The Belgian nobility is essentially nominal – unlike in the United Kingdom, a noble title brings no institutional rights, such as deciding on legislation in the House of Lords. And not surprisingly for a country with less than 200 years of history, it,s fairly minimal. The titles available range from prince down to knight, via duke, marquis, count, viscount and baron. There are quite a few noble families, especially in the lower reaches, but if you know the names at all, it's likely you associate them with street names or metro stations: De Smet De Naeyer, Merode, Surlet de Chokier, Arenberg, Berlaymont, de Broqueville.
In Belgium, the granting of titles has become a question of recognition of public service, with none of the virtually automatic reward for senior civil servants and long-serving politicians which sees the twice-yearly Honours List in Britain filling page after page.
So the King,s list was not only short, it also included quite a few well-known names, and many of them from Flanders: Jef Colruyt (pictured), CEO of the supermarket chain of the same name; Piet Vanthemsche, president of the farmer,s union Boerenbond; Julien De Wilde, chairman of the technology industry association Agoria; mathematician Ingrid Daubechies of the Free University of Brussels (VUB); Kristine De Mulder, director-general of Europalia. All of them become barons or baronesses, the highest honour routinely awarded.
Lower down, the knighthoods all go to men, Belgium having no female equivalent. Among them are Luc Vandewalle of ING, architect Philippe Samyn, Geert Ghys, leader of the Belgian international disaster rescue team B-Fast, and Raf De Rycke of the religious organisation Broeders van Liefde.
The BV contingent of Flemish celebrities receive the title Commander of the Order of the Crown, not strictly speaking a noble title, for those who care about such things. They include journalist Annemie Struyf, Stijn and Steven Kolacny, founders and directors of the girls' choir Scala from Aarschot, former city carillon player of Antwerp and Mechelen Jo Haazen, and perhaps the most popular choice of all, Kamiel Sergant, aged 77, honorary citizen of Aalst and for many years Keizer carnaval there – emperor of the world-renowned carnaval. “When they called, at first I thought it was a joke,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “I'm very proud, of course, but there are so many other people this could have gone to.”