History

La province "Walloniae" de l'odre des Capucins (1612)The "Walloniae" province of the Capuchin order (1618)

 

500,000 B.C. - Human activity is in evidence in the Amblève valley from the Lower Paleolithic. In the Middle Paleolithic, from 300,000 to 40,000 B.C., traces of Neanderthal man were left in Sclayn, Engis, Goyet and Spy. The presence of Homo Sapiens was confirmed in Wallonia approximately 34,000 B.C. In the Upper Neolithic (6th millennium), new populations became established both from the Rhine and south-western Europe but it was in the Middle Neolithic (4th millennium) that Wallonia experienced its prehistoric "golden age", marked in particular by the building of fortifications and "industrial" flint mining. For at least 500,000 years, the vitality of the settlements was a key element of the prehistory of the lands that would one day become Wallonia.

450 B.C. - The Celts settle in Wallonia. They would be the foundations for a rich civilisation, particularly in terms of industry (metal working) and high-quality crafts. At this time, the Germans used the term Walha to describe the Celts living on the southern and western borders of their regions.

Bas-relief dit de Montauban représentant la moissonneuse des Trévires © Musée Gaumais

Bas-relief of Montauban depicting the harvester of the Treveri tribe

57 B.C. Julius Caesar conquers Gaul and a deep Romanisation begins. This would be a decisive factor in the development of what would become Wallonia. Its inhabitants became Gallo-Romans. They gave up their Celtic languages in favour of Latin. They integrated into the culture and gradually, took on Roman citizenship. Their Germanic neighbours continued to call them Walha, a term from which the words Walloon, then Wallonia would be derived. From this time, the Walloon area described itself as a "Latin market" on the border of the Germanic world.

5th century - The Roman empire collapses. Against the backdrop of Germanic invasions, the Franks (with Clodion, Chilperic and Clovis) took power over the regions of the future Wallonia. Tournai was the capital of these Merovingians and the starting point for their vast expansion. The 5th century also saw the spread of Christianity throughout Wallonia. Tournai became the episcopal see in the 6th century and, in the 7th century, the Walloon territory was full of monasteries that had a far-reaching intellectual influence.

La poignée de l’épée retrouvée dans le tombeau de Childéric – Diffusion Institut Destrée © Sofam

The sword of Childéric

8th century - The Carolingians, originally from Lower Meuse, oust Clovis' descendants. The Walloon territory found itself at the heart of Charlemagne's Empire. In 843, the Treaty of Verdun, which divided the Empire in three, shared the Walloon area between the West Francia of Charles the Bald and the Middle Francia of Lothair. Passed around through various successions, Wallonia entered a long period of fragmentation.

11th to 14th centuries - Feudalism is established in the Walloon country. Former Carolingian counties would become principalities where power was hereditary (counties of Hainault and Namur, duchies of Brabant, Luxembourg and Bouillon, abbey-principality of Stavelot-Malmedy). With Notger (10th century), Liège introduced the policy of the Imperial Church of Otto 1st. The cities, which were multiplying and expanding, countryside and monasteries experienced real growth in a Wallonia that practised metal working and coal mining. The Mosan civilization, illustrated in particular by the goldsmith Hugo d'Oignies, was successful in the 10th century. The cities wrested freedoms from the princes. In 1066, Huy was granted one of the first charters in Northern Europe. In Wallonia, French replaced Latin as the language of literature and administration. In the 12th century, the Abbot of Saint-Trond used the term Wallonica lingua to designate the Romance language of his diocese. In 1316, through the Peace of Fexhe, the people of Liège obtained one of the first political constitutions.

Médaille, s.d. (1789), Plaquette gravée de la révolution liégeoise. Droit : Le perron marqué 22 entre L-G, dans une couronne de laurier. Revers : PAIX/ DE/ FEXHE dans une couronne de laurier.

