Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Education of a Prince

Some reflections from Leopold III towards the end of his life:
It appears essential to prepare for his future responsibilities, and this, from his earliest youth, the prince who is called to reign. In normal circumstances, the crown prince is one of the only personages- if not the only personage- in the nation whose future is all traced. It would, therefore, be an error not to take care, as soon as possible, that his education corresponds to the exercise of his high functions.
Three points seem essential to me in the preparation of the crown prince for his role as head of State: the formation of character; a range of studies giving him a very solid culture, in general as well as in depth in certain domains; the acquisition and maintenance of good physical form.
The exercise of power is burdensome and taxing. It demands total availability. The king's health must permit him to face the ordinary duties of his charge as well as the periods of crisis it implies. The physical form of the crown prince ought therefore to be maintained. The daily practice of sports will, therefore, be recommended to him, to develop in him the taste for physical effort, the desire to surpass himself and the sense of emulation.
As to instruction, I consider that, at the end of secondary school, the crown prince ought to pass through military school. He ought to give the example and accomplish his military service like every citizen. Attendance at this highly qualified establishment of higher education will not only give him a very solid general culture, but will also make him live with other Belgians of the same age, will develop his physical form and will contribute, by inculcating in him sane notions of discipline, to the formation of his character.
This university formation, already serious, ought to be completed by a profound knowledge of political economy. Economy and finance govern the world. A future head of State cannot permit himself to neglect the study of these subjects, which ought to extend even to the domestic and daily aspects of these sciences. It is the same for constitutional law. The king is the guardian of the Constitution, and the prince must acquired a knowledge of it which is simultaneously literal and reasoned. 
He must, in addition, work tirelessly at everything which may contribute to making him a orator who is listened to; that is to say, he must work at learning to expose his ideas or such a subject as is appropriate in a clear and precise fashion, in public or in private. He will sometimes need to improvise, and this talent comes with practice. He will also learn to appear in public, to have assurance.
Must I also insist upon the knowledge of languages, both national and foreign, which are so indispensable?  
There is also the conduct of audiences, which constitute, in the role of the head of State, a very important activity, and one often heavy with consequences. One must learn to prepare them very carefully and know how to create a climate of trust with one's interlocutors. These audiences, as well as the other functions of the king, require a good memory. This also comes with the aid of regular exercises. Although his entourage is there to inform him, the young prince ought to find ways to form his opinion by himself. He must therefore learn to draw upon the best sources, to read fast and well in order to discern the main ideas and lines of reflection.
The crown prince must prepare himself to love his métier and to live it intensely; its grandeur is to be at the service of all, without distinction of birth, fortune, culture or opinion, in the respect of the Constitution.
Due to the duration of his function, and the experience it gives him, it belongs to him to be the guardian of the fundamental Law and, within this framework, the guardian of the permanent interests of the Country.
Because his métier places him above distinctions, his task consists in being the arbiter between them, and he cannot, therefore, identify himself with any of them, on pain of depriving his advice and his counsels of the independence necessary for the good functioning of the gears of the State.


Jorge said...

Thank you, Matterhorn. I like what King Leopold says about physical exercise. Most people don't realize that it's not just useful to keep the body in good shape.
The text clearly shows that Leopold III was a man who expected excellence from himself and from his heir. Very strict, maybe too much, but necessary. I'm glad I'm not a royal.


May said...

Thank you, Jorge.

Leopold was a strict parent, but his father was even more so!

I think, though, that part of Leopold's demanding recommendations were born of his own feeling that he was insufficiently prepared to reign when his father died so suddenly. He said he had not had enough time to complete his formation.

Jorge said...

Being born a crown prince must be so strange. For a person to "grow" in a role he/she is expected to assume must be so weird, more so when that person feels more inclined to other things (art, sports, law, etc). It must be incredibly stressful and painful to be born to do something you are supposed to do before even you were conceived.

May said...

True, but little Leopold actually smiled when someone, apparently a bit absent-minded, asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"I don't have a choice!" he said, but cheerfully.