Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Prince Laurent has done it again!!

The British Royal family has Prince Andrew.  In Belgium,  Prince Laurent is the bad boy.    When it comes down to picking which one is worse, I would vote for Laurent.   The Duke of York is the UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment.  He does not receive a salary for this position.    He receives £249,000, provided by the Queen, as an allowance.  This allowance is not for the Duke's personal use.  He cannot use these funds to pay for his daughters' university fees  or buy a new car.  Two thirds of the Civil List appanages are used to pay for staff salaries and correspondence, and the business of carrying out official duties. 

Prince Laurent receives a tax-free annual allowance of approximately $439,000.  I do not know if this is a salary, or if the money is used to pay salaries of staff and other expenses restricted to official duties.

Laurent, the youngest of three children of King Albert II and Queen Paola,  is back on the front pages of Belgium's newspaper because he recently traveled to the Congo "against the written advice" of the Belgian government.  His recent trip has, according to the Associated Press, "reinvigorated a debate in Parliament about cutting royal stipends."

Belgium and the Congo have had a long and difficult relationship, and for a Belgium official, whether it be an elected official or a member of the Royal Family, a trip there is a "test of diplomacy."   The Congo was formerly the Belgian Congo, a colony of the small European country, and, at one time, the personal fiefdom of King Leopold II.  Much of the Belgian Royal Family's wealth came from the exploitation of the Congo and the rape and degradation of its people. 

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said yesterday that he "regretted"  Prince Laurent's decision to visit the Congo because it can "be seen as carrying a political message."   Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said that Prince Laurent, as a member of the royal family, "does not enjoy the freedom of unfettered travel."

Although the government had requested that Prince Laurent postpone his trip,  he did not heed their advice.  "This move was not coordinated in advance with the government or with the Palace.  Despite the government's request to postpone the Palace and the trip to ensure necessary preparation, the prince decided not to delay his departure," the government said in an official statement.

Prince Laurent responded to the government statement on Wednesday.  "This trip was a private study tour, and the purpose was purely scientific and not political." 

In mid-march, Prince Laurent, 47, traveled to Kinshasa on behalf of the Prince Laurent Foundation, which raises money for the welfare of domestic and wild animals.

For more information about King Leopold II and the Belgian Congo:

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