Medal evoking the Peace of Fexhe

15th century - In just a few decades, the Dukes of Burgundy bring together what is now Benelux and Northern France under their control, achieving a first unification of these territories which reveals their idiosyncrasies and meets with deep resistance, as shown by the Principality of Liège. The death of Charles the Bold in 1477 sounded the death knell for the Burgundian period, allowing the people of Liège to make their transition to independence. In the 15th century, use of the word Walloon became widespread in a group that brought a Romance language group face to face with a Low German language group in the same political framework.

Remise en place du perron liégeois, auteur inconnu, fin du XVIIe siècle. Coll. Musée d’Ansembourg – Diffusion Institut Destrée © Sofam

Replacement of the Perron of Liège

16th to 18th centuries - Separate from the Principality of Liège, the Walloon Provinces fall under the jurisdiction of the Netherlands ruled by the Habsburgs of Spain until 1714, then of Austria, until 1794. During this period, they expand to Tournai and the Tournaisis, taken from France by Charles Quint, in 1521. In this context, the religious orders reorganised their boundaries so that they would match the language borders, drawing the outline for a Wallonia very similar to today. The 16th century was marked by the religious wars that would lead the Walloon Protestants to emigrate and found the Walloon churches of Holland or to sail for the new world and contribute to the founding of New York in particular. It was also in the 16th century that, armed with their expertise, Walloon workers would establish the steel industry in Sweden.

Le Monument des Wallons à Battery Park, à la pointe sud de Manhattan (1924)

The monument of the Walloons in New York

Late 18th and early 19th centuries - Following the failed Brabant revolution (conservative) and the Liège Revolution (progressive), the old regime falls in Wallonia, with the definitive victory of the French Republic over the Austrians (1794). This also marked the unification of the Walloon territory which saw the Principality of Liège and other Walloon provinces reunited within the French Republic, then Empire (1795-1815). Defeat at Waterloo ended the Napoleonic era and "Wallonia's" incorporation into France. Through the Congress of Vienna, the victorious powers integrated Wallonia together with the other "Belgian" Provinces into the Kingdom of the Netherlands of William 1st of Orange. Under the French, then Dutch regime, Wallonia established itself as the continental birthplace of the industrial revolution. In proportion to its population, it was the world's second most important industrial nation after England from 1810 to 1880.

Monument célébrant la victoire française de Jemappes - Guy Focant © SPW-Patrimoine

The Rooster of Jemappes

1830 - Opposed to both the authoritarianism of William 1st and his language policy, the Walloons play an active role in the revolution that leads to Belgium's independence. The Walloon Provinces then became part of a unitary and centralized state which for a time, would hide the deep diversity of its population. Wallonia's economic momentum brought prosperity to the new State, which would however, move the economic decision-making centre from Wallonia to Brussels within twenty years.

 

La Colonne de Sainte-Walburge © Collection privée

The Column of Sainte-Walburge

1843 - The word Wallonia appears in the Philosophical etymology essay by Abbot Honoré Chavée, anthropologist and linguist who was involved in the linguistic description of the Walloon.

1844 - Based on the ancient term "Walloon" the Namur magistrate and man of letters Charles-Joseph Grandgagnage devised the word "Wallonia" to name the homeland of these people.

1856 - Founded by around twenty Walloon language enthusiasts, the Liège Society of Walloon Literature set itself the objective of supporting literary creation and philological study. It would contribute to the production of dialectical songs, poetry and plays. Presenting itself as an Academy, it embarked on creating a dictionary and contributed to the adoption of a standardised Walloon spelling (Feller spelling). In 1946, it became the Society of Walloon Language and Literature in order to highlight its interest in the indigenous languages of the entire Region.

