Leopold III Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands


1903, November 3 (Brussels)




Saxe-Coburg and Gotha


First, Princess Astrid of Sweden (deceased); second, Lilian Baels (the Princess Consort)


One daughter and two sons from his first marriage (including the heir, Prince Baudouin), one son and two daughters from his second


After Belgium was Invaded in 1940, King Leopold III of the Belgians split with his government and unilaterally surrendered his country to the Germans. Leopold followed a course of cautious cooperation with the occupiers. Though controversial at first, his strategy was ultimately seen as preventing Belgium's annexation to the German Reich. However Leopold was mainly the beneficiary of forces beyond his control. By the war’s end, with growing tensions between Germany and Japan, the integrity of the European colonial empires became seen as necessary to counter Japanese expansion. While both the Netherlands and Belgium had once faced annexation by Germany, their continued maintainance of their overseas empires now trumped German territorial ambitions in the Low Countries.

Belgium and the Netherlands were pushed into a hastily arranged customs union, an arrangement which pleased almost no-one. By 1951, with much of Francophone Belgium in favour of union with France, the Germans encouraged the Netherlands parliament to offer the Dutch throne to the French-speaking Leopold III. The throne of the Netherlands had been vacant for some time, as Queen Wilhelmina had followed her government into exile in Britain. Leopold was now king of a resurrected United Kingdom of the Netherlands, a polity which had not existed since 1839.

Again, the solution pleased no-one: the Dutch, especially Dutch Protestants in the northern Netherlands, resented the imposition of a French-speaking, Catholic monarch, while the pro-French Walloons in southern Belgium disliked Leopold’s pro-German politics. It was however seen as the least worst option available.

In addition to his role as King of the Whole Netherlands, Leopold is Emperor of territories on three continents, in the Netherlands East Indies, Netherlands West Indies and Netherlands Central Africa (the former Belgian Congo and mandated territories).