Leopold III of Belgium : biography

3 November 1901 - 25 September 1983

Leopold married Lilian Baels on 11 September 1941 in a secret, religious ceremony, with no validity under Belgian law. They originally intended to wait until the end of the war for the civil marriage, but as the new Princesse de Réthy was soon expecting their first child, the ceremony took place on 6 December 1941. They had three children in total:

  • Alexander, Prince of Belgium, born in Brussels on 18 July 1942. In 1991, he married Lea Inga Dora Wohlman, a marriage revealed only seven years later. She was created a Princess of Belgium in her own right. He died on November 29, 2009.
  • Marie-Christine, Princess of Belgium, born in Brussels on 6 February 1951. Her first marriage, to Paul Drucker in 1981, lasted 40 days (though they were not formally divorced until 1985); she subsequently married Jean-Paul Gourges in 1989.
  • Maria-Esmeralda, Princess of Belgium, born in Brussels on 30 September 1956, a journalist, her professional name is Esmeralda de Réthy. She married Salvador Moncada, a noted pharmacologist, in 1998. They have a son and a daughter.

Exile and abdication

Deportation and exile

In 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered Leopold deported to Germany. Princess Liliane followed with the family in another car the following day under an SS armed guard. The Nazis held the family in a fort at Hirschstein in Saxony from June 1944 to March 1945, and then at Strobl, Austria.

The British and American governments worried about the return of the king. Charles W. Sawyer, US Ambassador to Belgium, warned his government that an immediate return by the king to Belgium would "precipitate serious difficulties". "There are deep differences even in the Royal family and the situation holds dynamite for Belgium and perhaps for Europe".United States Department of State Records (USDSR), National Archives, 855.001 Leopold, Sawyer to Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Mar. 29.1945. "The Foreign Office feared that an increasing minority in French-speaking Wallonia would demand either autonomy or annexation to France. Winant, the American Ambassador to the Court of Saint James's, reported a Foreign Office official's concern regarding irredentist propaganda in Wallonia." and that "the French Ambassador in Brussels... is believed to have connived in the spreading of this propaganda".USDSR Ibidem, Winant to Stettinius, 26 May 1945. J. E. Hemelreich adds "There is no further mention in the file of any alleged French activities".

Leopold and his companions were freed by members of the United States 106th Cavalry Group in early May 1945. Because of the controversy about his conduct during the war, Leopold III and his wife and children were unable to return to Belgium and spent the next six years in exile at Pregny-Chambésy near Geneva, Switzerland. A regency under his brother Prince Charles had been established by the Legislature in 1944.

Resistance to Leopold's return

Van den Dungen, the rector of the Université Libre de Bruxelles wrote to Leopold on 25 June 1945 about concerns for serious disorder in Wallonia, "The question is not if the accusations against you are right or not [but that...] You are no more a symbol of the Belgian unity."Dutch Het is niet de vraag of de aantijgingen die tegen U werden ingebracht terecht zijn [maar dat...] U niet langer een symbool is voor de Belgish eenheid. Velaers en Van Goethem Leopold III, Lannooo, Tielt, 1994 ISBN 90-209-2387-0,p. 955

Gillon, the President of the Belgian Senate, told the king that there was a threat of serious disorder: "If there are only ten or twenty people killed, the situation would become terrible for the King.".Dutch Al vielen er maar tien of twintig doden, de situatie van de koning zou vlug vreselijk worden Velaers en Van Goethem, opus citatus, p. 968

The President of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, Frans Van Cauwelaert, was concerned that there would be a General strike in Wallonia and revolt in Liège. He wrote, "The country is not able to put down the disorders because of the insufficient forces of the police and a lack of weapons."Dutch Het land zou de ontlusten niet kunnen bedwingen wegens een ontoereikende politie macht een een tekort aan wapens. Velaers and Van Goethem, opus citatus, p. 969

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine