belgium". The World Factbook. CIA.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Belgium". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  3. "Distribution of family income — Gini index". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  4. "Human Development Report 2010" (PDF). United Nations. 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  5. Bunson, Matthew (1994). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire (Hardcover 352pp ed.). Facts on File, New York. p. 169. ISBN 0-8160-2135-X Paperback 512pp, ISBN 0-8160-3182-7; Revised edition (2002), Hardcover 636pp, ISBN 0-8160-4562-3 .
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cook (2002), p. 3
  7. Edmundson, George (1922). "Chapter I: The Burgundian Netherlands". History of Holland. The University Press, Cambridge. Republished: Authorama. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  8. Dobbelaere, Karel (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven); Voyé, Liliane (Université Catholique de Louvain) (1990) (PDF). From Pillar to Postmodernity: The Changing Situation of Religion in Belgium. (The Allen Review). Online at Oxford Journals, Oxford University Press. p. S1. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  9. "National Day and feast days of Communities and Regions". Belgian Federal Government. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  10. Meredith, Mark (6 June 2005). The State of Africa (Hardcover 608pp ed.). Free Press. pp. 95–96(?). ISBN 0-7432-3221-6 .
  11. "The Congolese Civil War 1960–1964". BBC News. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  12. "Defence Data Portal". European Defence Agency. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  13. "Rembert Dodoens: iets over zijn leven en werk—Dodoens' werken" (in Dutch). Plantaardigheden—Project Rembert Dodoens (Rembertus Dodonaeus). Balkbrug: Stichting Kruidenhoeve/Plantaardigheden. Revised 20 December 2005. Retrieved 17 May 2007.
  14. O'Connor, J. J.; Robertson, E. F. (2004). "Simon Stevin". School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland. Retrieved 11 May 2007.
  15. "Abstract (*)". S. Karger AG, Basel. Retrieved 11 May 2007.
  16. Midbon, Mark, University of Wisconsin–Madison (24 March 2000). "'A Day Without Yesterday': Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang". Commonweal, republished: Catholic Education Resource Center (CERC). pp. 18–19. Retrieved 7 June 2007.
  17. Patricia Carson. The Fair Face of Flanders. Lannoo Uitgeverij. p. 136. ISBN 90-209-4385-5 .
  18. Lance Day (2003). Lance Day, Ian McNeil. ed. Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. Routledge. p. 1135. ISBN 0-203-02829-5 .
  19. Gordon Woodward (2003). Lance Day, Ian McNeil. ed. Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. Routledge. p. 523. ISBN 0-203-02829-5 .
  20. "Georges Lemaître, Father of the Big Bang". American Museum of Natural History. 2000. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  21. "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1977". Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  22. O'Connor, John J; Edmund F. Robertson "Pierre Deligne". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.   (Retrieved: 10 November 2011)
  23. O'Connor, John J; Edmund F. Robertson "Jean Bourgain". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.   (Retrieved: 10 November 2011)
  24. "Belgium's parliament votes through child euthanasia". BBC News. 2014-02-13. Retrieved 2014-02-13.
  25. "Belgium". Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. UNESCO. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
  26. Hendrick, Jacques (1987) (in French). La peinture au pays de Liège. Liège: Editions du Perron. p. 24. ISBN 2-87114-026-X .
  27. Guratzsch, Herwig (1979) (in German). Die große Zeit der niederländische Malerei. Freiburg im Beisgau: Verlag Herder. p. 7.
  28. "Belgian Artists: (biographies & artworks)". World Wide Arts Resources. 5 February 2006. Retrieved 10 May 2007.—List of Belgian painters, linking to their biographies and artworks
  29. Baudson, Michel (1996). "Panamarenko". Flammarion (Paris), quoted at presentation of the XXIII Bienal Internacional de São Paulo. Archived from the original on 7 February 2007. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
  30. "ib. (page2)". Senses Art Nouveau Shop, Brussels. 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007.
  31. "Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels)". UNESCO's World Heritage List. UNESCO. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  32. "The Timeline—A brief history of Belgian Pop Music". The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives. Flanders Music Centre, Brussels. March 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2007.
  33. Laurence Grove (2010). Comics in French: the European bande dessinée in context. Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-84545-588-6 .
  34. "History of Cinema in Belgium". Film Birth. 2007. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  35. "Steak-frites". Epicurious. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  36. Mark Elliott, Geert Cole (2000). Belgium and Luxembourg. Lonely Planet. p. 53.
  37. Snick, Chris (18 October 2011). "Nieuwe bierbijbel bundelt alle 1.132 Belgische bieren" (in Dutch). Het Nieuwsblad.
  38. "Nieuwe bierbijbel met 1.132 Belgische bieren voorgesteld in Brugge" (in Dutch). Krant van West-Vlaanderen. 18 October 2011.
  39. Ames, Paul (30 August 2009). "Buying the World's Best Beer". Global Post. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  40. Guthrie, Tyler (11 August 2010). "Day trip to the best beer in the world". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  41. InBev (24 April 200). "InBev dividend 2006: 0.72 euro per share—infobox: About InBev". Press release. Retrieved 31 May 2007. "InBev is a publicly traded company (Euronext: INB) based in Leuven, Belgium. The company's origins date back to 1366, and today it is the leading global brewer by volume."
  42. Marijke Task; Roland Renson; Bart van Reusel (1999). Klaus Heinemann. ed. Organised sport in transition: development, structures and trends of sports clubs in Belgium. Schattauer Verlag. pp. 183–229. ISBN 3-7945-2038-6 .
  43. George Wingfield (2008). Charles F. Gritzner. ed. Belgium. Infobase Publishing. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-0-7910-9670-3 .
  44. Majendie, Matt (18 April 2005). "Great, but there are greater". BBC Sport. Retrieved 20 September 2007.
  45. "Goalkeeping Greats" Retrieved on 29 June 2008
  46. Bob Woods (2008). Motocross History: From Local Scrambling to World Championship MX to Freestyle. Crabtree Publishing Company. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-7787-3987-6 .

Other websites

Media related to Belgium at Wikimedia Commons