- The citizen (bourgeois, burger), defined as those who participated in municipal life, together with patricians, achieved status parallel to the important role played by commerce and industry in city life for these were the trades they practiced. Every bourgeois son, on attaining the age of 15, swore to respect the keure—the charter granted by Duke Henry I in 1229. In addition to those who were citizens by birth, the city acknowledged such status by purchase, namely, anyone who paid a set sum to acquire the status (from 1339, these monies were set aside in a special account for use in maintaining city streets).Citizens enjoyed rights specified in 1326 and guaranteed by dukes throughout the 14th century. Risings in 1303,1306,1360, and 1421 secured additional powers. Citizens could be tried only by a tribunal of aldermen presided over by the amman, their goods could not be confiscated, and they could not be held in prison without prior judgment of the tribunal and then they could be imprisoned only in Brussels. They paid taxes at favorable rates. Together with urban authorities, they were required to guarantee the debts of the city and they had to serve in the military forces assembled by the city, unless they were members of the ducal entourage.Members of the professions—law, teaching, banking, medicine, commerce, and industry—held a preponderant influence in public affairs until the late 19th century when national franchise reform brought a system of plural voting (1893) followed by universal manhood suffrage (9 May 1919). Certain classes of women were granted the franchise in 1920, which was extended to all women in 1948.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.