The original Association of the Order of Leopold (1856 - ?)
On 3 January 1856 the “Société des décorés de l’Ordre de Léopold / Vereniging van de met de Leopoldsorde onderscheiden personen” was founded in Brussels under the patronage of HRH the Count of Flanders, its Honorary President.
Article 2 of its statutes defines its purposes:
- maintenance of the solidarity;
- strict observance among the members of its device (the same as that of the Nation: “United we stand, divided we fall”).
In order to become a member of the Association, one has to be decorated with the Order of Leopold and enjoy “public appreciation”. Any candidate must be recommended by two members, who are charged with an enquiry on his/her good behaviour!
The presentation of a candidate occurs with some ceremonial : the admitted candidate is introduced by the officials wearing their decorations. After the reading of the rules and the minutes of admission by the secretary, the president addresses a “fraternal speech” to the new member and invites him/her to observe the rules “as a good and loyal member”. Next he invites him/her to take the oath as follows:
“I swear not to undertake anything that could damage the respectability of the Order of Leopold and to fully observe the Regulations and act as a loyal and faithful member.”
An admission fee of 5 francs and a yearly membership fee of 12 francs is required.
The members are subject to certain obligations : attend the anniversary meetings of 21 July and 16 December, be present at funerals of deceased members and at board elections. Next to above mentioned meetings, there are also settled meetings on the first Monday of each month. Non-attendance is fined.
Revisions of the statutes
After a first revision of the statutes in 1862, the Association provided itself on 2 March 1870 with
Statutes in accordance with the law of 3 April 1851 concerning the associations of mutual assistance.
In these statutes effective and honorary members are provided for. The admission conditions are still unchanged but the ceremonial has been reduced : the oath has been dropped.
There are two kinds of meetings : ordinary and extraordinary meetings. The former take place on the first Wednesday of the month, the latter at festivities, funerals… Attendance at extraordinary meetings is compulsory for effective members living in Brussels or the Brussels suburbs.
A new element in the statutes is a participation in the medical care and funeral expenses.
Each effective member from Brussels or its suburbs is granted, under certain conditions, for himself, his wife and children living at home, the care of a medical doctor of the Association and the medicines the latter prescribes.
When a member living in Brussels or its suburbs dies, the Association pays the funeral expenses for the lump sum of 120 francs, unless the family refuses. For a member living outside Brussels, the sum will be paid to the heirs.
In the absence of legally valid documents one could suppose that the Association of the Order of Leopold disappeared during the period of the First World War.
1932-1934: foundation of the actual Assistance Association
The actual Association was founded with the personal support of King Albert I on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Order of Leopold.
On this occasion the King, accompanied by dignitaries of the Royal Palace, received a delegation from the Assistance Association of this Order. This delegation was headed by Count de Broqueville, Prime Minister, Minister of State and senior doyen of the Grand Ribbon Holders of the Order. He was accompanied by Mister Hymans, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and by twenty founding members, constituting the Board of Directors.
The Prime Minister gave a speech in which he announced the foundation of the Association to the King and invited the sovereign to accept the first copy of the statutes and the replica of the decoration coined by the Royal Mint on the occasion of the foundation of the Society.
In his reply, the King congratulated the Prime Minister and the Board of Directors of the Association with their initiative and he thanked them for these marks of patriotism.
Since that day, all acts of the Association are inspired by the words which King Albert I addressed to its founders:
“If wearing this decoration, which is appreciated all over the world, is an honour, it also implies duties in respect of the country, in respect of oneself and in respect of the fellow men.”
The statutes of the Association of mutual aid of the members of the order of Leopold were published in the appendixes of the Belgian law gazette (Le Moniteur belge/ Belgisch Staatsblad) of June 9th, 1934.
Modification/Adaptation of the statutes in 1968, 1982, 1998, 2004 and in 2014
As any association, the Association of the Order of Leopold has been able to adapt itself to the customs of its members. The modifications of the statutes have been published in the appendixes of the Belgian law gazette (Le Moniteur/ Belgisch Staatsblad) of 5 September 1968, 2 September 1982, 26 March 1998, 21 June 2004 and 24 Juli 2014.
The successive presidents
Count de Broqueville, Prime Minister, was the first president of the Association.
He was succeeded by:
- Lieutenant-general Biebuyck,
- M. Georges Theunis, Minister of State,
- Prince Amaury de Mérode, Honorary Grand Marshal of the Court,
- Baron Lepage, Honorary First President of the Council of State,
- Mister Jean-Marie Piret, Honorary Procurator-General at the Court of Cassation, Honorary principal private Secretary of the King.
Since 2013, Mister Xavier De Riemaecker, Honorary Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, presides the Association.
The successive locations of the actual Association.
The first location was situated in the Rue de la Science, 27 in Brussels in a mansion, which had been donated in gratitude to his new home country by Armenian born V. Khorassandijan, principal patron of the Association, in 1939.
In 1967 the House of the Order settles at number 50 of the Rue du Trone in Brussels.
In 1972, due to the expropriation of the House of the Order, the seat of the Association is moved to Rue du Tabellion, 9 at Ixelles (Brussels) where it is still situated.
Commemorative medal: 1982
With a view to the 150th anniversary of the Order in 1982, the Association of the Order of Leopold has decided to bring out a commemorative medal in patina bronze or in silver with a diameter of 50 mm. On the front, the engraving by Borrel of the original 1832 medal was re-used; this represents a bust of King Leopold I in uniform and bears the inscription : ORDRE DE LEOPOLD 1832-1982 LEOPOLDSORDE. At the back we have the Civil Cross of the Order, engraved by Jehotte (1846) with the inscription: L’UNION FAIT LA FORCE – EENDRACHT MAAKT MACHT.