Leopold I of Belgium

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Leopold I
Leopold I of Belgium (2).jpg
King of the Belgians
Reign 21 July 1831 – 10 December 1865
Predecessor Position established
Successor Leopold II
Spouse Charlotte of Wales
Louise of Orléans
Issue
Louis Philippe, Crown Prince of Belgium
Leopold II, King of the Belgians
Philippe, Count of Flanders
Charlotte, Empress of Mexico
House House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Father Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Mother Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf
Born (1790-12-16)16 December 1790
Ehrenburg Palace,
Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Died 10 December 1865(1865-12-10) (aged 74)
Laeken, Belgium
Burial Church of Our Lady of Laeken
Religion Lutheran
Royal styles of
Leopold I of Belgium
Coat of Arms of King Leopold I of Belgium.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sire

Leopold I (Léopold Georges Chrétien Frédéric; German: Leopold Georg Christian Friedrich; 16 December 1790 – 10 December 1865) was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. His children included Leopold II of Belgium and Carlota of Mexico, Empress-Consort of Maximilian I of Mexico. He was a maternal uncle and adviser of Queen Victoria.

He was born in Coburg and died in Laeken.[1] By birth, he was a Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, later a Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke of Saxony.

Early life[edit]

Leopold was the youngest son of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Countess Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf, and later became a prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after Saxe-Coburg acquired Gotha from Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg in 1826 and yielded Saalfeld to Saxe-Meiningen.

In 1795, as a mere child, Leopold was appointed colonel of the Izmaylovsky Guards Regiment in Russia. Seven years later, he became a major general. When Napoleonic troops occupied the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg in 1806 Leopold went to Paris. Emperor Napoleon I offered him the position of adjutant, but he refused. Instead, he took up a military career in the Imperial Russian Cavalry.[2] He campaigned against Napoleon and distinguished himself at the Battle of Kulm at the head of his cuirassier division. In 1815, at the age of 25, Leopold reached the rank of lieutenant general in the Imperial Russian Army.

In Carlton House on 2 May 1816, he married Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate child of the British Prince Regent (later King George IV) and therefore second in line to the British throne, and was created a British field-marshal and Knight of the Garter. On 5 November 1817, Princess Charlotte delivered a stillborn son; she herself died the following day. Had she lived, she would have become Queen of the United Kingdom on the death of her father, and Leopold presumably would have assumed the role later taken by his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, as Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, and never been chosen to reign as King of the Belgians. Despite Charlotte's death, the Prince Regent granted Prince Leopold the British style of Royal Highness by Order in Council on 6 April 1818.[3]

From 1828 to 1829, Leopold was involved romantically during several months with the actress Caroline Bauer, who enjoyed a striking resemblance to Charlotte. Caroline was a cousin of his advisor Christian Friedrich Freiherr von Stockmar. She came to England with her mother and took up residence at Longwood House, a few miles from Claremont House. But, by mid-1829, the liaison was over, and the actress and her mother returned to Berlin. Many years later, in memoirs published after her death, she declared that she and Leopold had engaged into a morganatic marriage and that he had bestowed upon her the title of Countess Montgomery. He would have broken this marriage when the possibility arose that he could become King of Greece.[4] The son of Freiherr von Stockmar denied that these events ever happened, and indeed no records have been found of a civil or religious marriage or of an ennobling of the actress.[5]

King of the Belgians[edit]

Leopold turned down the throne of Greece. After Belgium asserted its independence from the Netherlands on 4 October 1830, the Belgian National Congress considered several candidates and eventually asked Leopold to become King of the newly formed country. He was elected on 4 June, accepted, and became "King of the Belgians" on 26 June 1831. He swore allegiance to the constitution in front of the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg at Coudenbergh Place in Brussels on 21 July 1831. This day became the Belgian national holiday. Jules Van Praet would become his personal secretary.

