We have little infornation on Albert's childhood or the clothes he wore as a boy. He ascended the throne on the death of his uncle, Leopold II, in 1909, due to the death of the intended heirs. Leopold's son died, then his older nephew, which Albert left next in line.
Albert at birth was third in line the line of succession behind his father and elder brother, Prince Baudouin. No one expected him to be king. The unexpected death of Baudouin in January of 1891 immediately raised Albert to prominence within his country. A studious, quiet young man, Albert was not the choice of heir that King Leopold II would have relished. As the only male member of his generation, Albert was guaranteed the crown of the Belgians upon the king's death. He was very young, only 16 years old, when Leopold II died. Albert married the Princess Elizabeth of Bavaria in 1900. He was no doubt seduced by beauty of the lovely and accomplished Bavarian princess. Elizabeth believed in dressing her three children very fashionably. The boys were often outfitted in Fautleroy suits and lacey blouses with frilly collars for dress occasions. Their mother liked to dress the boys in identical outfits. Albert and his wife were well-liked as a royal family. They had a model family and acted like real people. The valiant resistance of the King to the German invasion of World War I which launched World War I made the royal couple heros to the Belgian people. He died tragcally in a mountaneering accident in 1934. Queen Elizabeth lived to see another, even more brutal German occupation.
Albert was an unlikely king. His father was not the king of Belgium and his mother's family was no longer a ruling family. Albert's father was the second son of Belgium's first king--Leopold I. And several other relatives had to pass away. Leopold II had several children, but mostly daughters. His only son died as an infant. Albert's older brother died leaving him in line for the crown. king.
Philip Count of Flanders was the second son of Belgium's first king, Leoplod I. We have little information about him, except that as a child he had a much happier disposition than his monstorous brother Leopold I. We also know his son Albert suceeded Leopold I and became the most beloved king of Belgium. An older brother would have been king, but died at the untimely age of 21.
Philip married Marie Hohenzollern-Signaringen was born (1845). Her father was Karl Anton Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1811- ). He rose to become the primeminister of Prussia. Her mother was Princess Josephine of Baden Zähringen (1813- ). Her brother was King Carol I of Romania and thus she was an aunt of his successor King Ferdinand of Romania. Marie was described as a 'lovely' girl. She was one of many potential wifes considered for Queen Victoria's youngest son, the fast living Prince of Wales (future Edward VII). The fact that she was Roman Catholic prevented her selection. Marie eventually married Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, in Berlin (1867). The Berlin site was chosen because she was Prussian princess. Philippe was the second son of King Leopold I of Belgium, but at the time did not have royal prospects. This of course meant that the Belgian royal family was largely of German origins at the time of World War I.
Albert had three siblings. Baudouin was his older brother who every one expected would eventually be king. He also had two sisters who survived into adulthood, Princess Henriette who married Prince Emmanuel of Orleans, and Princess Josephine who married her cousin Prince Karl-Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, brother of King Ferdinand I of Romania.
King Leopold II was Albert's uncle, from whom he inherited the throne. Leopold II had several children, but mostly daughters. His only son died as an infant. HBC knows little about the relationship between the two. One story is told about the King showing his young Nephew around the Palace at Laeken. The boy trying to please him said, "Uncle, this is becoming a little Versailles." The King indignatly huffed, "Little?".
Albert was a studious, quiet young man. He was reserved, an avid reader and loved the outdoors. His interests included horseback riding and rock climbing. Albert was not the choice of heir that King Leopold II would have relished. As the only male member of his generation, however, Albert was guaranteed the crown of the Belgians upon the king's death.
Before becoming King he was Count of Flanders and was very popular because of his democratic ways. He visited the US in 1898 and 1919 and also visited the Congo. He was apauled by the condition of Leopold II's former colony. It was run as a virtual slave plantation with great brutality. He urged technological development and better treatment of the natives.
We have no information on Albert's education.
Up until the Second World War it was a tradition that the Crown Princes served in the Grenadiers Regiment. Prince Albert, future King Albert I, served in the Grenadiers from his appointment as second lieutenant in 1892 until his promotion to the rank of General in 1904. At the time it was not expected that he would be a future king. And most people thought there would never again be a major war in Europe.
Prince Albert visited the United States twice in 1898 and 89. The purpose was to study manufacturing. He traveled on a German liner, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse from Southhampton. An American journlaist reported that he spoke little English, but "almost perfect" French--a rather surprising thing to say because French was one of the Belgian languages. Perhaps the writer was of the opinion that Belgans spole Belgan. He tried to draw the Prince into discussing the Spanish situation, but the Prince began talking literature. The Prince was impressed with New York's sjy scrapers, but thought they "spoiled the skyline". He was impressed with the absence of social class destinctiins in America. The reported ended with a nother curious statement, saying the Pribe was finely educated. but is "not a brilliant man, being rather slow of thought and much given to quiet study." He declined a military escort. ["Belgian ...." p. 7.]
Newspaper reports indicated that Pribce Albert was engaged to Princess Clementine of Orleans, a French nobel family. We are not sure what happened to end the engagement. Perhaps he met Pricess Elizabeth of Bavaria in the interim.
Albert married the Princess Elizabeth of Bavaria in 1900. He was no doubt seduced by beauty of the lovely and accomplished Bavarian princess. The wedding took place on October 2, 1900. Despite her German origins she proved as loyal to Belgium as he in the World War I which was looming and which was begun by a German invasion of Belgium. Many Bavarians di not like the Prussians which had unified Germany, but by World War I the Germans had increasingly come to se themselves as one people. The clothes Elizabeth selected for her sons (Princes Albert and
Charles) were some of the most fashionable I have noted for European princes. Interestingly the outfits she selected for her children, were very similar to the clothes that the Bavarian princes were wearing at about the same time.
