Belgian Abdication: Profile of Leopold II

  July 14, 2013 at 12:36 am by

Our second Belgian Royal Profile will be on the second King of the Belgians, Leopold II, a far more controversial figure due to his regime and the widespread abuse in the Congo Free State.

Leopold II, King of the Belgians

Leopold II was born in Brussels on the 9th of April 1835, the eldest son of Leopold I and Louise-Marie d’Orléans. In 1840, Leopold was created Duke of Brabant, which is now the traditional title of the heir apparent to the Belgian throne. On August 22nd, 1853 he married Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria, this union was very unhappy but the couple did have four children: a son, Prince Leopold, who died young, and three daughters, Princesses Louise, Stéphanie and Clémentine of Belgium.

Following the death of his father in December 1865, Leopold became the second King of the Belgians and his reign of over 44 years saw many social changes within the Belgian Kingdom.

King Leopold II of the Belgians and his wife, Marie Henriette of Austria

During his early reign, the King was popular and was knicknamed the ‘Builder King’ due to the series of large building projects which were undertaken during this period. Leopold also tried, in vein, to obtain the Philippines as a Belgian Colony from Queen Isabella II of Spain. Following his failure, he turned his attention to Africa and in 1885 obtained and established the Congo Free State, which he ruled personally.

The personal rule of the Congo by Leopold II was brutal; the King ammassed a fortune from the collection of ivory and rubber from plants. Widespread abuse was forced on the local population by Leopold’s private mercenary force who used flogging and mutilations as punishment on villagers who did not meet the required quotas on rubber collections. The abuse and atrocities caused a huge outrage and scandal, forcing the King in 1908 to cede his personal control of the Congo Free State to the Belgian Government and it was transformed in a Belgian Colony.

Funeral procession of King Leopold II

King Leopold II died unpopular and without a male heir on the 17th of December 1909, his Queen had died in 1902. The King was buried at the Royal Crypt of the Church of Our Lady of Laeken beside his wife and parents.

Leopold II was succeeded by his nephew Prince Albert, son of Leopold’s younger brother Prince Philip, Count of Flanders.

Filed under Belgium, Historical Royals
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5 Responses to Belgian Abdication: Profile of Leopold II

  1. Brigitte Rogival says:

    he was not the only surviving of Leopold I , he has a younger brother Philippe Count of Flanders , father of the third King Albert i.

  2. gliglu says:

    Leopold II was an absolute monster. When Baudouin went to Africa he was offended because the people did not forget the attrocities that were comitted under his grand father’s ownership of te Congo.

  3. JessRulz says:

    Hi Brigitte – thanks for the correction. I have updated the entry.

  4. Lady Daphne says:

    ON a different note, I have an orchid “Cattleya Brabantiae”, named for the Countess of Brabant, later Queen of the Belgians. The Cattleya was named about 160 years ago, so I’d have to look back and see for which future Queen it was named. It’s very pretty, star shaped, pink in color, with orchid spots on the petals and an orchid lip. It’s about to bloom in about a week or so. It’s ‘faithful’ as it blooms about the same time each year.

  5. An Ard Rí says:

    Many thanks for the correction Brigitte.

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