1880s - The capitalist process conducted at its peak led to the tragic exploitation of a large share of the population. Consequently, in 1886, rioting erupted among insurrectionary workers and spread throughout industrial Wallonia with, in addition to social resentment, a clear political objective: universal suffrage. This would be granted, moderated by multiple votes, in 1894 and purely and simply (for men) in 1919. Furthermore, the Belgian state was seeing two very different sensitivities co-exist: an agricultural and catholic Flanders and a Wallonia experiencing a booming industrial revolution influenced by liberalism and socialism. The unitary state which, since its origin, had sought to ignore both the Walloon identity and the Flemish language, had failed in its determination to amalgamate them. Separatist positions emerged in an atmosphere of growing tension between the two populations. Faced with an assertive Flanders majority which won its first political victories, the Walloon consciousness began to form. In 1886, the poet Albert Mockel started the literary review La Wallonie which popularised the term. At the same time, the first Walloon Leagues were set up. Initially simply opposed to the advances of the Flemish Movement, they rapidly developed to defend the rights and promote the identity of Wallonia. The very end of the 19th century also saw the beginnings of the Walloon Movement in which Liège played a decisive role.

Première édition de La Wallonie  © Province de Liège – Musée de la Vie wallonne

The very first Edition of "La Wallonie"

1897 - After several attempts at circumstantial groups from the 1880s, the Walloon League of Liège was founded "to give the Walloon Movement the permanence it was lacking". One of the Walloon Movement's pioneering bodies, it would help to make the September Days a reference date for Walloons and would be the source of the competition leading to the Song of the Walloons, Wallonia's future anthem. On the initiative of one of the first Walloon federalist projects, it would organise the major Walloon Congresses of 1905 and 1912.

1898 - Faced with the victories of the Flemish Movement, which had seen language laws increase since the 1870s, the first Walloon federalist projects are presented within the Walloon Movement.

1905 - In a context marked by the official concept of a "Belgian soul", which sought to mask all diversity in Belgium, the impressively successful Walloon Congress of Liège did a remarkable job of exposing the Walloon identity and reality in the areas of history, culture, attitudes and economic development.

Edition de la Lettre au Roi de Jules Destrée  © Province de Liège – Musée de la Vie wallonne

Letter to the King - Jules Destrée

1912 - Jules Destrée publishes his momentous Letter to the King. In an authoritative summary, he stated "Sire, there are no Belgians [...] in Belgium there are only "Flemish" and "Walloons". He went on to set out the Walloons' grievances with regard to the unitary state. The Walloon Movement founded the Walloon Assembly, the first, yet unofficial, Parliament of Wallonia. Namur, Wallonia's most central city, was chosen to host its sessions. In 1913, the Walloon Assembly adopted the bold rooster as an emblem and the flag of Wallonia and set its national day as the fourth Sunday in September. Later, it would sanction the Song of the Walloons as the official anthem.

Aquarelle du coq hardi de Pierre Paulus   © Province de Liège – Musée de la Vie wallonne

Paulus' Rooster

1914-1918 - Wallonia is at the centre of the First World War. Invaded, martyred and occupied, it stands as an example. On liberation, this attitude would lead to the City of Liège being awarded the Légion d’honneur by President Poincaré. This war harshly affected Walloon industry which showed signs of deterioration intensified by a lack of investment in its structures. The 1929 crisis accentuated this shift towards industrial decline.

1930s - During the Interwar period, Movements such as the Walloon Concentration, the Walloon Action League and the Walloon Democratic Front continued to condemn, a fundamentally centralising state and the desire to impose bilingualism in Wallonia. On this level, particularly under the influence of the Namur-born François Bovesse, there were victories: the Law of 28 June 1932 sanctioned monolingualism in the Flemish and Walloon regions (and bilingualism in Brussels). Furthermore, in a Europe marked by the rise of fascism, Wallonia protested against the policy of neutrality adopted by the Belgian authorities that refused to come out in favour of Hitler's Germany or the France of the Popular Front.

