Belgian Abdication: Profile of Albert I
Continuing our series of profiles on the six Belgian monarchs, today we look at the third King, Albert I.
Born on April 8th, 1875 in Brussels, Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad was not expected to succeed the throne. He was the second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders – the third son of King Leopold I – and Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Two unexpected deaths pushed Prince Albert up the line of succession to second, below his father: his first cousin, Prince Leopold (the only legitimate son of King Leopold II), who died in 1869 before Albert was born; and his elder brother, Prince Baudouin, who died in 1891.
After becoming the heir, Prince Albert worked hard to ensure that he would be prepared to be King. Much like his relative, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, consort of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, the Prince was interested in the plight of the working classes in both Belgium and its colonies. He toured the Belgian Congo in 1908, which resulted in his later efforts to increase the development of the region (in 1925, as King, he was instrumental in the foundation of the first national park in Africa, the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo).
At the age of 25, Prince Albert married a Wittelsbach princess, Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria, in October 1900. The couple were well suited, and Elisabeth was to provide Albert with a great deal of support and encouragement during his reign. The couple were parents to three children: Leopold III of the Belgians, Prince Charles, Count of Flanders, and Queen Marie-José of Italy.
On December 23rd, 1909, upon the death of his uncle Leopold, Prince Albert became His Majesty The King of the Belgians. He was the first Belgian King to take the accession oath in both French and Dutch, and was a popular figure with the public. The Belgian people were pleased with Albert and Elisabeth’s natures – simple and harmonious.
Not quite five years after he succeeded the throne, King Albert faced one of his most difficult tasks as monarch – the First World War. He refused the German army passage through Belgium, which caused the tiny nation to be invaded by the much larger Germany. The King took control of the armed forces, and for four years fought alongside his troops in holding off the Germans in a complete invasion of Belgium in cooperation with Britain and France. Albert’s determination fostered great public support, and at the end of the war in 1918, the Royal Family returned to Brussels to a hero’s welcome.
In the years following the War, the King worked to rebuild the nation. He worked to introduce universal suffrage, specifically the “one man, one vote” premise. The creation of the Flemish University in Ghent also occurred under the watch of King Albert.
King Albert was killed on February 17th, 1934 while mountaineering in the Ardennes mountain ranges in south Belgium. His funeral took place on February 22nd, and the 52-year-old was interred into the Royal Crypt at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken. Albert was succeeded by his eldest son, Leopold III.Filed under Belgium, Historical Royals
Tagged Albert I of Belgium, Belgian Abdication 2013, Biography.