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Leopold I (Leopold George Christian Frederick; ; Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, later Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Saxony; 16 December 1790 – 10 December 1865) was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium'smarker independence from the Netherlandsmarker. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His children included Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico. He was also an uncle of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdommarker.

He was born in Coburgmarker and died in Laekenmarker.

Early life

He was the youngest son of Franz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Countess Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf, and later became a prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after the territorial swap by his father of Ehrenburg Castle in the Bavarianmarker town of Coburgmarker.

In 1795, as a mere child, Leopold was appointed colonel of the Izmaylovsky Imperial Guard Regiment in Russiamarker. Seven years later he became a major general. When Napoleonic troops occupied the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg in 1806 Leopold went to Parismarker. Napoléon offered him the position of adjutant, but he refused. Instead he took up a military career in the Imperial Russian cavalry. He campaigned against Napoléon, and distinguished himself at the Battle of Kulmmarker at the head of his cuirassier division. In 1815, at the age of 25, Leopold reached the rank of lieutenant general in the Imperial Russian Army.

In Carlton House on 2 May 1816, he married Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, the only legitimate child of the British Prince Regent (later King George IV of the United Kingdom) and therefore heiress to the British throne, and was created a British field-marshal and Knight of the Garter. On 5 November 1817, Princess Charlotte was delivered of a stillborn son; she herself died the following day. Had she lived, she would have become Queen of the United Kingdom on the death of her father, and Leopold presumably would have assumed the role later taken by his nephew, Prince Albert, as Prince Consort of Great Britain, and never chosen King of the Belgians. Despite Charlotte's death, the Prince Regent granted Prince Leopold the British style of Royal Highness by Order-in-Council on 6 April 1818. In honour of his first wife, Leopold and Louise-Marie of France, his second wife, named their first daughter Charlotte, who would later become Empress Carlota of Mexico.

On 2 July 1829, Leopold participated in nuptials of doubtful validity (a private marriage-contract with no religious or public ceremony) with the actress Caroline Bauer, created Countess of Montgomery, a cousin of his advisor, Christian Friedrich Freiherr von Stockmar. The 'marriage' reportedly ended in 1831 and the following year he married Louise-Marie at the Château de Compiègnemarker, in Compiègnemarker, Francemarker, on 9 August 1832.

King of the Belgians

After Belgiummarker asserted its independence from the Netherlandsmarker on 4 October 1830, the Belgian National Congress, considered several candidates and eventually asked Leopold to become king of the newly formed country. He was elected on 4 June and accepted and became "King of the Belgians" on 26 June 1831. He swore allegiance to the constitution in front of Saint Jacob's Church on the Place Royalemarker in Brusselsmarker on 21 July 1831. This day became the Belgian national holiday. Jules Van Praet would become his personal secretary.
King Leopold I, Queen Louise-Marie, Crown Prince Leopold, Prince Philippe, Princess Marie-Charlotte

Less than two weeks later, on 2 August, the Netherlandsmarker invaded Belgiummarker. Skirmishes continued for eight years, but in 1839 the two countries signed the Treaty of London establishing Belgiummarker's independence.

With the opening of the railway line between Brusselsmarker and Mechelenmarker on 5 May 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, the daughter of his sister, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, to his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, son of his brother, Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Even before she succeeded to the throne, Leopold had been advising the then-Princess Victoria by letter, and after her accession, he was one of the great influences on her in the early days of her monarchy.

In 1842, Leopold tried unsuccessfully to pass laws to regulate female and child labor. A wave of revolutions passed over Europe after the deposition of King Louis-Philippe from the French throne in 1848. Belgiummarker remained neutral, mainly because of Leopold's diplomatic efforts.

He was the 649th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1816, the 947th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spainmarker in 1835 and the 35th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword.

On 11 October 1850, Leopold again lost a young wife, as Queen Louise-Marie died of tuberculosis at age 38.

Leopold also had two sons, George and Arthur, by a mistress, Arcadia Meyer née Claret. George was born in 1849 (before the death of Queen Louise-Marie), and Arthur was born in 1852. After Leopold's death, each of the two sons were created Freiherr von Eppinghoven (in 1862), and in 1863 Arcadia was created Baronin von Eppinghoven.

At 11:45 am on 10 December 1865, the king died in Lakenmarker at the age of 74. He lies buried in the Royal vault at the Church of Our Lady, Laken Cemetery, Brusselsmarker, Belgiummarker.


Leopold's ancestors in three generations
Leopold I of Belgium Father:

Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Paternal Grandfather:

Ernest Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Paternal Great-grandfather:

Francis Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Paternal Great-grandmother:

Anna Sophie, Princess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt
Paternal Grandmother:

Sophia Antonia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Paternal Great-grandfather:

Ferdinand Albert II of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Paternal Great-grandmother:

Antoinetta Amelia of Wolfenbüttel-Blackenburg

Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf
Maternal Grandfather:

Count Heinrich XXIV Reuss of Ebersdorf and Lobenstein
Maternal Great-grandfather:

Heinrich XXIII Reuss of Ebersdorf and Lobenstein
Maternal Great-grandmother:

Sophie Theodora of Castell-Remlingen
Maternal Grandmother:

Karoline Ernestine of Erbach-Schönberg
Maternal Great-grandfather:

Georg August of Erbach-Schönberg
Maternal Great-grandmother:

Ferdinande Henriette of Stolberg-Gedern

Patrilineal descent

Descent before Conrad the Great is taken from [8935] and may be inaccurate.

House of Wettin
  1. Burkhard I, Duke of Thuringia, d. 870
  2. Burchard, Duke of Thuringia, 836 - 908
  3. (possibly) Burkhard III of Grabfeldgau, 866 - 913
  4. Dedi I, Count of Hessegau, 896 - 957
  5. (probably) Dietrich I of Wettin, d. 976
  6. (possibly) Dedi II, Count of Hessegau, 946 - 1009
  7. Dietrich II of Wettin, 991 - 1034
  8. Thimo I of Wettin, d. 1099
  9. Thimo II the Brave, Count of Wettin, d. 1118
  10. Conrad, Margrave of Meissen, 1098 - 1157
  11. Otto II, Margrave of Meissen, 1125 - 1190
  12. Dietrich I, Margrave of Meissen, 1162 - 1221
  13. Henry III, Margrave of Meissen, c. 1215 - 1288
  14. Albert II, Margrave of Meissen, 1240 - 1314
  15. Frederick I, Margrave of Meissen, 1257 - 1323
  16. Frederick II, Margrave of Meissen, 1310 - 1349
  17. Frederick III, Landgrave of Thuringia, 1332 - 1381
  18. Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, 1370 - 1428
  19. Frederick II, Elector of Saxony, 1412 - 1464
  20. Ernest, Elector of Saxony, 1441 - 1486
  21. John, Elector of Saxony, 1468 - 1532
  22. John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, 1503 - 1554
  23. Johann Wilhelm, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, 1530 - 1573
  24. John II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, 1570 - 1605
  25. Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha, 1601 - 1675
  26. John Ernest IV, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1658 - 1729
  27. Francis Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1697 - 1764
  28. Ernest Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1724 - 1800
  29. Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1750 - 1806

See also


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