Belgian

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People who have never been to Belgium will joke that nobody can name even five famous Belgians. Or quip how trite the Belgians are? That besides beer and mussels, there is nothing more to add to Belgium’s portfolio. But the truth is that Belgium, with its remarkable history of art, over 60 UNESCO sites, world-famous carnival celebrations and a wad of peerless men and women, is not half as lackluster and lacking in talent as the world deems. Not the one to blow its own trumpet, Belgium has never ever overplayed its greatness. No wonder most of us did not know that distinguished talents like Hollywood heartthrobs Audrey Hepburn and Jean Claude van Damme, world famous baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, Tin Tin's creator Georges Remi, tennis star Kim Clijsters, bacteriologist Jules Bordet, and noted fashion designer Liz Claiborne are all Belgians. Surprised? Join us as we dig deep into the lives and deeds of many such famous Belgians in the biographies presented below, exploring their timeline, trivia and lesser-known facts on the way.
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 1 
Jean-Claude Van Damme
(Actor and Martial Artist Best Known for His Martial Arts Action Movies ‘Bloodsport’, ‘Cyborg’ and ‘Kickboxer’)
Jean-Claude Van Damme
54
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: October 18, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgium

Belgian actor,Jean-Claude Van Damme is best known for a string of martial arts films. He started his career as a karate fighter and competed in a number full-contact and semi-contact matches. Later he took up acting and became a star with the 1988 Hollywood film, Bloodsport. Cyborg, Lionheart, Double Impact and Universal Soldier are some of his notable films.

 2 
Max Verstappen
(The Most Successful Dutch Racing Driver and 2021 Formula One World Champion)
Max Verstappen
45
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: September 30, 1997
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hasselt, Flanders, Belgium
 3 
Gotye
(Founding Member of The Melbourne Indie-Pop Trio 'The Basics')
Gotye
11
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: May 21, 1980
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bruges, Belgium
Belgian-born Australian singer Gotye initially formed the indie-pop group The Basics. The three-time Grammy-winning artist has also had a successful solo career and is best known for his Billboard-topping track Somebody That I Used to Know, which made him the fifth Australian artist to top the Billboard charts.
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Rene Magritte
7
Listed In: Miscellaneous
Birthdate: November 21, 1898
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lessines, Belgium
Died: August 15, 1967
Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte is remembered for his art that displayed alternate perceptions of reality. His creations were influenced by elements of pop art and minimalist art. Some of his most notable works were The Empire of Light and Les Amants. The Magritte Museum is dedicated to his work.
 5 
Peter Paul Rubens
3
Birthdate: June 8, 1577
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Siegen, Germany
Died: May 30, 1640

Peter Paul Rubens is considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition. He lived during the Dutch Golden Age. His style of art emphasized movement, color, and sensuality. He painted altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings and also drew cartoons for the Flemish tapestry workshops. He was a classically educated humanist scholar as well.

 6 
Romelu Lukaku
(Football Player)
Romelu Lukaku
46
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: May 13, 1993
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Antwerp, Belgium

Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian football player, is known for his goal-scoring abilities. He plays in the forward position and can also play as a winger. He has scored more than 50 international goals while playing for the men’s national team of Belgium. Inter Milan, Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Manchester United are some of the clubs he has played for.

 7 
Eden Hazard
(Football player)
Eden Hazard
33
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: 1991
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: La Louvière, Belgium

One of the best Belgian footballers of all time, Eden Hazard is also regarded as one of the best players of the current generation. Thanks to his ability to retain possession among other footballing skills, Hazard is often compared with players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

 8 
Kevin De Bruyne
(Football Player)
Kevin De Bruyne
25
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: June 28, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Drongen, Ghent, Belgium

Often described as a complete football player, Kevin De Bruyne is also widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation. Over the years, he has had a major impact on the Manchester City Football Club, helping his team win several games. He is also a key player for the Belgian national football team.

 9 
Thibaut Courtois
(Belgian Football Goalkeeper)
Thibaut Courtois
9
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: May 11, 1992
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bree, Flanders, Belgium

Belgian footballer Thibaut Courtois who is a goalkeeper for the Spanish club Real Madrid is considered one of the best of his time. Starting his career with Genk, he later also played for Chelsea. He was also part of the FIFA World Cup third place-holding Belgian squad in 2018.

