Sunday, September 27, 2009

Royal Visits to the Congo: A Timeline

I am gathering information for a series of posts on the royal visits to the Belgian Congo (1908-1960). Meanwhile, here is a timeline of these occasions. Ironically, King Leopold II, who cunningly acquired the colony and shocked world opinion by exploiting it ruthlessly, never set foot in his distant possession.
  • 1909- Prince Albert (later King Albert I), King Leopold's nephew and heir, tours the Congo, shortly after its annexation by Belgium (previously, it had been under Leopold's personal control.) He is intensely concerned with reform.
  • 1925- Prince Leopold, King Albert's son and heir, follows in his father's footsteps by undertaking an extensive journey through the Congo, as part of his preparation for rulership. Like Albert, he returns with sharp criticisms of the colonial régime and suggestions for improvement.
  • 1928- King Albert returns to the Congo, with Queen Elisabeth. This is the first time a reigning Belgian Sovereign has visited the colony.
  • 1932- King Albert's third visit to the Congo.
  • 1933- Prince Leopold's second Congo trip. He is accompanied by his wife, Princess Astrid, who enters wholeheartedly into his hopes and plans for reform.
  • 1955- King Baudouin I makes his first state visit to the Congo. The young monarch takes a keen interest in colonial affairs, and, previously shy and reserved, appears to "blossom" on the tour. He is greeted by cheering crowds.
  • 1959- King Baudouin's second visit. As Congolese demands for independence mount, the atmosphere is much more tense, even explosive.
  • 1960- Belgium agrees to grant the Congo independence. King Baudouin attends the handover of power in the capital, Kinshasa/Léopoldville.
I hope this list is accurate! If you see an error, please correct me.

11 comments:

MadMonarchist said...

Thanks for this overview. The only one I knew about previously was the last, the handover, and that is an occasion I think King Baudouin was at his best (I know others will disagree). The picture I found a while back must have been from his first visit. The King and Queen were both there, being carried in sedan chairs by their people who were all smiles. Only being aware of the last visit I was taken aback by the evident joy of this visit I had not heard of before.

Matterhorn said...

I wonder what visit that picture was from....As Baudouin married Fabiola in 1960, it seems it would have had to be the last one. I suppose that stormy occasion, though, could have had its cheerful moments too.

Or could it be some occasion after the granting of independence? I believe Baudouin and Fabiola returned later around 1970. But carrying them in sedan chairs sounds like they were still the rulers of the area...puzzling...can anyone help?

Alex Engwete said...

My dad, who used to be a boy of the Bruxellois Baron van den Bruck (not certain about the spelling; but I know he had an only child, named Sabine), was among those who served at the royal banquet in Stanleyville (Kisangani) during the visit of King Baudouin aka Bwana Kitoto (The Handsome Man). Amazingly, he kept the menu of the dinner in a small metallic box where he had all his important documents (the deeds of our house, etc). I don’t know whether I’d be able to find that box and the menu when I go to Kisangani. What I remember from the menu was that one of the dishes served was Congolese: fish Capitaine à la mwambe sauce…

Matterhorn said...

Great story- thanks for sharing.

Pilgrim said...

Baudoin was not presemt at the change of powers in Léopoldville. Léopold III was Roi des belges since Albert I fatal accident in 1929.

Matterhorn said...

Pilgrim, thanks for visiting and commenting. Actually, though, Baudouin was the King of the Belgians from 1951-1993, and he did attend the handover of power in Kinshasa in 1960. This is referenced at the official website of the Belgian monarchy:

www.monarchie.be

Leopold III actually became King in 1934 (this was the year Albert I died) but was forced to abdicate in 1951.

Matterhorn said...

MadMonarchist, I was checking and Baudouin married Fabiola in December, 1960, but the handover of power in Kinshasa was in June, 1960. So that photograph of the King and the Queen in the Congo must be from some later visit, after the granting of independence. That might explain the more cheerful mood, too.

MadMonarchist said...

Wow, that rather surprises me. Africa is known for being welcoming to visitors but the scene seemed above and beyond to me. The canopies over the chairs look to be decorated with the national colors and there is a Belgian tricolor flying in the background. There looks to be a third honoree being carried as well but it's just outside of the frame. Maybe that would explain more, but I guess if the Queen is there, as you say, it must have been post-independence.

Matterhorn said...

Maybe it was some celebrated treaty/friendship agreement between the two countries? Just a guess.

Ms. Lucy said...

The site looks great! Love the new look:)

Matterhorn said...

Thanks, Lucy!