François Bovesse  © Les amis et disciples de François Bovesse

François Bovesse

1940-1945 - During the Second World War, many resistance movements were established across Walloon's lands. All agreed to prioritise the fight against the Nazi occupation but thoughts turned to post-war Wallonia. In October 1945, the Walloon National Congress brought together the political forces of Wallonia to decide on its future. After voting in favour of annexation to France, the delegates, many of whom had belonged to the Resistance, decided in favour of introducing federalism in Belgium. They would however have to wait a quarter of a century to see this change take shape.

 

Salle du Congrès wallon de 1945  © Province de Liège – Musée de la Vie wallonne

The 1945 Walloon Congress

1950 - The Royal question crystallises opinion and confirms the deep division between Flanders and Wallonia. While Flanders voted overwhelmingly in favour of returning Leopold III to the throne, Wallonia (and Brussels) opposed because of his attitude during the war. Belgium was experiencing a climate of revolt and, while Walloon protesters were being slaughtered by the police, rumours predict the creation of the General Assembly of Wallonia. However, the appeasement occurred after the abdication of Léopold III. During this time, lacking a strong recovery plan in a unitary state where Walloons were always in the minority, the Walloon economy continued to collapse.

Hommage aux victimes de Grâce-Berleur  © Institut Emile Vandervelde

Homage to the victims of Grace-Berleur

 

1960 - In the aftermath of the 1960 strikes that, once again, revealed a difference in sensitivities between Wallonia and Flanders, the Walloon federalist demand was even more pressing. The Walloon Popular Movement, founded by former resistance fighter and trade unionist André Renard, was a powerful pressure group in favour of this change and the first federalist parties were born. With the Walloon Rally, founded in 1968, they would be Wallonia's second most powerful political force.

Tract distribué dans les premiers jours de la Grève wallonne contre la Loi unique – © Institut Destrée

Leaflet of the strike of 60

1962-63 - Previously adaptable depending on the censuses, the language border is fixed, with certain border municipalities being granted "administrative facilities". The controversial language of Voeren, incorporated into Flanders against the will of most of their people, began.

Position du Conseil provincial de Liège sur le transfert des Fourons au Limbourg

1968 - French speakers are expelled from the Catholic University of Louvain to the cry of "Walen buiten" [Walloons out]. The political differences resulting from these troubles caused the government to fall. The University would eventually split and the French-speaking part be established in Walloon Brabant, at Louvain-la-Neuve, where it would become a world-renowned centre for education and research.

1970 - Unitary Belgium becomes a reality and Wallonia is finally recorded in the Constitution. The Belgian state now comprises of four language regions (French, Dutch, German and the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region), three economic regions (Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels) and three cultural communities (French, Flemish and German-speaking). However, while the communities are implemented immediately (Flemish demand), the Regions would still have to wait a decade before actually coming into existence. The first economic tools were nevertheless created in Wallonia during an attempt at preparatory regionalisation from 1974 to 1977.

1973 - Léopold Genicot publishes the first scientific history of Wallonia. From 1975, it was Hervé Hasquin's turn to manage the publication of a vast summary in six volumes: La Wallonie, le pays et les hommes [Wallonia, the country and its men].

La Wallonie, le pays et les hommes. Parue à partir de 1975 sous le direction d'Hervé Hasquin

La Wallonie, le pays et les hommes

1980 - This was the FIRST year of political Wallonia. A new State Reform implemented regionalisation and the Walloon Region was given a legislative assembly and an executive. It has powers and financial resources that are still very limited. In 1982-83, the Executive decided to establish its administration in Namur. The transfer of administrative services and ministerial cabinets would finally begin in 1988.

Première réunion du Conseil régional wallon au Sofitel de Wépion (15 octobre 1980) © ASBL Archives photographiques namuroises

First meeting of the Walloon Parliament

1983 - Many Walloon intellectuals publish a Manifesto for the Walloon Culture, asserting their desire to build an open regional project, incorporating this dimension.

