It’s Good To Be The King

While Brussels was on its highest alert levels last month due to threats of terrorist attack, many Belgians were apparently wondering where their King was. It turns out he was in Northern France receiving “health” treatments:

The king and queen of Belgium relaxed at a spa in France during Belgium’s darkest hour and Brussels was in security lockdown on the hunt for Isil terrorists, it emerged on Wednesday.

The Royal couple took their trip just one week after gunmen attacked Paris killing 130 and surviving terrorists were thought to have fled to neighbouring Belgium.

On November 21, the day the Belgian capital was placed on maximum terror alert four, meaning it feared an “imminent” attack, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde were receiving health treatment at the Sofitel spa in Quiberon, Britanny, on France’s western coast, reported Le Canard Enchaîné.

The investigative weekly published a photo of the king in slippers and dressing gown sipping a fruit juice, saying this explained the mysterious royal silence while schools were closed in Brussels and the city’s metro system was shut down. The Royal couple signed into the spa using aliases, a Canard journalist told Le Soir.

Back in Belgium, the royal absence had raised eyebrows, with one commentator saying: “Philippe, Mathilde, where are you? Your country needs you in these difficult times.”

Another asked: “Has the king fled?”

The French weekly responded: “Le Canard is happy today to reassure the Belgian people that no, he didn’t leg it. Between the multi-fruit cocktail of the five-star spa and the multi-embarrassment of a level four alert, his choice was made.”

According to the royal palace’s spokesman, the king and queen had planned their break, paid for out of their own pockets, long before the Paris attacks, and that “they were in constant contact with the Belgian authorities”.

He added: “What they (the king and queen) were doing there is private” and that their stay had been “cut short to allow Philippe to return to Belgium early”.

According to Het Nieuwsblad, the Belgian news site, French security forces had complained about having to assure the royal couple’s security.

Le Canard remarked that this is not the first time that Belgium’s royals were absent during a crisis, noting that Albert II, King Philippe’s father, had sparked outrage for failing to return early from holiday when the Dutroux child murder affair broke.


King Philippe is a trained fighter pilot and parachutist with degrees from Trinity College, Oxford and Stanford University. But he has been criticised for his awkward manner and his Dutch – Belgium’s majority language – is said to be wooden. As a result many Belgians believe his family will hold the key to a successful reign.

Mathilde, a Flemish aristocrat with four children, is the first Belgian-born queen in the country’s history and is widely popular. Their daughter Princess Elisabeth, 13, will be the next in line to the throne due to a recent change to the country’s laws of succession which allows a first-born female to rule in her own right.

Like other European monarchs, the King of Belgium has no real power and his absence from the country didn’t really pose a security risk to the country since the decisions that needed to be made are all made by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. At the same time, though, these monarchs are, at least in theory, supposed to serve as some kind of national symbol and it would have seemed as though the King’s presence in the country, if not a speech to the nation, would have been something that the Belgian people might have appreciated. In any case, it’s events like this that leads one to wonder if nations like Belgium will start to wonder what the point of having a monarch in the 21st Century actually is at this point.

On the other hand, this would seem to be another example of the saying that it’s good to be the King.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. stonetools says:

    In any case, it’s events like this that leads one to wonder if nations like Belgium will start to wonder what the point of having a monarch in the 21st Century actually is at this point.

    The point of having a constitutional monarchy is that the monarch is a constant symbol of national unity, over and above the vissitudes of politics. In the USA the flag serves much of the same function.
    Europeans often point out Americans’ peculiar reverence for their flag. “The Star Spangled Banner? “The Stars and Stripes Forever? “Its a Grand Old Flag?” Very few countries sing songs to a square of cloth.

    Different strokes to different folks.

  2. @stonetools:

    Of course, flags don’t retreat to spas in Brittany when the going gets rough.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I’m writing an alt history of WW2 and I was able to get nice little embellishment from the fact that a young Elizabeth Windsor, (Queen Elizabeth 2 to you and me) enlisted as subaltern second class and drove a lorry. The British Royal family did not take a vacation during the Blitz and beyond, they stayed in London.

    That’s what royalty is meant to do. It wasn’t that subaltern Windsor was needed to drive a truck, it’s that she was there with her people.

  4. @michael reynolds:

    I’m writing an alt history of WW2


    Keep us posted, I’m a big alt-history fan.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    January 26, FRONT LINES, the first of three volumes. (getting well-reviewed, too, despite the fact that the kidlit establishment doesn’t like me.) It’s one big change: in 1940 the Supreme Court finds that enlistment and the draft must include women. Book One is enlistment through Kasserine. Book Two I’ve written, and it’s Sicily through Italy. The final book will be D-Day through Buchenwald and VE Day.

    I’m heading over to do research this summer, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. And yes, as it happens, I will be staying in nice hotels and celebrating my birthday at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. Research, dammit! Tax deductible.

  6. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: Thank you so much for that little tidbit. I had no idea she enlisted and drove a truck. That definitely bumps her up in my view.

  7. dazedandconfused says:

    Reverse caption contest “Good to be king” entry:

  8. Andre Kenji says:

    The European countries that kept the monarchy did it for the tradition(Basically meaning countries where the monarchs did not destroy the whole country by losing meaningless wars), not because of any practical reasons. Portugal is a Republic, Spain is a monarchy(Both countries are similar: if you speak either Spanish or Portuguese you´ll be astonished by how these languages are similar). There is no serious separatist movement in Portugal, while there are almost a dozen of Spanish territories with serious separatist movements(The Basques and Catalonians are just the most famous of them). Belgium is hardly an example of “national unity”.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Fvck the King. It’s good to be Michael Reynolds.

  10. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    @michael reynolds: Should you pass through Hamburg give me a shout-out. Then we can insult each other in person over matters political for an evening ;-).

  11. Franklin says:

    @dazedandconfused: “He’ll never be the king, dammit!” -QEII

  12. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds: Kind of a non-sequitur but Jan 26th just happens to be Douglas MacArthur’s birthday.

  13. sam says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m writing an alt history of WW2

    Have you seen The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime, Michael?

  14. Isabelle says:

    @sam: @sam:

    Hey, I love The Man in the High Castle! I myself am writing an alternate history novel (where the world wars never happened), so the show has really sparked some ideas.