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AHEAD OF JULY 21st (3): OUR FIRST KING: LEOPOLD Ist

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A serie of articles about the monarchy and the new King of Belgians

Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, first King of the Belgians (July 21st 1831)

Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, first King of the Belgians (July 21st 1831)

He 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 Napoléon Ioffered him the position of adjutant, but he refused. Instead, he took up a military career in the Imperial Russian Cavalry. He campaigned against Napoléon 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 (laterKing 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.

Leopold turned down the throne of Greece which this new kingdom had proposed to him. After Belgium asserted its independence, the Belgian National Congress considered several candidates and eventually asked Leopold to become King of the newly-formed country. He was elected on  June 4th 1831, 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 day we still celebrate today. 

The King and his family. Crown Prince Leopold II on the left

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 24 articles defining the rules of belgian independence. e

 

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

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, not far away from the royal palace of Laeken.

Miguel D. DESNERCK with wikipedia.com

OUR SERIE:

AHEAD OF JULY 21st (1) : OUR NEW KING PHILIPPE. THE BIOGRAPHY

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