I don’t have a Brussels postcard, but I do have one from Bruges, and it was sent on today’s date.
Quai Vert, Bruges, Belgium
On March 23, 1977, Mama Snail wrote to Grandma and Grandpa Snail:
Not all of Bruges is like this–it[‘]s all old, but some parts are crowded with stores + cars, market square, while others (like this) are so quiet you can hear your hair grow. Really beautiful–the whole place. This is where they still make lace by hand and there are statues of the Madonna + Child in recesses on the corners of everyday buildings. Lots of tall-spired churches…
The stamp on the right is of King Albert I, born in 1875, who reigned from 1909 till his death in 1934. As a young man preparing for his kingship, he was concerned with the plight of the working class, and travelled incognito to observe their living conditions.
The Belgian Congo, which had been the private property of King Leopold II, became a colony in 1908. In 1909, just before ascending the throne, Albert embarked on an extensive tour of the new colony. There too he was dismayed by poor living conditions, and his early reign was devoted to reforms there, from technological development to protections of the native peoples.
King Albert I served as Belgium’s Commander in Chief during WWI, fighting at the front. His wife, Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria, also served at the front as a nurse.
By 1918, Albert was commander of Army Group Flanders, consisting of Belgian, French, and British divisions, which liberated occupied Belgium.
The war, in which virtually every able bodied man served, highlighted the imbalances of the country’s political system where plural votes were given depending on men’s wealth, education, and age. At the war’s end in 1918, the king’s first major reform was one man, one vote. (Belgian women were not allowed to vote until 1948. By contrast, in 1918, the year of Belgium’s universal male suffrage, women won suffrage in Germany, Austria, Poland, and Russia.)
No European monarchs had visited the United States before Albert I and Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1919. They particularly made a splash by visiting the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico.
And the king didn’t forget the Belgian Congo. He founded its first national park, the famed Virunga, as its now called, in 1925. A conservationist and outdoorsman, King Albert I died in a mountaineering accident in his native Belgium.
The stamp on the left is of Albert I’s grandson, King Baudouin, born in 1930, who reigned from 1951 till his death in 1993. The most significant change of his reign came in 1960, when the Congo won its independence.
Sending love to Belgium.
If you would like to send me a postcard from Brussels (or anywhere!), write to:
3370 Glendale Blvd. Box 613
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Include your return address (will not be shown on the blog), and I’ll send you a postcard back in thanks.
You can also reach out by simply clicking the “Like” button when you enjoy a post. After 375 of them, I need to know people are still digging it if I’m going to keep sharing.
Peace and Love,