1986 - Namur is officially designated as the capital of the Walloon Region and seat of the Walloon Regional Council. On 11 December 1986, on the initiative of Bernard Anselme, the Walloon Regional Council adopted a decree stipulating that "Namur, capital of the Walloon Region, is the seat of the Walloon Regional Council. The Council can hold meetings in another venue, if it decides so". This circuitous formulation illustrates the difficult context in which this decision was made, while some people were campaigning for Walloon bodies to be relocated to Brussels. However, this founding act was used to base the Walloon institutions in their capital. On 21 October 2010, a new decree, passed at the initiative of Rudy Demotte, would definitively and unambiguously establish Namur as the capital of Wallonia and the seat of the regional political institutions, Government and Parliament.

1988 - The Third State Reform strengthens Federalism and new powers (public works, employment, major economic sectors, exports ...) are granted to the Regions which see their resources increase significantly.

L'Elysette, siège de la présidence du Gouvernement wallon - Guy Focant © SPW-Patrimoine

The Elysette

1993 - Following a new stage of State Reform, Article I of the Constitution, finally confirms that "Belgium is a Federal State." This was the official recognition of Federalism. This revision established the direct election of the Walloon Parliament, which would also form the basis for the composition of the French Community Parliament. Similarly, the Saint-Quentin agreements confirmed the primacy of the regional institution, by transferring certain powers from the French Community to the Walloon Region and the French Community Commission of the Brussels Region. Sporting infrastructures, tourism, vocational training, social promotion, health policy, the policy for assistance for people and school transport were now the responsibility of the Walloon Region. Guy Spitaels, the strong man of the negotiations for the Government that had to carry out this reform, further contributed to the rise of the Walloon Region, by choosing to become Minister-President rather than solicit a federal ministry.

1995 - The province of Brabant, the only bilingual province is divided. Walloon Brabant, the fifth Walloon province, was therefore created at the same time as Flemish Brabant. Still in 1995, the elections on 21 May were the first to allow Walloon citizens aged 18 and over to elect their 75 representatives directly to the Walloon Parliament.

1998 - After two decrees, Wallonia officially sanctions its historical symbols which have been long-established among the people: an anthem, the Song of the Walloons composed by Théophile Bovy and Louis Hillier; an official holiday, the third Sunday in September and an emblem and flag, the red rooster (by Pierre Paulus) on a yellow background.

Logo du Contrat d'Avenir pour la Wallonie (2000)

Logo of the Contrat d'Avenir

1999 - The Walloon Government, led by Elio Di Rupo adopts the Future Contract for Wallonia. In doing so, it provided the Region with an integrated development strategy. Through successive evaluations and updates, this strategic plan, today called the Marshall Plan, is still the reference for regional action.

2001 - A new stage in the State Reform extends the Regions' fiscal competences and transfers new powers to them. So, Wallonia is now fully responsible for managing its own foreign trade, agriculture and local authorities. The Walloon Government now appoints the Provincial Mayors and Governors. In 2003, intercalary reform gave the Regions the responsibility to grant import and export licences for weapons.

2010 - Under the unanimous action of the Government and Parliament, a series of measures were taken to confirm a Walloon collective consciousness to drive development: the name "Wallonia" commonly replaced that of the "Walloon Region", Namur was confirmed as the capital, the seat of the Walloon Parliament and Government and the Walloon Merit award was created to promote the talents of a region that has reasserted itself following the early success of its economic strategy.

Logo officiel de la Wallonie

Official Logo of Wallonia

2014 - The sixth state reform significantly increased the financial responsibility of Wallonia and further extended its powers in terms of the environment, energy, housing, employment, economy, mobility, etc. Key powers regarding social welfare, health and family allowances policy were also transferred to Wallonia. More than ever, Wallonia sits at the heart of a Federal architecture that has made the Region an increasingly central institution.

Saint-Gilles The Saint-Gilles, the Walloon Parliament