King Leopold I, Queen Louise-Marie, Crown Prince Leopold, Prince Philippe, Princess Marie-Charlotte

Less than two weeks later, on 2 August, the Netherlands invaded Belgium. Skirmishes continued for eight years, but in 1839, the two countries signed the Treaty of London establishing Belgium's independence.

With the opening of the railway line between Brussels and Mechelen on 5 May 1835, one of King Leopold's fondest hopes—to build the first railway in continental Europe—became a reality.

In 1840, Leopold arranged the marriage of his niece, Queen Victoria, the daughter of his sister, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, to his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, son of his brother, Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Even before she succeeded to the throne, Leopold had been advising the then-Princess Victoria by letter, and after her accession, he was one of the great influences on her in the early days of her monarchy, although she did begin to assert her independence very early on in her reign.

Royal Monogram

In 1842, Leopold tried unsuccessfully to pass laws to regulate female and child labor. A wave of revolutions passed over Europe after the deposition of his father-in-law, King Louis-Philippe, from the French throne in 1848. Belgium remained neutral, mainly because of Leopold's diplomatic efforts.

He was the 649th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1816, the 947th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain in 1835 and the 35th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword.

On 11 October 1850, Leopold again lost a young wife, as Queen Louise-Marie died of tuberculosis at age 38.

Leopold also had two sons, George and Arthur, by a mistress, Arcadie Meyer (née Claret). George was born in 1849, and Arthur was born in 1852. At Leopold's request, in 1862 the two sons were created Freiherr von Eppinghoven by his nephew, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; in 1863 Arcadie was also created Baronin von Eppinghoven.[6]

On 10 December 1865, the King died in Laeken at the age of 74. He lies buried in the Royal Vault at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken.

Titles, styles, honours, and arms[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 16 December 1790 – 12 November 1826 His Serene Highness Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duke of Saxony
  • 6 April 1818 – 12 November 1826 (in the UK) His Royal Highness Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duke of Saxony
  • 12 November 1826 – 21 July 1831 His Serene Highness (His Royal Highness in the UK) Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Saxony
  • 21 July 1831 – 10 December 1865 His Majesty The King of the Belgians

Ancestry[edit]

Patrilineal descent[edit]

House of Wettin

  1. Conrad, Margrave of Meissen, 1098–1157
  2. Otto II, Margrave of Meissen, 1125–1190
  3. Theodoric I, Margrave of Meissen, 1162–1221
  4. Henry III, Margrave of Meissen, c. 1215–1288
  5. Albert II, Margrave of Meissen, 1240–1314
  6. Frederick I, Margrave of Meissen, 1257–1323
  7. Frederick II, Margrave of Meissen, 1310–1349
  8. Frederick III, Landgrave of Thuringia, 1332–1381
  9. Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, 1370–1428
  10. Frederick II, Elector of Saxony, 1412–1464
  11. Ernest, Elector of Saxony, 1441–1486
  12. John, Elector of Saxony, 1468–1532
  13. John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, 1503–1554
  14. John William, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, 1530–1573
  15. John II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, 1570–1605
  16. Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha, 1601–1675
  17. John Ernest IV, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1658–1729
  18. Francis Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1697–1764
  19. Ernest Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1724–1800
  20. Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1750–1806