 10 
Leopold II of Belgium
(Former King of the Belgians (1865 - 1909))
Leopold II of Belgium
21
Birthdate: April 9, 1835
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: December 17, 1909

Leopold II of Belgium reigned over Belgium as its second king from 1865 to 1909. He also owned the Independent State of the Congo from 1885 to 1908. Congolese people were subjected to torture and murder under Leopold's administration; the term crimes against humanity was coined by George Washington Williams in 1890 to describe the atrocities of Leopold's administration.

 11 
Stromae
(Rapper)
Stromae
14
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: March 12, 1985
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Etterbeek, Brussels, Belgium

Stromae is a Belgian musician, singer, songwriter, and rapper. He achieved popularity with the release of his song Alors on danse in 2009, which topped several music charts in many European countries. He has won several prestigious awards, such as the World Music Awards. Stromae is often promoted as the face of the New Beat generation.

 12 
Lance Stroll
(Canadian-Belgian Motorsport Racer Who Competes for Canada in Formula One)
Lance Stroll
9
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: October 29, 1998
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The son of Canadian business tycoon Lawrence Stroll and Belgian designer Claire-Anne Callens, Lance Stroll began his motorsport career with karting at age 10. He became F1’s youngest rookie podium finisher at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. His achievements include wins at the 2014 Italian F4 and the 2016 FIA European Formula 3.

 13 
Vincent Kompany
(Retired Belgian Football Centre-Back)
Vincent Kompany
6
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: April 10, 1986
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Uccle, Belgium

Considered one of the fittest central defenders of the world, retired Belgian footballer Vincent Kompany had a successful stint with Manchester City, winning 4 Premier League titles, among other championships, with them. Post-retirement, the star footballer had turned to coaching and now manages the English club Burnley.

 14 
Divock Origi
(Belgian Professional Footballer Who Plays as a Forward)
Divock Origi
2
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: April 18, 1995
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ostend
 15 
Adnan Januzaj
(Belgian Footballer Who Plays as a Winger)
Adnan Januzaj
2
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: February 5, 1995
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
 16 
Charles Martel
(Military Leader)
Charles Martel
5
Listed In: Leaders
Birthdate: 0686 AD
Birthplace: Herstal
Died: October 22, 0741

Charles Martel was a Frankish military leader and statesman. From 718 until his death in 741, Martel served as the de facto ruler of Francia. He is credited with restoring centralized government in Francia and re-establishing the Franks as the masters of all Gaul through a series of military campaigns.

 17 
Justine Henin
(Retired Belgian Tennis Legend Who Was a World Number 1 in Singles)
Justine Henin
1
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: June 1, 1982
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Liège, Belgium

Known as the Female Federer, Belgian tennis legend Justine Henin is a former world number 1 in singles. Apart from winning an Olympic gold medal, she also won Belgium its first Fed Cup title and won 7 Grand Slam titles. She was one of those rare female players who used a single-handed backhand.

 18 
Matthias Schoenaerts
(Actor role in the drama Bullhead, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign film in 2011)
Matthias Schoenaerts
2
Birthdate: December 8, 1977
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Antwerp, Belgium

A Belgian actor, film producer and graffiti artist, Matthias Schoenaerts debuted at the age of 13 and attained star status with his 2008 film Loft. Later, his films Bullhead and Rust and Bone further increased his fame and brought him multiple awards. In 2015, the French Ministry of Culture named him the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. 

 19 
Joanna of Castile
(Former Queen of Castile (1504 - 1555))
Joanna of Castile
2
Birthdate: November 6, 1479
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Toledo, Spain
Died: April 12, 1555
Joanna, the 16th-century queen of Castile and Aragon, also known as "Joanna the Mad," was declared insane and locked up at the Royal Convent of Santa Clara by her father. Following her father’s death, she nominally co-ruled the kingdom with her son, Charles I, but remained imprisoned till her death.
 20 
Eddy Merckx
(Belgian Former Professional Road and Track Bicycle Racer)
Eddy Merckx
4
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: June 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Meensel-Kiezegem, Belgium

Eddy Merckx is a Belgian former road and track bicycle racer. Widely regarded as the most successful rider in competitive cycling history, Merckx achieved several important victories, such as 11 Grand Tours, three World Championships, and all five Monuments. He is also considered the greatest cyclist of all time. After retiring, he coached his national cycling team for 11 years.