A little over a year after their felicitous mairrage, on November 3, 1901, the royal couple were delighted with the birth of a little prince, the future King Leopold III of the Belgians. Two more children would join the royal nursery in Brussels. Leopold was born in 1901. He ascended the throne, but his reign was ruined when he surendered to the Germans in 1940 after only a few days resistance. Most Belgians compared him unfavorably to the valiant resistance to the first German invasion led by his father in 1914. After the war he was cleared of charges of colaboration, but the Belgian people refused to accept him as king. Charles was born on October 10, 1903. He served as Regent after World War II. Marie Jose was born on August 4, 1906. She was in 1930 to mary Prince Umberto of Italy and briefly reign as Queen in 1946.
Elizabeth believed in dressing her children very fashionably. The boys were often outfitted in Fautleroy suits and lacey blouses with frilly collars for dress occasions. Their mother liked to dress the boys in matching or identical outfits. Presumably she was influenced in her fashion tastes by her chilhood in the Bavarian court. The boys when they were young were outfitted in dresses, as
was still the fashion in the years before World War I. HBRC
only has a few images of the boys in dresses. HBRC has no information on the breeching of the princes. Based on available photographs it looks like the boys were breeched about age 4 or 5 years. Elizabeth appears to have liked velvet Fauntleroy suits with ruffled collars. The boys appear to have worn them at least through about 10 years of age. They could have worn them longer. While not quite Fauntleroy suits, the boys when they were younger wore light colored suits (I'm not sure about the color) trimmed in lace and ruffles. They appear to have been comfortable outfits with open collars. Photographs show the boys wearing frilly, open collar blouses to a fairly advanced age. All of theblouses while often elaborately eddged in lace ruffles are always open necked without large floppy bows. The lacey blouses worn by the princers appear to be summer wear. The boys wore them with matching kneepants, both with short white socks and with rather sheer white stockings that look like they are wearing no stockings at all. The boys also wore sailor suits. I'm not sure at just what age they began wearing sailior suits. One photograph shows both boys wearing sailor suits while Prince Charles was still in curls.
The princes hair was styled differently at various ages. Some of the younger styles appear quite fanciful. Presumably Queen Elizabeth was the one who decided on these styles. I'm not sure who she may have discussed or if she consulted with the King. The Queen oftem styled the boys hair identically. The only exception to this was when Prince Charles was very young and had not yet had his hair cut while his older brother did have his curls cut. As younger boys they wore bangs and cuurly hair over their ears, but not to shoulder length. She seems to have had their hair cut shorter at about 6 years of age.
Albert and his wife were well-liked as a royal family. They had a model family and acted like real people.
The pleasurable and tranquil family life of Albert and Elisabeth came to an end on December 17, 1909. On this date old King Leopold II of the Belgians died without a male heir. The Belgian crown was thus inherited by his nephew, who ascended the throne as Albert I, King of the Belgians.
Albert was only 16 years old when he assumed the crown and would in only a few years be faced with the crisis of a German invasion and the Great War. Albert was generally considered reserved, an avid reader and loved the outdoors. His interests included horseback riding and mountaineering--which was to lead toma tragic accident. Before ascending the throne, Albert was the Count of Flanders and was very popular because of his democratic ways. He visited the United States in 1898 and 1919 and also visited the Congo, where upon seeing the poor condition of Leopold II's former colony, he urged technological development and better treatment of the natives. Albert became a respected constitutional monarch. He promoted modern reforms in Belgium and the Congo. He attempted to modernize the Belgian Army, but the parliament was reluctant to grant the needed funds. A patron of the arts, Albert was also interested in mechanics, engineering and aviation.
Kaiser Wilhelm before the War explained Germany's war plans to an outraged King Albert. He wanted Albert to agree to let the German Army pass through the county unhindered. World War I began with the German invasion of Belgium. Much of the fighting on the Western Front was fought in Belgium or northern France. Almost all of the country was occupied by the Germans in the first weeks of the War. King Albert led the small Belgian Army in a dogged defence that aling with British help delayed the German advance and ultimately played a key role in France's successful defense of Paris at the Marne. The German invasion of Belgium gained them a military advantage, but it also brought the aprobrium of agressor on Germany that would significantly color world public opinion, including American opinion. This would ultimately be a major factor in America's entry into the War. Albert and Elizabeth refused to abandon their subjects and stayed on while the country's valiant, although futile, effort tried to resist the German onslaught. Albert stayed with the Belgian Army which help to hold a small area of the country, the southwest corner. Elizabeth, using the medical knowledge she had acquired at her father's clinic, opened a field hospital where she served as a nurse.
The end of World War I also meant the beginning of a very happy period in Albert and Elisabeth's life. She could indulge in her passion for the arts. The royal couple gained worldwide recognition for their valiant defense of Belgium. Foreign travels became commonplace, and everywhere they went, the royal couple was received as heroes.
Albert died died in a tragic mountain climbing accident near Namur in 1934 and was succeeded by his son Leopold III, who would face the Germans Nazis in World War II. Albert's death was mourned universally.
Elizabeth bravely endured another, even more brutal German occupation (1940-45). She passed away on November 23, 1965, in Brussels at Stuyvenberg Palace. The Belgium royal family, royalties from around the continent, artists and the people of Belgium in generallamented the loss of a great woman. No other person best summarized Queen Elisabeth's life than her friend Jean Cocteau: "There was in Belgium a modest queen of small frame and large soul who always said...I'm but an artist...and in her modesty as an artist Elisabeth said...I'm just a queen."
"Belgian Prince arrives," New York Times (March 9, 1898), p. 7.
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