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Belgium’s royal couple at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

This was a special Monday at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania as His Highness King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, in Lithuania on a state visit, met with the President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda and First Lady Diana Nausėdienė and invited guests at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, who had arrived for a state dinner organised especially in honour of the Belgian king and queen. The eminent guests were also welcomed by the museum’s director, Dr Vydas Dolinskas.
Before the ceremonial dinner, the Belgian royal couple, dressed in royal finery, wished to visit the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania so as to gain a deeper understanding of Lithuania’s history. Chief Adviser to the President and Head of the Education, Science and Culture Group Jolanta Karpavičienė told the honoured guests about the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its dynastic and other relations. His Highness King of Belgium Philippe and Queen Mathilde also signed the Honoured Visitors’ Book of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.
As they were walking around the palace halls, the royal couple showed a lively interest in Lithuania’s past and asked many questions, engaging in discussion and sharing their impressions with the Lithuanian head of state, extending the planned 20-minute excursion to 45 minutes. Belgium’s rulers could not believe that the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania had been flattened to the ground by Muscovite forces; the couple also admired the Renaissance stove tiles and lingered by the map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the early 16th century, which testifies that the Lithuania of those times encompassed Belarus and Ukraine. Having seen the portraits of the Sapieha princes and books and stove tiles with the Sapiehas’ coats of arms in the reconstructed historical interiors, the rulers of Belgium happily recalled that this family were the ancestors of Queen Mathilde’s grandmother, thereby linking Belgium’s queen to Lithuania and this whole region of Europe. Queen Mathilde was presented with information about the most prominent representative of the Sapieha family – Grand Chancellor of Lithuania and Grand Hetman, Voivode of Vilnius Lew Sapieha, the author of the Third Statute of Lithuania. Lithuania’s president noted that the Sapieha princes were said to hail from Grand Duke Gediminas – the founder of the Gediminid-Jagiellon dynasty, which reigned in Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia and other states in Central and Eastern Europe. Belgium’s royal couple were also assured that they would still encounter the legacy of the Sapieha princes in Lithuania when they would visit Vilnius University, the Church Heritage Museum and St Michael’s Church.
After visiting the halls of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Belgium’s royal couple and the President of Lithuania and First Lady formally greeted the evening’s guests – representatives of Lithuanian culture, science, politics and business, and diplomats – in the First Renaissance Antechamber, while the ceremonial dinner took place in the Grand Renaissance Hall. Guests were dressed in dinner-jackets and evening dresses. Having already spent the day discussing Lithuania’s and Belgium’s bilateral relations and their countries’ military, economic, scientific and cultural cooperation, Lithuania’s president and Belgium’s king began the dinner with welcome speeches.
His Excellency the King of Belgium Philippe invited those gathered to raise their glasses to toast the friendship of Lithuania and Belgium: “I read about Lithuania’s rich history with immense interest – once, it was the largest country in Europe, extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea. History has not always been favourable to you, but this only proves the extraordinary resilience of your country, which is without equal in Europe. … Due to the dramatic course of history in Europe, relations between our countries were frequently cut short, but we remained friends... Lithuania’s attention to cultural heritage and young artists seeking innovations spurs us to move ahead. The rich history of Lithuania’s Baroque-era cities and its wonderful nature is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the new generation of artists, encouraging us to think about relations in the artistic sphere into the future”.
His Excellency the President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda addressed the Belgian royal couple and the evening’s honoured guests with the salutation: “I am tremendously pleased to welcome you in Vilnius – a city having deep historical roots. Even though this year we are commemorating the centenary of diplomatic relations between Lithuania and the Kingdom of Belgium, our bonds go back significantly further into the past. The very first, more comprehensive account of Vilnius as Lithuania’s capital is directly related to the family of Belgian magnates, the Lannoys. Flemish knight, traveller and diplomat Ghillebert de Lannoy visited these lands in the early 15th century, becoming a witness to our country’s openness to Western civilisation. The Lithuanian elites of those days already appreciated the achievements of Flemish and Brabantian craftspeople, artists, and people of science and writing. Many of the splendid tapestries that had over the centuries adorned the walls of this residence and many other palaces were woven in the territory of present-day Belgium. The surviving collection of books of the Sapieha magnates, the ancestors of Your Highness the Queen, also contained a number of valuable texts published in Flanders. The Sapiehas drew inspiration for their deeds from Justus Lipsius (Joest Lips) and his pupils, encouraging the development of juridical thought, lawmaking and academic culture in Lithuania. Being a fan of early books myself, I can attest to pleasant and unexpected discoveries relating to Belgium. It was precisely in the Museum Plantin-Moretus of books in Antwerp that I came across a copper engraving template based on which the title page of a book by our 17th-century poet Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, dubbed as Lithuania’s Horace, and famous throughout Europe, was printed. And that engraving was created after a drawing by the ingenious Flemish artist, Peter Paul Rubens. For me, this is yet another excellent piece of evidence of the closeness of relations that already then linked Lithuania with the cradle of Western European culture. … This royal visit continues this fine tradition of bilateral relations and allows us all to expect new opportunities for cooperation. It is extraordinarily important that representatives of our business, education and cultural communities would continue to find a common language for interaction. It is by trying to get to know one another better that we will be able to lean on each other, if the need arises”.
President Nausėda concluded his welcome speech by wishing the people of Belgium and Lithuania peace, wellbeing and prosperity.

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Published:: 2022-10-25 10:31 Modified: 2023-08-14 10:34
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