Stamps issued: 1849-PRESENT
Land of the ancient Belgae, who Julius Caesar believed to be “the most courageous tribe in all of Gaul,” Belgium (as part of the Low Lands which included The Netherlands and Luxembourg) was controlled for 1,800 years by a succession of foreign powers anxious to reap their wealth. The area was renowned for its international commercial trade from the 1400s through 1700s thanks to its ready access to the sea and powerful merchant class. Belgium is a land of divided heritage – the Dutch-speaking Protestant Flemish and the French-speaking Catholic Walloons – as a result of its geography and this fluctuating control. After years of Spanish and Austrian annexation, it was incorporated into France by Napoleon in 1794 . That was short lived. Following the Napoleonic Wars, the region was given to the Netherlands under the Treaty of Paris (1815). By 1830 Belgium was in revolt and declared itself an independent and “perpetually neutral” state by 1838. A constitutional monarchy was established with Leopold I (uncle of Great Britain’s Queen Victoria) on the throne (1831-1865) followed by his son, Leopold II. During the son’s reign Belgium would colonize the Congo and Leopold II would adorn Belgian postage stamps on two continents.