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 21 
Michy Batshuayi
(Belgian Football Striker)
Michy Batshuayi
6
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: October 2, 1993
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brussels

Belgian footballer Michy Batshuayi now plays as a striker for the Turkish club Fenerbahçe. Starting his career with Standard Liège, he later had successful stints with clubs such as Marseille and Chelsea, winning a Premier League and 2 FA Cups with the latter. He also won the Ebony Shoe Award in 2013-14.

 22 
Toby Alderweireld
(Belgian Football Defender)
Toby Alderweireld
2
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: March 2, 1989
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Antwerp, Belgium

Belgian footballer Toby Alderweireld is best known as a defender for Royal Antwerp. Starting his senior career with Ajax, he later also had successful stints with clubs such as Atlético Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. He was also part of the Belgian squads that played at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup games.

 23 
Jan Vertonghen
(Belgian Football Central Defender)
Jan Vertonghen
2
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: April 24, 1987
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

Belgian footballer Jan Vertonghen is best known as a central defender for the club Anderlecht. Starting his senior career with the club Ajax, he has also had successful stints with Tottenham Hotspur and Benfica. He was part of the FIFA World Cup third-place-winning Belgian team in 2018.

 24 
Jacques Brel
(Actor & One of the Best-Selling Belgian Recording Artists of All Time)
Jacques Brel
8
Birthdate: April 8, 1929
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Schaerbeek, Belgium
Died: October 9, 1978

Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer, actor, director, and songwriter. He is remembered for composing and performing thoughtful, literate, and theatrical songs. Apart from inspiring French musicians, Brel's works have also had a major influence on English-speaking performers like David Bowie, Scott Walker, Rod McKuen, Marc Almond, and Alex Harvey. Brel is the third-best-selling Belgian music artist of all time.

 25 
Leopold I of Belgium
(First King of the Belgians (1831 - 1865))
Leopold I of Belgium
3
Birthdate: December 16, 1790
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Coburg, Germany
Died: December 10, 1865
Leopold I, the youngest son of Duke Francis of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was the first king of Belgium and reigned from 1831 to 1865. He fought against Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars. He rejected the throne of Greece. His reign is known for establishing Belgium's first railway and for its modernization.
 26 
Radja Nainggolan
(Belgian Football Midfielder)
Radja Nainggolan
4
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: May 4, 1988
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Antwerp, Belgium

Belgian footballer Radja Nainggolan, who plays as a midfielder for Antwerp, has also played for teams such as Cagliari and Piacenza. He began his football career with Tubantia Borgerhout at age 5. A diverse player, he won the Serie A in 2020-2021 with Inter Milan.

 27 
Youri Tielemans
(Belgian Professional Footballer Who Plays as a Midfielder)
Youri Tielemans
9
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: May 7, 1997
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sint-Pieters-Leeuw
 28 
Hergé
(Cartoonist (Creator of Tintin))
Hergé
0
Birthdate: May 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Etterbeek, Belgium
Died: March 3, 1983

Better known by his pseudonym, Hergé, Belgian cartoonist Georges Prosper Remi was the man behind Tintin, a cartoon series that several generations of kids and young adults have grown up reading. He was a self-taught artist and wrote Destination Moon, featuring Tintin, 15 years before Neil Armstrong’s feat.

 29 
Georges Lemaître
(Scientist & Priest)
Georges Lemaître
1
Listed In: Miscellaneous
Birthdate: July 17, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Charleroi, Belgium
Died: June 20, 1966

Georges Lemaître was a mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics. Lemaître was the first person to theorize that the expansion of the universe can be used to explain the recession of nearby galaxies. In 1927, Lemaître published the first estimation of the Hubble constant. He also came up with the Big Bang theory to explain the origin of the universe.

