Leopold II (1835-1909) was considered by many to have been the most monstrous European monarch of the 19th century because of his bloody reign in the Congo. He was the son of Leopold I and reigned from 1865 to 1909. I have no details on his boyhood or the clothes he wore as a boy. Leopold entered the Belgian Army. Up until the Second World War it was a tradition that the Crown
Princes serve in the Grenadiers. The Duke of the Brabant, future King Leopold II, from his appointment as second lieutenant in 1846 until his promotion to General in 1855. He was then honorary commander of the Regiment until his accession to the throne in 1865. He married Marie Henrietta, daughter of the Archduke Joseph of Austria in 1853. He traveled widely before ascendeding the throne. He helped maintain strict neutrality during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Leopold II was interested in acquiring colonial possessions in Africa as were other European powers at the time. In 1876 he founded the International African Association to encourage exploration of the continent. After hearing the explorer Henry M. Stanley tell of the vast Congo region, Leopold eagerly commissioned Stanley to survey the area and sign treaties with the tribes. The king then claimed the territory and made himself sovereign of it. The excesses of the Belgians were brutal in an era that showed little sympathy with the native population of Africa. The abuses of the natives that developed under his administration were eventually brought to public attention. As a result the area was annexed by the government and made a Belgian colony in 1908. Even so, Belgium did little to develop the colony or educate the natives. Leopold II did continued to exploit the Congo's resources weith a brutality that is difficult to fully understand. Leopold had only one boy. He was disdraught when his son died, leaving him only with daughters who could not inhereit the throne. He was reportedly very image connscious and took great care with his own dress and that of his children. On his death, a nephew Albert inherited the throne.
Leopold II was the son of Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg who was born in 1790. Dashing Prince Leopold found himself in the curious position of the younger son of a poor but noble German family who came close to three different European thrones. He mairred the English Princess Charlotte, but she died before inheriting the throne. He was offered, but rejected the Greek throne and fimally accepted the Belgian throne. He is also notable for the playing a key role in bringing England's Queen Victoria and his nephew Albert togther.
Leopold's mother was Louise Marie d'Orleans, born in 1812. He was apparently the ligt of his life. Sge was a sunny, chearful person in contradt to her husband. Even so, she reportedly cared more for her other two children who has more cheeful disposition, another boy and Charlotte, the ill-fated Emperess of Mexico.
Leopold was born in 1835 and christened Leopold-Louise-Philippe-Marie-Victor.
King Leopold had two boys die. The first was the son he had with English Princess Charlotte. The second who he named Leopold died after only a year. His third son became Leopold II. There was another son Philip who was made Count of Flander. There was also a girl, Marie Charlotte.
Leopold did not have a happy childhood. He was reportedly a homely, frail baby who was often sick. One writer claims that his German-born father was cold and uncaring. This seems strange as Leopold I has shown considerable interest in his two nephews, including the future Prince Albert, when his brother took little interest if not abused them. Leopold's father began referring to him as "the little tyrant" and, taking note of his shyness, likened him to a fox. His mother had been a needed support to the young Leopold, but she died when he was 15. The prince reportedly withdrew into himself.
HBC also has no details on the clothes he wore as a boy.
Leopold's father when he was 10 insisted that he begin arduous military training.
Leopold entered the Belgian Army. Up until the Second World War it was a tradition that the Crown Princes serve in the Grenadiers. The Duke of the Brabant, future King Leopold II, from his appointment as second lieutenant in 1846 until his promotion to General in 1855. He was then honorary commander of the Regiment until his accession to the throne in 1865.
Leopold's father, 3-years after the death of his wife, sought an appropriate bride for his son and heir who at the time was only 18 years old. He married the Hapsburg-Lotharingen, Marie Henrietta, daughter of the Archduke Joseph of Austria in 1853. The Hapsburg Princess like the crown prince were descendents oif Empress Maria Thresa. The mairrage proved to be a particularly unhappy royal union. Neither bride nor grom had much say in the mairrage. The groom was certainly no prince charming. A vicious commentary of the day described Prince Leopold as, "a stick of asparagus, with a narrow chest and no suspicion of a beard" who "talks a good deal and is not without wit, but he talks like an old man." Commentators especially like to joke about the prince's pronounced nose. The Baron von Humboldt, the famous oceanographer, joked that the prince's nose "threw a shadow like the shadow of Mount Athos." Even British Prime Minister Disraeli had to comment, "It is such a nose as a young prince has in a fory tale, who has been banned by a malignat fairy." Princess Marie Henrietta was only 16 years old at the time of the marrage. She was well eduated and already developed physically. She was a gay spirit. Se loved to ride and had a wonderful raucous laugh. An observer of Vienna society lickened the mairrage to that "between a stable-boy and a nun, and by nun I mean the Duke of Basrbant,"--the title conferred on te prince by his father. A month after the mairrage, the bride wrote to a friend, "If God hears my prayers, I shall not go on lving much longer--unless everything changes." Problems with Leopold and Marie Henrietta did not go unoticed across the Channel. The bridal couple paid a visit to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Victoria was greatly impressed with the princess noting her intelligence and cultivation. Victoria who was never one to spare avise, confided to King Leopold, addressing him as "dearest uncle" and informed him that "All of this gives her a decided superiority over Leo & unfortunately there is no sympathy or tastes or pursuits between them". Victoria supplied the underlining.
Despite the marital problems, Leopold and Marie Henrietta ad four children. There was only one legitimate boy. He was disdraught when his son died, leaving him only with daughters who could not inhereit the throne. He reportedly showed little affection for his daughters.
Princess Louise married Prince Philip of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1875. They divorced in 1906.
