Belgian King Outflanks Maginot Line

Thursday 15th October 1936

Leopold III had acceded to the throne of Belgian in 1934 but had not made much of a mark. This was to change. After presiding at the first Council of Ministers for the first time in his reign, he made a speech on foreign policy that sparked near panic in British and French diplomatic circles. Quite rightly as it  was to have fateful consequences four years later.

Leopold spoke out against involving Belgian in any system of alliances, arguing that good relations with her neighbours - Germany to the fore - was all that was required for her security, implicitly rejecting alliance with France. In part this reflected concern at the Franco-Soviet pact, in part the hostility of the Flemish Dutch-speaking half of the country towards France. A neutral Belgian destroyed whatever military logic there had been to France’s strategy of defending itself directly against Germany on the Maginot line. The undefended Franco-Belgian frontier was even longer.