Fly THAI Airways to Brussels for Some History

Fly THAI Airways to Brussels for Some History

by Harold Stephens
Travel Correspondent for Thai Airways

There is a lot happening in Brussels these days with all the EU conferences. I mentioned this to a history professor I was talking to.  “You are wrong there,” he said.  “There was always been something going on since it was founded.” And then I got a short history on Brussels.

He began by telling me how Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne into a metropolis of more than one million people.

From Goggle I gathered it has been, only, since the end of the Second World War that Brussels has been a main center for international politics. Hosting principal institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the city has become the polyglot home of numerous international politicians, diplomats and civil servants.
Back to the professor: Although historically Dutch speaking, Brussels became increasingly French speaking over the 19th and 20th centuries. Today a majority of inhabitants are native French-speakers, and both languages have official status. “That doesn’t mean tensions didn't remain,

Around the year 580., the bishop of Cambria made the first recorded reference to the place "Brosella"  when it was still a hamlet. The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island.
Under Lambert I of Leuven, Brussels grew quite quickly; it became a commercial centre that rapidly extended towards the upper town (St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral), where there was a smaller risk of floods. As it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. In the 13th century, the city got its first walls.
After the construction of the first walls of Brussels, in the early 13th century, Brussels grew significantly. To let the city expand, a second set of walls was erected between 1356 and 1383. Today, traces of it can still be seen, mostly because the "small ring", a series of roadways in downtown Brussels bounding the historic city centre, follows its former course.

Charles V, heir of the Low Countries since 1506, was declared King of Spain, in 1516, in the Cathedral of Saint Gudule in Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles became the new Holy Roman Emperor of the Empire "on which the sun does not set". It was in the Palace complex at Coudenberg that Charles V abdicated in 1555.

In 1695, King Louis XIV of France sent troops to bombard Brussels with artillery. Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels. The Grand Place was destroyed, along with 4000 buildings, a third of those in the city.

The reconstruction of the city centre, effected during subsequent years, profoundly changed the appearance of the city and left numerous traces still visible today. The city was captured by France in 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession but was handed back to Austria three years later.

After the war, Brussels was modernized.  Brussels became the de facto capital of what would become the European Union, and many modern buildings were built. The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989 after a constitutional reform in 1970. The Brussels-Capital Region was made bilingual, and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium.

That is the history of Brussels in brief.

Harold Stephens
E-mail: ROH Weekly Travel (

Note: The article is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the view of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited.

Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia

Charles an his brother, before cameras

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Holy Roman Empire

King Louis XIV of France