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A la santé du roi

A la santé du roi

Eduardo Garcia Benito (1891-1981)
A la santé du roi
To the King’s health
Woodcut with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1915.
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994

No. 42 from the 2nd series La Grande Guerre .

Here the Belgians are depicted in the manner of the BEF ( no. 10 ), the British Indian soldiers ( no. 18 ), and the French Zouaves ( no. 43 ).

In the event of war with Germany, France anticipated only that the enemy might cross a corner of Belgium to reach Paris. Invasion of its territory would breach a 75-year old treaty guaranteeing Belgian neutrality (1839 Treaty of London). Belgium, though small, was a successful industrial and imperial power like Britain. Britain saw the German invasion as a mockery of the European order of law and an act of treason on the part of the great modern state that had vowed to safeguard smaller countries’ right to an independent existence.

The first big assault of the war by the German army was against Liège on 5 August. Reports of savage attacks were greatly shocking to those who admired Germany for its culture and learning. The German army killed over 5,000 Belgians civilians accused of acting as francs tireurs (literally, ‘free shooters’). Description of German atrocities was banned in French newspapers to help prevent the spread of fear.

The French caption with English translation:

A LA SANTÉ DU ROI O ! Belgique , ô ! mère chèrie,
A toi nos coeurs, à toi nos bras !
A toi notre sang ! ô ! Patrie,
Nous le jurons tous, to vivras !
Tu vivras toujours grande et belle,
Et ton invincible unité
Aura pour devise immortelle :
Dernière strophe de La Brabançonne

To the King’s health
O Belgium, o mother dear,
To thee our hearts, to thee our arms!
To thee our blood! O motherland!
We swear to you, you shall live!
You will live, so great and beautiful,
And your invincible unity
Shall have this immortal maxim -
The King, the Law and Freedom!
Last stanza of La Brabanconne


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