A Braunerie at Habay-La-Neuve

Up early this morning and down to Habay-La-Neuve, to the Chateau du Pont D’Oye, the ancestral home of the Nothomb family. I was last in Habay on the sad occasion of the funeral of one of my predecessors, Simon-Pierre Nothomb. Today was a much happier occasion. My better half is a descendant of the Belgian poet, academic and lawyer, Thomas Braun. Once in a blue moon, all of the Braun descendants find a reason for a grand get together. Today’s excuse, bringing together over two hundred people, was the 75th anniversary of the benediction of the forest of Anlier, a ceremony created by Thomas Braun and his friends, Pierre Nothomb and Adrien de Prémorel. (In fact, the Braun-Nothomb connection goes back much further. Braun’s grandfather, also a Thomas, was a German educationalist who was invited to the very young Belgium to help create its educational system by the then Belgian Prime Minister, Jean-Baptiste Nothomb.) The open-air gathering was greeted with jubilantly good weather and there was much speechifying, including, of course, by Simon-Pierre’s distinguished brother, Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb, before we got down to the serious business of lunch. One of the poet’s grand daughters had assembled a fascinating exhibition of documents and photographs of the Braun family and its members, many of whom my better half had met and was moved to rediscover through those fading black-and-white and sepia images. And two hunting bands (one in the picture) amused us with their noisy rivalry. Quite simply, a lovely day. (Update: a television channel broadcast this report on the event.)


  1. Keith Evans

    Hello, I’m doing some research which includes Brussels at the end of WW1. I wonder if you could tell me if your wife’s ancestor Thomas Braun is the same man who represented Edith Cavell at her trial in 1915.

    Many thanks, Keith Evans

  2. Martin

    That sounds distinctly probable. Being German speakers, he and his father represented a lot of Belgians in the German courts. I’ll check and get back to you but please note the following links…
    Thomas Braun dismissed in favour of his father in Cavell case:
    ‘Some time before the trial, Ma tre Thomas Braun announced to the Legation that for personal reasons he would be obliged to withdraw from the case, and asked that some one else appear for Miss Cavell. We engaged Ma tre Sadi Kirschen.’:
    ‘It was before such a court that Edith Cavell was to be arraigned. I had asked Maitre de Leval to provide for her defence, and on his advice, inasmuch as Maitre Thomas Braun was already counsel in the case, chosen by certain friends of Miss Cavell, I invited Maitre Braun into consultation. Maitre Braun was a Belgian lawyer of standing and ability; his father was defending the most distinguished of the accused, the Princess de Croy. He was a man thoroughly equipped, who had the advantage of knowing German as well as he knew French, and had appeared constantly and not without success before the German tribunals. I asked Maitre Braun to appear, then, for Miss Cavell, representing the American Legation. … Some time before the trial Maitre Braun informed the Legation that the Germans had forbidden him to plead before the military court and that some one else would have to appear for Miss Cavell; he suggested Maitre Sadi Kirschen, who was engaged. I had thought of asking to have Maitre de Leval attend, but on second thought, and on the advice of Maitre Sadi Kirschen, as well as that of Maitre de Leval himself, I came to the conclusion that perhaps it would not be entirely tactful to do this, for the presence of Maitre de Leval as an observer might suggest to the hypersensitive suspicions of the Germans a lack of confidence, that could only react against Miss Cavell.’

  3. Martin

    Dear Keith, I have checked with the family. Thomas Braun did indeed begin defending Edith Cavell. However, following an unrelated incident with the German Conseil de guerre (about Braun’s independence in his role, I believe), the Germans withdrew him from her defence. Braun, who spoke German, defended quantities of Belgians before the occupier’s courts (where the proceedings were always in German). Best wishes, Martin

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