belgian revolution of 1830
foreign affairs during reign
LEOPOLD I (1790–1865; ruled 1831–1865), first king of independent Belgium.
The newly independent Belgians inaugurated Leopold I as their first king on 21 July 1831. In his inaugural oath, Leopold pledged to observe the Belgian constitution, to maintain national independence, and to preserve the territorial integrity of Belgium. Twenty-five years later, on the anniversary of his inauguration, the Belgians feted the monarch who had bestowed stability and maintained the independence of their small but industrious nation.
Before he was chosen to be king, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg was little known in Belgium. Leopold was born on 16 December 1790 in Coburg, the eighth child and third son of Francis Ferdinand, duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Augusta Caroline Sophia of Reuss-Ebersdorff. At the age of five, Leopold was named a colonel of the Izmailovsky Imperial Regiment in Russia; he was promoted to the rank of general at the age of twelve.
In the winter of 1805, Napoleon I's troops occupied Coburg. Leopold's family emigrated to Paris. The young Leopold joined the Russian army, refusing Napoleon's offer of a position as his aide-de-camp. He fought in the battles of Lützen, Bautzen, Kulm, and Leipzig and accompanied Tsar Alexander I on his triumphal march through Paris after Napoleon's defeat. Leopold traveled with the tsar's advisors to London. There, in 1814, on the back stairs of Pulteney's Hotel, he met Princess Charlotte, daughter of the prince regent and heir to the British throne. The Russian delegation soon left London, but Leopold remained behind to court Princess Charlotte until Napoleon's escape from Elba called Leopold back to the Russian army as head of a cavalry division.
Leopold and Charlotte were married on 2 May 1816 and settled at Carlton House. Charlotte died eighteen months later giving birth to a stillborn son. Leopold remained in London for fourteen years. He enjoyed the privileges of English citizenship, a generous annual stipend, the title of royal prince, and the military rank of field marshal. In 1830 he was offered the throne of the newly established kingdom of Greece, but he refused after learning that the Greek people did not support his nomination.
The successful revolution of the former Habsburg territories for independence from Dutch rule in October 1830 resulted in the establishment of a provisional Belgian government in Brussels. Five European powers, France, Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia, convened in London to set the boundaries and find a king for the new constitutional monarchy. They settled on Leopold, who accepted their nomination, which was confirmed by the Belgian National Congress.
Before he had even completed his inaugural tour of his new country in August 1831, Leopold received the news that fifty thousand Dutch troops were assembling along the Belgian border, ready to reclaim the territory for the Dutch king, William I. The small Belgian army was ill prepared to defend the new nation. Leopold rode into battle, at the same time appealing to England and France to intervene to protect Belgium. The threat of French military forces dispatched the Dutch troops, for the time being. Over the next eight years, however, Dutch troops continued to launch incursions onto Belgian soil.
During the first fourteen years of his reign, King Leopold sought to be involved in every detail of Belgian foreign relations. He informed a visiting diplomat that he had decided to "allow" the Belgian parliament to manage domestic affairs, but that he would personally defend the interests of his country against foreign powers.
Leopold's family relations allowed him to dominate the direction of Belgian foreign policy. In 1832 Leopold, who had been raised a Lutheran, improved his standing in Catholic Belgium and solidified his relations with France by marrying Louise-Marie d'Orléans, the oldest daughter of King Louis-Philippe of France. Leopold arranged the marriage of his niece, the future Queen Victoria of England, with his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Since his time in London, Leopold served as Victoria's advisor first on personal affairs and later on national and international relations. Leopold built a veritable empire through the marriages of his nieces and nephews, and his own children.
Throughout his thirty-four-year reign, Leopold corresponded with all of the European sovereigns and many of the important statesmen as well as with Belgian diplomats stationed abroad, all outside of the ministerial channels. When foreign diplomats visited Brussels, they customarily met the king before attending their official ministerial sessions.
It was reported that the Belgian king had an opinion about every issue in European politics. Leopold was concerned especially with preserving Belgium's independent status and with maintaining the peace in Europe, two questions that were not unrelated. He frequently played the role of arbiter in international conflicts. Leopold's closest advisors were the Baron Christian Friedrich von Stockmar and the Romantic historian Jules van Praet.
Leopold chafed at the limitations imposed on his power by the Belgian constitution. Initially, he struggled to claim sufficient authority to promote the interests of commerce and industry, trying for example to give ministerial positions to the directors of the Société Générale bank. He took an especially active interest in the construction of the first railway on the European continent in 1835. Officially above party politics, Leopold managed to name governments of center-right coalitions until the Liberals won the election of 1847. Leopold complained about the indignities he suffered under Liberal governments and vehemently condemned revolutions and revolutionaries.
In 1848 revolution spread throughout much of Europe, toppling monarchs from France eastward, but Leopold survived the upheaval unscathed. To stave off revolt in Belgium, the government offered social and political reforms. After 1848, former skeptics praised the Belgian king and his government for preserving order in their small kingdom amidst the general unrest.
Leopold returned from a visit to England suffering from bronchitis. He died on 10 December 1865 and was buried at Laeken after an elaborate state funeral. He would have preferred to be buried at Windsor with Princess Charlotte, but the Belgians prevailed.