 30 
Dries Mertens
(Belgian Professional Football Striker)
Dries Mertens
3
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: May 6, 1987
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Leuven

Belgian footballer Dries Mertens, also known as Ciro, is a striker/winger for the Turkish club Galatasaray. Starting his senior career with Gent, he has also represented the Italian club Napoli and the Dutch club Utrecht. He was also part of the FIFA World Cup third-place-winning Belgian squad of 2018.

 31 
Adolphe Sax
(Inventor of Saxophone)
Adolphe Sax
3
Birthdate: November 6, 1814
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dinant
Died: February 7, 1894

The inventor of the saxophone, Belgian musician Adolphe Sax, was born to instrument-maker parents who had themselves re-designed the French horn. As a child, he was known as "the ghost" for his frequent brushes with death. He made many other instruments, which were included in the French army bands.

 32 
Andreas Vesalius
(Founding Father of the Modern Human Anatomy)
Andreas Vesalius
4
Listed In: Physicians
Birthdate: December 31, 1514
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: October 15, 1564

Renaissance physician Andreas Vesalius is credited with illustrating the first anatomy textbook. Born into a family of physicians, he studied at the University of Paris medical school and often dissected corpses retrieved from cemeteries. He was the first to reject Galenic anatomy and to introduce human dissection in anatomy.

 33 
Marc Dutroux
(Criminal, Electrician, Serial killer)
Marc Dutroux
6
Birthdate: November 6, 1956
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ixelles / Elsene
In 2004, the notorious Belgian serial killer Marc Dutroux was convicted on charges of murder, kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Earlier, his case aroused widespread public outrage at the inefficiency and corruption of the Belgium’s law enforcement agency and led to the White March which was one of the largest demonstrations in Europe since WWII. 
 34 
Albert I of Belgium
(Former King of the Belgians (1909 - 1934))
Albert I of Belgium
6
Birthdate: April 8, 1875
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: February 17, 1934

Albert I of Belgium ruled as King of the Belgians for over 25 years from 1909 to 1934. He played a crucial role during World War I, for which he is often referred to as the Soldier King or Knight King in Belgium. A renowned alpinist, Albert died in a mountaineering accident and his death was mourned around the world.

 35 
John of Gaunt
(Nobleman)
John of Gaunt
0
Listed In: Miscellaneous
Birthdate: March 6, 1340
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ghent, Belgium
Died: February 3, 1399

John of Gaunt was an English prince, statesman, and military leader. An influential figure, John of Gaunt is credited with founding the royal House of Lancaster, which would later produce men to ascend the royal throne. Early in his career, John spent considerable time in Spain participating in the Hundred Years' War.

 36 
Philip I of Castile
(King of Castile)
Philip I of Castile
3
Birthdate: July 22, 1478
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bruges, Belgium
Died: September 25, 1506

Philip the Handsome, son of Roman emperor Maximilian I, served as the Duke of Burgundy from 1482 to 1506 and then as the first Habsburg King of Castile, as Philip I, in 1506. Also known as the Fair, Philip died of typhoid fever in September 1506, although many suspected poisoning.

 37 
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco
(Belgian Footballer Who Plays as a Winger and Wing-Back)
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco
1
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: September 4, 1993
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Vilvoorde, Belgium
 38 
Lara Fabian
(One of the Best-Selling Belgian Female Artists of All Time)
Lara Fabian
3
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: January 9, 1970
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Etterbeek, Belgium

Lara Fabian is a Canadian-Belgian musician, singer, songwriter, and actress. One of the best-selling Belgian music artists ever, Fabian has sold more than 20 million records all over the world. Over the course of her career, she has won many prestigious awards, such as Félix Awards and World Music Awards.

 39 
Moncef Slaoui
(Moroccan-Born Belgian-American Scientist Who Led Operation Warp Speed)
Moncef Slaoui
0
Birthdate: July 22, 1959
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Agadir, Morocco

Moroccan-born scientist Moncef Slaoui completed his doctoral studies in Belgium and the moved to the US for further research at Harvard. In his career of almost 3 decades at GlaxoSmithKline, he oversaw the development of many vaccines. He later headed Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s initiative to develop COVID-19 vaccines.

