Patrick van Katwijk
Royal families -- what fun would they be without a few black sheep? Prince Laurent plays the part in Belgium's monarchy. As the youngest child of the former King Albert II, he's never had much interest or respect for typical royale protocol. Combined with his affinity for environmental causes and animal welfare, it's led to some in the country calling him the écolo-gaffeu (aka the "eco-blunderer"). He also has a habit of publicly shading other members of his family, and is reportedly barely on speaking terms with the rest of the royals.
For the most part, however, he's viewed as an eccentric figure. For example, he once lost his license for speeding, and his wife complained that maybe there ought to be “a special license for those driving a fast car," according to The Guardian. It's relatively harmless, all things considered. Well, except for his occasional habit of visiting controversial world leaders without informing anyone else. He has tried to go into business with Muammar Gaddafi's son, once visited Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, and has committed other rogue acts of diplomacy. In his most recent escapade, he showed up at the Chinese embassy in full naval regalia to 90th anniversary of the Chinese People's Army.
Well, the Belgian Prime Minister had had enough, and moved to cut the Prince's royal income (or "dotation" in fancy terms) of $370,000 by 10 to 15 percent. The Prince's lawyer responded by comparing the fines to human rights violations because he had no right to defend himself. He also claimed that restricting him from meeting controversial foreign leaders would amount to forced "social isolation," because apparently getting new friends is out of the question (in his defense, Belgians don't tend to like their royal family as much as other European countries).
Indeed, the Prince's lawyer, Laurent Arnauts, sent an outraged seven-page letter to the Prime Minister.
“It goes without saying that the court of human rights would make short work of such violations of the right to a fair trial,” he writes, before going on to claim that the penalty also goes "against the most fundamental human rights in a developed society".
The lawyer also argues that it would be near unthinkable for the Prince to actually have a job of his own.
“In this traditional view, a prince was not allowed to work (it would testify to ‘a desire for money’, a reproach that some people dare to repeat today, which is the world upside down!)."
Apparently, trying to go into business with a Gaddafi son isn't considered a job. For the record, the Belgian Government made changes to the law about 10 years ago that would encourage members of the royal family not directly in line for the throne to get a real job.
The lawyer argues that the“deprive him and his family of all livelihoods” and that it could affect his “image and, dare I add, his health." Though, he does offer up a bit of a concession. The Prince would, in the future, offer up 10 days notice about any future meetings with foreign officials.
The kicker to all of this is that the Prince's visit to the embassy likely would have gone unnoticed in the first place except for the fact that he tweeted a picture of himself at the event. The Prince was also supposed to meet with the Prime Minister over the situation, but instead sent a note explaining that he was sick.
Perhaps we have a solution that could work out for everyone: the Prince should just accept an endorsement deal from a waffle company.