Leopold's only legitimate son was born in 1859 and named after his father. The young prince was described as a 'happy little fellow'. He was fond of riding on a little Shetland pony, which he called Kiss me Quick. Leopold loved the little boy dearly. The boy died tragically at only 9 years of age in 1859. Leopold who did not often or easily show emotions, wept uncontroably in church and had to be supported by his brother as he joined the funneral cortege.
Princess Stephanie had a very sad life. She had few fond memories of her father, but did recall his marvelous gardens. The Princess mairred Austrian Archduke Rudolf of Austria in 1881. The marriage was a disaster. Stephanie was very young and did not only not get on with her husband, but she also had great difficulties with her mother-in-law the Empress Elizabeth. Stephanie's husband in a suicide compact with his true love was the center of perhaps the greates love scandal of the 19th century. A failed marriage is one thing, butbto be the rejected woman For a young woman in the greatest love scandal of the 19th century is quite another. Princess Stephanie married again in 1900 to Elemér, Prince Lonyai de Nagy-Lónya. She died in 1945.
Leopold's youngest child was Princess Clementine. She was a great diappointment as he ardently wanted a son and successor. The Princess married Victor Jerôme, Prince Napoleon (1910). He was the Bonapare claimant. French law prevented them from living in France. Their son Louis became the next Bonaparte claimant when his father died (1926). Princess Clementine died (1955).
After Marie Henrietta died (1902), the King carried on openly with his mistress. She was a Parisan steet-walker. The King showered her with gifts and the affection he had denied Marie Heneritta and his daughters. He had by this time become a pariah not only throughout Europe, but in Belgium as well. Other royals never visited or invited him. He had two illegitimate sons which he accepted, and legitimized by marriage. Parliament refused to approve their right of succession.
HNRC has no information on how the children were dressed. He was, despite his outrageous conduct, reportedly very image conscious and took great care with his own dress and that of his children.
King Leopold II reigned from 1865 to 1909. He traveled widely before ascendeding the throne. He helped maintain strict neutrality during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Belgium was a very small country, tragically for the future was set between France and Germany. Leopold sought to enlarge the imporatnce of his small country and to make Belgian's capital a city wothy of international recognition. Upon his accession, he proclaimed, "All that I desire is to leave Belgium larger, stronger, and more beautiful."
Leopold II was interested in acquiring colonial possessions in Africa as were other European powers at the time. In fact, one way to obtain the money needed to achieve te goals he set for himself was to acquire a colony. The King in 1876 founded the International African Association to encourage exploration of the continent. At the time, large areas of centarl Africa had not yet been seized by European powers. After hearing the explorer Henry M. Stanley tell of the vast Congo region, Leopold eagerly commissioned Stanley to survey the area and sign treaties with the tribes. The king then claimed the territory and made himself sovereign of it by declarin himself soverign of the Congo Free State in 1885--essentially his own private fiefdom. This gave Leopold personal control of an area exceeding 1 million square miles and all the native inhabitants. As with many other 19th century colonial regimes, Leopold claimed to be acting out of Christain charity and compassion to end the Arab slave trade and bring benefits of civilization to Africa. Leopold's bloody reign in the Congo was anything, but philonthropic and is thecreason we refer tonhim as monstrous. Rather than end slavery, Leopold and his administrators relied on slave labor to systemtically exploit the Congo economically for his own personal benefit. To control the native population, torture, mutilation, and masacre were commonplace. Congo natives including women and children were commonly beaten with chicottes, cutting whipd made from hippopotamus hide. Punishment for a wide variety of infractions including failure to meet required work quotas (such as collection of sap from rubber trees) was commonly punished by amputation of arms, legs, noses, and ears. Historians have documented that the Belgian regime in the Congo was brutal in an era that showed little sympathy with the native population of Africa. The impact of Belgian rule can be seen in the fact that the Congo population declined from 20-30 million people to less than 9 million by 1911--a 19th century Holocaust. The abuses of the natives that developed under his administration must have been known to him and were eventually brought to public attention. As a result the area was annexed by the government and made a Belgian colony in 1908. Even so, Belgium did little to develop the colony or educate the natives. Belgium continued to exploit the Congo's resources.
For a man so revilved for the horrors he perpetrated or allowed to be perpetrated on the Congo people, Leopold II is also rememberd for his interest in beauty--especially beautiful gardens. The King was responsible for building magnificent gardens at Laeken. The center piece of the Laeken gardens were 16 massive inter-connected greenhouses which were dominated by a 82-foot high dome--the Winter Garden. It was sumounted by a lattern and crown. Rarely did a day go by that the King did not visit his gardens.
Leopold became increasingly excentric in his old age. He feared germs and had himself rubbed with eau de cologne to kill them. He was known to keep his beard in a laeather bag to keep it dry. He died after an operation, but not before signing a law instituting compulsory military service. He signed the law near death. He saw it as part of his commitment undertaken on his accession to strengthen Belgium. His gardens had already beautified Brussels. Concription was no small matter in Belgium. Leopold died (1909). The Army that he helped build only a few years after his death played a key role in history. It was the valliant little Belgian Army's mismatched stand under King Albert, King Leopold's successor, that helped delay the invading German Army and made possible the "Miracle on the Marne" that stopped the Germans before Paris.
On Leopold II's death, a nephew Albert inherited the throne (1909). I have no information on Albert's childhood or the kind of clothes he was dressed in as a boy. Albert I ascended the throne on the death of his uncle, Leopold II, due to the death of the intended heirs. Leopold's son died, then his older nephew, Albert's older brother, which left Albert 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. He was very young, only 16 years old, when Leopold II died.
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