History of the Cercle Royal du Parc

1842 to today ...

 

 

On 8th February 1842, shortly after its opening in a rented house on the corner of the rue Royale and the Impasse du Parc, near the Place de Louvain,  the first general meeting of the Club took place.

Built in 1778, this house was then owned by a Dr Varlez. The Cercle du Parc took its name from the entrance to the club which was situated in the Impasse du Parc later called rue des Colonies.

Modest in size, but boasting a beautiful façade topped by a pediment like the house across the road, l’hôtel du Prince de Ligne, the building was perfectly suited for meetings of a newly founded club.

The location was in fashion: indeed, for some years already, the high society had started deserting the lower-end of the town to establish itself around the Parc Royal created in 1785 and later around 1840 in the new area of the Quartier Leopold which was developed just outside the city.

The new Club seems to have been formed as a split-off from the Cercle de l’Union; indeed many members of the latter appear on the list of the Membres du Cercle du Parc. They nearly all belonged to the nobility of the country but some as well to the diplomacy and to the upper-rank civil and military. There were a few foreigners too.

 

II. L’hôtel de l’avenue des Arts

For 25 years, the Cercle du Parc was happy with its rented premises affectionately known as “le local”.  

However, from 1853, there was a wish to move into larger premises.  To this end, a property investment company was created in order to buy either a piece of land with planning permission or a house suited to the needs of the Club.  Meanwhile Dr Varlez sold the old “local”.

L’hôtel de Blommaert,  avenue des Arts was thought to be suitable to replace the old local and the sum of 350,000 francs was offered to the owner.  However “despite this royal offer” in the words of the Baron de Vinck, the offer was turned down; later an increased offer of 370,000 francs was accepted. With legal fees and the purchase of furniture, the building amounted to more than 420,000 francs.  This amount was covered by a subscription and was represented by 213 shares issued to founding members, whose number passed then from 59 to 110. Among those was the Comte de Flandre who opened the new house on 30th December 1867.  On this occasion, the Prince de Ligne presented him with a copy of the rules of the Cercle, printed on vellum paper in rich leather binding.

It is very difficult to describe the life of a club that has no other purpose than to cultivate social relationships and where matters of business were avoided.   United by a common social and spiritual background, these gentlemen were probably engaged in the art of conversation, often serious, sometimes light with a great deal of energy spent on discussing the races of Boitsfort or Groenendael, and even more on shooting.  They were also engaged in gaming, especially bridge. Habits have undoubtedly changed, but the spirit that rules remains the same: it is compulsory to appear at the Cercle appropriately dressed.  Previously, these gentlemen would go to the Club only wearing a silk hat, kept on by some to show that they were at home, while others laid it down on black lacquered tables that can still be seen at the Club nowadays.  In the evening full evening dress was worn and later black tie.  In a quiet and courteous atmosphere, one met foreigners of distinction, diplomats and politicians.  As the night advanced, a well-trained butler would serve a whisky at the cost of 50 centimes only and a quarter of cold chicken for two francs!

In another vein, it should be noted that there was once a fund for the poor, apparently funded by gaming, and in its report for the year 1867, the Prince de Ligne, President, notes that "the whist has replaced the discarded, resulting in very minimal proceeds to the fund for the poor for the year 1867”. In 1865, the fund for the poor had raised 337.48 francs!

Naturally, literature on the Cercle du Parc’s world is scarce; it is summarised in a few high society anecdotes. However it is important to remember that these society gentlemen were as well diplomats, ministers, governors, businessmen and especially soldiers who were prepared to give their life for the common good; despite being just a fraction of them, the list of the members of the Cercle who fell for King and Country is nevertheless lengthy.

After World War I, the situation of the Club became quite precarious.

The world then had an economic and social crisis, and the life of the Club became understandably less of a priority; diplomats  ceased to come to the rooms and the young people stopped turning up, resulting in a significant decrease in the number of members.

 

III L’hôtel de l’avenue Général de Gaulle

In 1969, the question of the future of the Club rose again. The Club had by then very few members.  Most of them had left the Quartier Leopold and when they came to town they had no parking available to them.

On this occasion, each Founding Member had to answer a questionnaire: should the Cercle du Parc merge with another Club or should it proceed with the purchase of a new building? The latter approach prevailed, and thus, after having sold the house of the Avenue des Arts, a building situated in avenue Général de Gaulle was acquired in 1970.

