Belgium had been a constitutional monarchy since it gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1831. As Belgium occupied the only wide open space between France and Germany, its neutrality was a vital component of the European balance of power. The foreign policy of King Albert I, who had ruled the country since 1909, was to maintain a neutral stance between its two powerful and antagonistic neighbours and did not join either the Triple Alliance or the Triple Entente.
In 1914 Belgium had a population of around 7.5 million. A prosperous trading nation, with major ports at Antwerp and Ostend, Belgium had good supplies of coal and iron and an efficient railway system.
Belgium had universal male suffrage but the well-educated and wealthy were allowed up to three votes each. In 1914 power was held by Baron de Broqueville and his Catholic Party.
Belgium had a small regular army of 43,000 men with another 115,000 trained reserves. The Belgian Air Force had only one squadron of 12 aircraft.