 40 
Diane von Fürstenberg
(Fashion designer)
Diane von Fürstenberg
4
Listed In: Fashion
Birthdate: December 31, 1946
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
 41 
Bradley Wiggins
(Track cyclist, Sport cyclist)
Bradley Wiggins
1
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: April 28, 1980
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ghent

British road and track cyclist Bradley Wiggins scripted history by becoming the first British racer to win the Tour de France, in 2012. Though born to Australian track cyclist Gary Wiggins, he was initially a fan of football but turned to cycling after watching the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.  

 42 
Cécile de France
(Belgian Actress Known for Her Lead Role in the Films: 'High Tension' and 'Hereafter')
Cécile de France
0
Birthdate: July 17, 1975
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Namur, Belgium

Cécile de France is a Belgian actress who achieved international prominence for her performance in films like High Tension and Hereafter. One of the most celebrated and popular Belgian actresses of her generation, Cécile de France has won many prestigious awards including two César Awards and multiple Magritte Award nominations.

 43 
Marouane Fellaini
(Moroccan-Origin Belgian Football Midfielder)
Marouane Fellaini
3
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: November 22, 1987
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Etterbeek, Belgium

Moroccan-origin Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini is a midfielder for the Chinese Super League club Shandong Taishan. Starting his senior career with Standard Liège, he has also played for Everton and Manchester United. He is the son of a footballer who had to become a bus driver due to lack of paperwork.

 44 
Abraham Ortelius
(Flemish Cartographer Who Created the World's First Modern Atlas)
Abraham Ortelius
0
Birthdate: April 14, 1527
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Antwerp
Died: June 28, 1598

Flemish cartographer of the 16th century, Abraham Ortelius is remembered as the person who created Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the world’s first modern atlas. Starting his career as an engraver, he later switched to map-making. He also served as Spanish king Philip II’s official geographer and proposed the idea of continental drift.

 45 
Joseph Plateau
(Belgian Physicist & Mathematician - One of the First People to Demonstrate the Illusion of a Moving Image)
Joseph Plateau
1
Listed In: Scientists
Birthdate: October 14, 1801
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brussels
Died: September 15, 1883

Belgian physicist and mathematician Joseph Plateau was a pioneer of the modern animation and movie industry, as he invented the phenakistiscope, the world’s first device to create an illusion of motion through images. He also laid down the structure of soap films through Plateau's laws.

 46 
Raf Simons
(Belgian Fashion Designer)
Raf Simons
0
Listed In: Fashion
Birthdate: January 12, 1968
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Neerpelt, Belgium

Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons initially gained fame as a furniture designer and later established his own menswear label. Inspired by music and arts, his label has gradually turned its focus to simple silhouettes. He has also been associated with Dior and is now the co-creative director of Prada.

 47 
Andreas Pereira
(Belgian-Born Footballer Who Plays as a Midfielder for Brazil)
Andreas Pereira
0
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: January 1, 1996
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Duffel, Belgium

The son of Brazilian footballer Marcos Pereira, Andreas Pereira is a fine midfielder in his own right and plays for Fulham. The Belgian-born footballer started his senior career with the club Manchester United. While he initially represented the youth teams of both Belgium and Brazil, he later joined the Brazilian senior national team.

 48 
Jacky Ickx
(Belgian Retired Racing Driver)
Jacky Ickx
0
Listed In: Sportspersons
Birthdate: January 1, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brussels
 49 
Mary of Burgundy
(Former Duchess of Burgundy (1477 - 1482))
Mary of Burgundy
2
Listed In: Miscellaneous
Birthdate: February 13, 1457
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: March 27, 1482

As Charles the Bold’s daughter, Mary of Burgundy, was also known as Mary the Rich, for her affluence. While she had a fairy-tale marriage with Archduke Maximilian of Austria and had two children, she died abruptly at age 25, after being thrown from her horse during a hunting trip.

 50 
Anthony van Dyck
1
Birthdate: March 22, 1599
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Antwerp, Belgium
Died: December 9, 1641

Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who started painting at an early age before going on to become the leading court painter in England. Although he is best remembered for painting the aristocracy, van Dyck also painted biblical and mythological subjects. In 1632, Anthony van Dyck received a knighthood from Charles I.