 The Club had, somehow, kept pace with the city; from 1864, the future Leopold II had supervised the development of the area surrounding the lakes of Ixelles; he wanted the area spacious and populated with trees but was particularly determined to protect the view on the lakes. Consequently, he bought a piece of land below the square of the avenue Louise to transform it into a public park known as “ Les Jardins du Roi”.

The building bought by the Club from a Mr. Philip Dulait, was built in 1910 along an old road that led to the Abbey de La Cambre, former owner of the land. Set in a fenced-off garden, the house offers its members a luxury so rarely found in a city: a lush landscape and breathtaking views of the lakes of Ixelles.

A choice setting to perpetuate a tradition of excellence.

 

 (Comte Baudouin d’Ursel)

In 1970 the Club opened a “Ladies section”.

In 1989 the Club became known as "Cercle Royal du Parc"

 Les 59 Membres-Fondateurs

du Cercle du Parc en 1855

(annuaire de 1858)

 

 

1.       S.A. le Prince de Ligne

2.       Le Baron Léon d’Hoogvorst

3.       Le Baron E. Mertens

4.       Le Comte de Cornelissen

5.       Louis de Buisseret

6.       Le Vicomte de Jonghe

7.       Le Comte H. de Liedekerke Beaufort

8.       Le Baron Emmanuel de Blommaert

9.       Le Comte Thierry van der Straten Ponthoz

10.   Le Baron de Godin

11.   Le Baron Bonaert

12.   Le Baron Desmanet de Boutonville

13.   Jules van Praet

14.   Le Marquis de Chasteleer

15.   Le Comte de Lannoy

16.   Le Comte Léon d’Ursel

17.   Le Baron Jules de Blondel de Beauregard

18.   Le Lieutenant-Général Comte V. de Cruquenbourg

19.   Le Baron A. d’Overschie

20.   Le Comte de Meeûs

21.   Le Comte de Renesse Breidbach

22.   Le Colonel Moyard

23.   Le Baron d’Esbeek dit Vanderhaeghen de Mussain

24.   Le Comte de Lalaing

25.   Le Comte F. d’Oultremont

26.   Le Chevalier de Bousies

27.   Le Chevalier de Sauvage

28.   Le Comte F. d’Oultremont

29.   Le Baron de Dopff

30.   Le Baron de Vrints de Treuenfeld

31.   Le Comte V. de Marnix

32.   Le Comte Octave d’Oultremont de Duras

33.   Le Baron Frans de Wijkerslooth de Weerdesteyn

34.   Le Marquis de Bethune

35.   Le Marquis d’Assche

36.   Le Comte Louis de Merode

37.   Le Baron Van de Woestyne

38.   Le Comte Lud. d’Ursel

39.   Le Comte Paul de Lannoy

40.   Le Comte Aug. d’Ursel

41.   Le Comte d’Assche

42.   Le Baron Idès Snoy

43.   Le Comte Alb. van der Burch

44.   Le Comte d’Andelot

45.   Le Marquis Th. de Rodes

46.   Le Prince Max de Croÿ

47.   Le Baron Ferdinand de Beeckman

48.   Le Comte Alf. de Baillet

49.   Le Prince Em. de Croÿ

50.   Gustave Van den Bossche

51.   Adhémar de Rouillé

52.   Le Comte de Pardieu

53.   Le Comte de Spangen

54.   Le Comte Ign. van der Straten Ponthoz

55.   Le Comte L. van der Straten Ponthoz

56.   Le Comte A. van den Steen de Jehay

57.   Le Prince F. de Croÿ

58.   Le Baron Ivan Osy

59.   Le Baron de Vinck de Deux Orp

 

***

 

Members of the Club who died for their country

 

1914-1918

 

Le Prince Georges de Ligne

Le Comte Wolfgang d’Ursel

Le Comte Henri d’Oultremont

Le Comte de Villermont

Le Comte Ferdinand de Hemricourt de Grunne

Le Baron Charles de Fierlant Dormer

Le Baron Conrad van der Bruggen

 

1940-1945

 

Le Comte Thierry de Briey

Le Comte Yves van der Burch

Monsieur Renaud de Faestraets

Le Baron Baudouin della Faille d’Huysse

Le Comte John de Lichtervelde

Le Comte Guillaume de Liedekerke

Le Baron Lunden

Le Baron René del Marmol

Le Chevalier Eric de Menten de Horne

Le Baron Ferdinand Snoy

Le Comte Gérard d’Ursel