Leopold I of Belgium

Leopold I
Leopold I
King of the Belgians
Became King: July 21, 1831
Predecessor: First King
Date of Birth: December 16, 1790
Place of Birth: Bavarian, Coburg
Date of Death: December 10, 1865
Place of Death: Laeken, Belgium
Successor: Leopold II
Belgian Royalty
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Leopold I
   Prince Louis-Philippe
   Prince Leopold
   Prince Philippe
   Princess Marie-Charlotte
Leopold II
   Princess Louise-Marie
   Prince Leopold
   Princess Stéphanie
   Princess Clémentine
Albert I
   Prince Leopold
   Prince Charles
   Princess Marie-José
Leopold III
   Princess Joséphine-Charlotte
   Prince Baudouin
   Prince Albert
   Prince Alexander
   Princess Marie-Christine
   Princess Maria-Esmeralda
Albert II
   Crown Prince Philippe
   Princess Astrid
   Prince Laurent
   Princess Elisabeth
   Prince Gabriel
   Prince Emmanuel
   Princess Louise
   Prince Nicolas
   Prince Aymeric

Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (December 16, 1790December 10, 1865), was the first king of Belgium, or more correct of the Belgians, according to the constitution of that country, since July 21, 1831.

He was born as Leopold Georg Christian Friedrich, Prince of Saxen Coburg Saalfeld, later changed to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha after ground swap by his father in Ehrenburg Castle in the Bavarian town of Coburg as the youngest son of Duke Francis Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield (1750 - 1806) and of CountessAugusta Reuss-Ebersdorf (1757 - 1831).

In 1795—as a mere toddler—Leopold was appointed colonel of the Izmailovski Imperial Regiment in Russia. Seven years later he became a general. When Napoleonic troops occupied the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg in 1806 he went to Paris. Napoléon offered him the position of adjutant, but he refused. He campaigned against Napoleon.Instead he took up a military career in the Imperial Russian cavalry. He distinguished himself at the battle of Kulm at the head of his cuirassier division. In 1815 Leopold reached the rank of lieutenant-general in the Russian army.

On May 2, 1816, he married Princess Charlotte Augusta, (1796-1817); the only legitimate child of the British Prince Regent (later King George IV) and therefore heiress to the British throne and was created a British field-marshal and knight of the Garter. On November 5, 1817, Princess Charlotte gave birth to a stillborn son; she herself died the following day. (Had she lived, she would have become Queen of the United Kingdom in 1830 on the death of her father, and Leopold presumably would have been the British Prince Consort instead of king of the Belgians.)

He functioned as a principal advisor to his niece, Queen Victoria (reigned 1837 - 1901), the daughter of his sister Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

On July 2, 1829, Leopold participated in nuptials of doubtful validity, (a private marriage-contract with no religious or public ceremony) with actress Caroline Bauer, created Countess of Montgomery, a cousin of his advisor, Christian Friedrich Freiherr von Stockmar. The marriage reportedly ended in 1831.

In 1830 the people of Greece offered Leopold the Greek crown, but he declined. After Belgium asserted its independence from the Netherlands on October 4, 1830, the Belgian National Congress, after considering several other candidates, asked Leopold to become king of the newly-formed country. He accepted and became "King of the Belgians" on June 26, 1831. He swore allegiance to the constitution in the Royal Palace in Brussels on July 21, 1831. This day became the Belgian national holiday.

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

On August 9, 1832, Leopold married Princess Louise-Marie of Orléans (April 3, 1812 - October 11, 1850), daughter of King Louis-Philippe of France. Leopold and Louise-Marie were avid chefs. Leopold created the recipe for Beefsteak Leopold.

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

Leopold and Louise had four children:

The king also had two sons, Baron Georg von Eppinghoven (1849-1904) and Baron Arthur von Eppinghoven (1852 - 1940), by a mistress, Arcadia Claret, created Baroness von Eppinghoven (1826 - 1897).

With the opening of the railway line between Brussels and Mechelen on May 5, 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 of England to his nephew Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, son of his brother Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Leopold tried to pass laws to regulate female and child labor in 1842, but unsuccessfully.

A wave of revolutions passed over Europe after the deposition of King Louis-Philippe from the French throne in 1848. Belgium remained neutral, mainly because of Leopold's diplomatic efforts.

On December 10, 1865, the king died in Laeken. He lies buried in the Royal vault at the Church of Our Lady, Laeken Cemetery, Brussels, Belgium.

Styles of
King Leopold I of the Belgians
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sire

Preceded by:
King of the Belgians
Leopold I

Succeeded by:
Leopold II

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