For UK citizens, the royals are a big deal. They are almost obsessed with them. But why is it so different in Belgium? Do the people in Belgium even know what the function of the king and queen in our country is in these times of democracy? Six students, both British and Belgian, give their opinion.
‘They remind us of who we are’
Jessica Johnson (28) is a student at Marjon University in Plymouth. She is a proponent of the Queen and the Royal Family. ‘I think the Royal Family are fantastic and are a reminder of who we are and who we should be as British people. They keep our traditions alive, the old saying for Britain is that we have a stiff upper lip. However the more we as a nation move away from these high standards, the less we engage with the Royal Family.’ She says that also the old colonies like Australia absolutely love the Queen.
‘They don’t contribute anything to this country’
Someone who’s got another opinion is Shauny Verheulpen (21), a student at the Thomas More University College in Mechelen. According to her the monarchy should be abolished. ‘The Belgian king and queen only cost us money. Loads of money. They’re not even ashamed to say they want more. The Royal Family doesn’t contribute anything to this country. Nothing but debts. Another thing I think is ridiculous is that they always visit other countries. Countries that go through hard times. Whilst nearby their palace loads of people have to sleep on the streets, have no food and freeze to death in winter.’ Shauny thinks our king and queen should engage more in their own country.
‘It’s a prejudice that most Brits adore them’
Two other Marjon University students, Connor Flello (21) and Stephen Dixon (24), stay neutral when it comes to adoring the Royal Family. ‘Their role in society is to pass laws by government, as they oversee the democratic opinion of the public and in turn pass laws that would benefit the state,’ says Connor. ‘Other than that they have no real power. Unless they have absolute power of state, their role as a higher power is obsolete.’
Stephen says it’s a prejudice that most Brits adore the Royal Family. ‘Particularly young people are skeptical of the Royal Family. That being said, a lot of people like the monarchy because of the amount of tourists they bring to London,’ says Stephen. ‘We keep them because of the traditions, it would be sad to lose them. For example the changing of the guard at Buckingham or big events when the Queen travels in her horse and carriage. The changing of the guard is why a lot of people go to the palace to see, to see them march.’
Wouter Vandenberk (20) is a Belgian student at UCLL in Diepenbeek. ‘I think the Brits are more into the royals because they are more close to the citizens. Here in Belgium, our king and queen show up very seldom whilst in England the Royal Family does this more often and in a more normal way. I think in here there is a lot of megalomania and they should do more for the people in our country.’ Even though Wouter hasn’t got anything against the Royal Family, he would prefer a presidential state, because you can choose them.
‘I don’t think we should pay them a penny’
British international student in Belgium Kristian McCann (23) tells about the differences he has noticed during his time in our country. ‘I think that many people in Britain have respect for the Queen but not so much the Royal Family in general and largely, the support is from older people. With regards to Belgium, I haven’t heard any news about the Belgian Royal Family since arriving, which is actually quite surprising. It seems that no one really cares about them. I think they would be mentioned in the news at least twice a month in England. I also think we idolize them in a more celebrity fashion, because they are more active in public activities such as charity, or Prince Harry dating a movie star.’
Kristian says he’s not a fan of them. ‘I don’t think we should pay them a penny. I would want the UK to become a republic and dispose of the Royal Family. However, if there was an agreement that we would no longer pay them any money through taxes, but they would still be the Royal Family, then I wouldn’t be as bothered about them remaining.
Text: Laura Liebens, photo: ©Laura Liebens, ©Kristian McCann, ©Wouter Vandenberk, ©Jessica Johnson, ©Stephen Dixon, Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia (CC by 2.0),