Leopold III of Belgium : biography

3 November 1901 - 25 September 1983

Dr Jozef-Ernest Cardinal van Roey, Archbishop of Mechelen, wrote an open letter to parish priests throughout the country announcing Leopold's second marriage on December 7. The letter from the Cardinal revealed that the King's new wife would be known as Princesse de Réthy, not Queen Lilian, and that any children they had would have no claim to the throne (though they would be Princes or Princesses of Belgium with the style Royal Highness). Leopold's new marriage damaged his reputation further in the eyes of many of his subjects.

The Political Testament

The ministers made several efforts during the war to work out a suitable agreement with Leopold III. They sent Pierlot's son-in-law as an emissary to Leopold in January 1944, carrying a letter offering reconciliation from the Belgian government in exile. The letter never reached its destination, however, as the son-in-law was killed by the Germans en route. The ministers did not know what happened to either message or messenger, and assumed Leopold was ignoring them.

Leopold wrote his Political Testament in January 1944 shortly after this failed attempt at reconciliation. The testament was to be published in case he was not in Belgium when Allied forces arrived. The testament, which had an imperious and negative tone, considered the potential Allied movement into Belgium an "occupation", not a "liberation". It gave no credit to the active Belgian resistance. The Belgian government in London did not like Leopold's demand that the government ministers involved in the 1940 crisis be exonerated. The Allies did not like Leopold's repudiation of the treaties concluded by the Belgian government-in-exile in London. The United States was particularly concerned about the economic treaty it had reached with the Belgian government in London that enabled them to obtain Congolese uranium for America's secret atom bomb program.

The Belgian government did not publish the Political Testament and tried to ignore it, partly for fear of increased support for the Belgian Communist party. When Pierlot and Spaak learned of its contents in September 1944, they were astonished and felt deceived by the king. According to André de Staercke, the Regent's Secretary, they were dismayed "in the face of so much blindness and awareness".In French: ils étaient dominés par la consternation devant tant d'aveuglement et d'inconscience André de Staercke, Tout cela a passé comme une ombre, Mémoires sur la Régence et la Question royale, opus citatus p. 75.

Churchill's reaction to the Testament: "It stinks."Jean Stengers, Léopold III et le gouvernement, opus citatus, p. 176 In a sentence inspired by a quote of Talleyrand about the Bourbons after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815, Churchill declared: "He is like the Bourbons, he has learned nothing and forgotten everything."Jean Stengers, ibidem

Post abdication life

In retirement, he followed his passion as an amateur social anthropologist and entomologist and travelled the world. He went, for instance, to Senegal and strongly criticized the French decolonization process, and he explored the Orinoco and the Amazon with Heinrich Harrer.

Leopold died in 1983 at Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe). He is interred next to Queen Astrid (and also later his second wife, The Princess de Réthy was interred with them) in the royal vault at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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