By tradition Belgium has always been a Catholic country but in those days (1860-1870) religious faith in Belgium was especially strong and the Belgians were, overall, not happy with the Italian liberal-nationalists invading the States of the Church, effectively to depose Pope Pius IX from his position as the local king in Rome. Hundreds of Belgians bravely volunteered for service with the Papal Zouaves, the army of the Pope named after the flamboyant style of their uniforms, grey and red, the style taken from Algerian fashion that was introduced by the French army during their North African service. The first papal military commander and the Belgian Minister of War for the Pope were veterans of service in North Africa and this probably explains why the general dressed his soldiers in Algerian style uniforms. However, as you read in the previous post, the assignment the Pope gave to Bishop Xavier de Merode was really an impossible one (everyone must have known that) and ultimately unsuccessful.
When it was over and the Pope lost his political authority he secluded himself inside the walls of the Vatican in protest. Many Catholic powers tried to show the Pope that they still respected his authority even while political circumstances forced them to come to terms with the new Kingdom of Italy. One of these was the court of King Leopold II of the Belgians. The Ladies of the Royal Court raised funds for the design of a very unique and magnificent papal tiara for Pius IX. This was a way many countries showed support for the authority of the pope, by sending him a new crown. The “Ladies of the Royal Court of the King of the Belgians” (then Leopold II) presented the crown to the Pope on June 18, 1871. The crown, often known as the “Belgian Tiara” was not like any other. It was designed by Jean-Baptiste Bethune of Ghent with a unique shape for the three jewel-encrusted crowns and the tiers decorated with the words, “CHRISTI VICARIO - IN TERRA - REGUM”.