Belgian Abdication: Profile of Leopold I
Seeing as Belgium was in the news this week with the announcement by King Albert II of his abdication on July 21st, we thought that we would revisit the reigns of the six Belgian monarchs.
We will start with the very first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, and work our way through the lives and reign of each of the five other monarchs over the next few weeks.
Leopold I was born Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, at the Ehrenburg Palace on December 16th, 1790. His father was Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and his mother Countess Augusta Reuss of Ebersdorf. On May 2nd, 1816 he married Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of the future King George IV of the United Kingdom. Sadly, Princess Charlotte died in November 1817, a day after giving birth to a stillborn son.
In 1818, Leopold’s younger sister Princess Victoria married Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn; their daughter was the future Queen Victoria. Having earlier turned down the throne of Greece, Prince Leopold was offered the throne of the newly formed Belgian Kingdom following its declaration of independence from the Netherlands in 1830. In June 1831, he was elected the first King of the Belgians and swore allegiance to the Belgian constitution in front of the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg in Brussels.
King Leopold married the French Catholic Princess Louise of Orléans in August 1832. Leopold himself was Protestant and the couple had two ceremonies, one Catholic and the other Protestant. Leopold I and Louise had four children: Prince Louis-Philippe, Crown Prince of Belgium; Leopold II; Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders and Princess Charlotte of Belgium. All of their children were raised Roman Catholics, which was the religion of the vast majority of Belgians.
King Leopold I also had great influence over his niece, the young Queen Victoria, where he helped arrange her marriage to her cousin, Prince Albert Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840. Leopold I also arranged other royal marriages, including that of his nephew, Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, to Queen Maria II of Portugal. The King also managed to keep Belgium neutral during the 1848 Revolutions which overthrew his father-in-law, King Louis-Philippe I of France.
His reign saw the opening of the first railway line in continental Europe.
Leopold I died aged 74 at Laeken on December 10th, 1865. His remains were buried within the royal crypt of the Church of Our Lady of Laeken, which has since become the main burial site for the Belgian Royal Family. Leopold I was succeeded to the Belgian throne was his second son, Leopold Duke of Brabant.Filed under Belgian Royals, Historical Royals
Tagged Belgian Abdication 2013, Biography, Leopold I, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
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