On August 4th the Belgian king, Albert I, addressed his nation’s parliament – as German forces were initiating the Schlieffen Plan and pouring over Belgium’s borders:
Never since 1839 has a more solemn hour struck for Belgium: the integrity of our territory is threatened. The very force of our righteous cause, the sympathy which Belgium, proud of her free institutions and her moral victories, has always received from other nations, and the necessity of our autonomous existence in respect of the equilibrium of Europe, make us still hopeful that the dreaded emergency will not be realised.
But if our hopes are betrayed, if we are forced to resist the invasion of our soil, and to defend our threatened homes, this duty, however hard it may be, will find us armed and resolved upon the greatest sacrifices. Even now, in readiness for any eventuality, our valiant youth is up in arms, firmly resolved, with the traditional tenacity and composure of the Belgians, to defend our threatened country.
In the name of the nation, I give it a brotherly greeting. Everywhere in Flanders and Wallonia, in the towns and in the countryside, one single feeling binds all hearts together: the sense of patriotism.
One single vision fills all minds: that of our independence endangered. One single duty imposes itself upon our wills: the duty of stubborn resistance.
In these solemn circumstances two virtues are indispensable: a calm but unshaken courage, and the close union of all Belgians. Both virtues have already asserted themselves, in a brilliant fashion, before the eyes of a nation full of enthusiasm.
The irreproachable mobilisation of our army, the multitude of voluntary enlistments, the devotion of the civil population, the abnegation of our soldiers’ families, have revealed in an unquestionable manner the reassuring courage which inspires the Belgian people. It is the moment for action.
I have called you together, gentlemen, in order to enable the Legislative Chambers to associate themselves with the impulse of the people in one and the same sentiment of sacrifice. You will understand, gentlemen, how to take all those immediate measures which the situation requires, in respect both of the war and of public order. No one in this country will fail in his duty.
If the foreigner, in defiance of that neutrality whose demands we have always scrupulously observed, violates our territory, he will find all the Belgians gathered about their sovereign, who will never betray his constitutional oath, and their Government, invested with the absolute confidence of the entire nation.
I have faith in our destinies; a country which is defending itself conquers the respect of all; such a country does not perish!