See also[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • J. L. THONISSEN, La Belgique sous le règne de Leopold Ier, 3 Vol., Leuven, 1861.
  • Theodore JUSTE, Léopold Ier, roi des Belges, 2 vol., Brussel, 1868.
  • Erich von STOCKMAR, Denkwürdigkeiten aus den Papieren des Freihern Christian Friedrich von Stockmar, Brunswick, 1872.
  • SAINT-RENE TAILLANDIER, Le roi Léopold et la reine Victoria. Récits d'histoire contemporaine, Parijs, 1878.
  • C. BUFFIN, La jeunesse de Léopold Ier, Brussel, 1914
  • E. C. CORTI & C. BUFFIN, Léopold Ier, oracle politique de l'Europe, Brussel, 1927.
  • Louis de LICHTERVELDE, Léopold Ier et la formation de la Belgique contemporaine, Brussel, 1929
  • Hippolyte D'URSEL, La cour de Belgique et la cour de France de 1832 à 1850, Parijs, 1933.
  • Carlo BRONNE, Leopold Ier et son Temps, Brussel, 1942.
  • Carlo BRONNE, Jules Van Praet, Ministre de la Maison du Roi, Brussel, 1943
  • Carlo BRONNE, Lettres de Léopold Ier, Brussel, 1943.
  • A. SIMON, Lorsque mourut Leopold Ier, in: Revue Générale Belge, 1947.
  • A. SIMON, La politique religieuse de Léopold Ier, Bruxelles, 1853.
  • L. DE GUCHTENEERE, Leopold Ier et la démocratie, Leuven, 1955.
  • A. SIMON, Leopold Ier et les partis en Belgique, 1961.
  • Theo LUYKX, Politieke geschiedenis van België, Brussel, 1964.
  • A. SIMON, Leopold 1er, in: Biographie nationale de Belgique, T. XXXII, Brussel, 1964, col. 364–430.
  • P. VERMEIR, Leopold I. Mens, Vorst, Diplomaat, Dendermonde, Deel I, 1965 – Deel II, 1967.
  • Theo ARONSON, De Coburgs van België, geschiedenis van een vorstenhuis, Diogenes, 1970.
  • Jean STENGERS, Les rois des Belges. Pouyvoir et influence de 1831 à ce jour, Brussel – Leuven, 1992
  • Gerty COLIN, Rois et reines de Belgique, 1993.
  • Alphonse VANDENPEEREBOOM, La fin d'un règne. Notes et souvenirs, Gent, 1994.
  • Gustaaf JANSSENS & Jean STENGERS (dir.), Leopold I et Leopold II. Les archives Goffinet, Brussel, Koning Boudewijnstichting, 1997.
  • G. KIRSCHEN, Léopold avant Léopold Ier, Brussel, 1998, (ISBN 2-87106-200-5)
  • Henriette CLAESSENS, Leven en liefdes van Leopold I, Lannoo, 2002.
  • Marleen BODEN, De opvoeding van Belgische prinsen en prinsessen in de negentiende eeuw, licentiaatsverhandeling, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 2001
  • Olivier DEFRANCE, Léopold Ier et le clan Cobourg, Éditions Racine, Bruxelles, 2004 (ISBN 978-2-87386-335-7)
  • Frédéric MARCHESANI, Léopold Ier, roi diplomate (1850–1865), Éditions Luc Pire, Brussel, 2007 (ISBN 978-287415-852-0)
  • Gita DENECKERE, Leopold I. De eerste koning van Europa, De Bezige Bij, Antwerpen, 2011

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "The Peerage: Leopold I Georg Christian Friedrich, Roi des Belges". Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld". RHS Lindley Library. Occasional Papers 8. April 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Royal Styles and Titles – 1818 Order-in-Council". 
  4. ^ K. BAUER, Aus meinem Bühnenleben. Erinnerungen von Karoline Bauer, Berlin, 1876–1877.
  5. ^ E. VON STOCKMAR, Denkwürdigkeiten aus den Papiere des Freihernn Christian Friedrich von Stockmar, Brunswick, 1873 ; R. VON WANGENHEIM, Baron Stockmar. Eine coburgisch-englische Geschichte, Coburg, 1996.
  6. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels [Genealogical Handbook of the Nobility]. Freiherrlichen Häuser (in German). Band XXI. C. A. Starke. 1999. pp. 101–3. 

External links[edit]

Leopold I of Belgium
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 16 December 1790 Died: 10 December 1865
Regnal titles
New title King of the Belgians
1831–1865
Succeeded by
Leopold II
Military offices
Preceded by
Thomas Bland
Colonel of the 5th Dragoon Guards
1816–1831
Succeeded by
Sir John Slade