Leopold had four children with Louise, and two sons with his mistress, Arcadia Claret, Baroness von Eppinghoven. He was succeeded by his oldest surviving son, who became Leopold II, second king of the Belgians.
Juste, Théodore. Leopold I: Roi des Belges. 2 vols. Brussels, 1868.
Lichtervelde, Louis de. Léopold I: The Founder of Modern Belgium. Translated by Thomas H. Reed and H. Russell Reed. London, 1930.
Simon, A. Léopold I. Collection Notre Passe, listed in Belgie en Zijn Koningen. Brussels, 1990.
Stengers, Jean. L'action du Roi en Belgique depuis 1831: Pouvoir et influence. 2nd ed. Brussels, 1996.
Leopold I (1790-1865), the first king of independent Belgium, reigned from 1831 to 1865. He founded the Saxe-Coburg dynasty, which remains the ruling house of Belgium.
The youngest son of Francis Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Leopold was born in Coburg, Germany, on Dec. 16, 1790. After receiving a military education and serving as a page at the court of Napoleon I, Leopold became an officer in the armies of Czar Alexander I. After the defeat of Napoleon, he settled in Great Britain, where he married Princess Charlotte, the only child of King George IV and Caroline of Brunswick and heiress presumptive to the English throne. Charlotte died in 1817, and Leopold remained in Great Britain until he was elected king of the Belgians on June 4, 1831. He accepted the crown, although he had rejected the throne of Greece in 1830, and took the oath of loyalty to the recently formed Belgian nation in Brussels on July 21, 1831.
The first decade of Leopold's reign was devoted to the establishment of diplomatic and military security for the emerging Belgian nation. The major European powers recognized Belgium, and finally, in 1839, the last issues with the Netherlands resulting from the revolt of 1830 in which Belgium had gained its independence were settled. That same year Leopold also procured a major-powers treaty recognizing Belgian neutrality in the event of European conflict.
On Aug. 9, 1832, Leopold married Louise of Orléans, daughter of the French monarch Louis Philippe. Three children of this marriage survived: Leopold (1835-1909), Duke of Brabant and successor of Leopold I as king of the Belgians; Philip (1837-1905); and Charlotte (1840-1927).
Leopold was less successful in internal politics than in international relations. The monarch attempted to form a conservative front, grouping clericals and Liberals into a controlling parliamentary bloc. Between 1830 and 1847 this concentration disintegrated, and the Crown was forced to recognize the principle of government by parties and ministerial responsibility. In 1847 this process of transition was completed by Leopold's recognition of an all-Liberal Cabinet. Leopold remained an authoritarian of Old Regime values, although circumstances had forced him to move Belgium along parliamentary lines.
Leopold's wide family connections earned him the nickname "Uncle of Europe." He was instrumental in bringing about the marriage of his niece Queen Victoria of England to his nephew Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Leopold I died at Laeken on Dec. 10, 1865.
There is no standard biography of Leopold. A work favorable to him is Joanna Richardson, My Dearest Uncle: A Life of Leopold, First King of the Belgians (1961). For a brief, sound discussion of the international position of Belgium during the early years of Leopold's reign see Brison D. Gooch, Belgium and the February Revolution (1963). □
Loo (ed.) (2003);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Petra Maclot ;
Jane Turner (1996)
DUKES, LEOPOLD (Judah Loeb ; 1810–1891), historian of Jewish literature. Dukes was born in Pressburg, Hungary. He was a student of R. Moses *Sofer and of R. Ḥayyim Joseph Pollak; the latter introduced him to secular study. An inveterate, though poor, traveler, Dukes visited most of the important libraries in Europe, researching Jewish manuscripts and uncovering many hitherto unknown medieval works. His research covered various aspects of language and literature: aggadic literature, Bible exegesis, medieval Jewish literature, Hebrew grammar and the masoretic text, and talmudic maxims and truisms. Frequently, however, his research was unsystematic and his edited texts in need of correction. Dukes' translation of Rashi's Pentateuch commentary into German was published with Sofer's imprimatur in Prague during 1833–38 (Ḥamishah Ḥumshei Torah im Ha'takah Ashkenazit al Perush Rashi [Raschi zum Pentateuch], 5 vols.). Dukes produced various studies on the poetry of Solomon ibn Gabirol and Moses Ibn Ezra. His autobiography appears in azdj, 56 (1892).
Zeitlin, Bibliotheca, 1 (1891), 69–71; I. Davidson, in: paajr, 1 (1928), 43.
[Jacob S. Levinger]
Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor (1658–1705), patron of music, and composer; b. Vienna, June 9, 1640; d. there, May 5, 1705. In addition to his general education, he received instruction on various instruments and in composition. During his reign, Vienna’s musical life flourished, with over 400 dramatic works produced, as well as much sacred and instrumental music. In addition to being an enlightened patron, he was also a diligent composer of sacred music, producing about 10 oratorios, masses, motets, etc. He likewise wrote some 12 stage works, although a number are not extant. See G. Brosche, “Die musikalischen Werke Kaiser Leopold I: Ein systematisch-thematisches Verzeichnis der erhaltenen Kompositionen” Beiträge zur Musikdokumentation: Franz Grasberger zum 60. Geburtstag (Tutzing, 1975).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire