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Modern Europe

The Belgian Dynasty

by William Willems, 2 October 2020

King Leopold I of the Belgians
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Kings 1830-1951
Part 3: The Kings 1951-2020
Part 4: Belgium Today


The roots of the House of Wettin, of which the royal family of Belgium is a branch, stretch all the way back to the high Middle Ages. The Treaty of Leipzig in 1485 gave rise to the division of the House of Wettin of the electorate of Saxony into the Ernestine and Albertine lines.

The senior Ernestine line which initially controlled Saxe-Thuringen was gradually divided into several smaller states which included the Saxon duchies of Saxe-Coburg, Saxe-Gotha, Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Altenbourg, Saxe-Saalfeld, and others. The junior Albertine line was initially based in Saxe-Meissen.

In the nineteenth century, the House of Saxe-Coburg acquired a real European dimension. Descendants of Francis, duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (the father of King Leopold I) ascended the thrones of Belgium, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Portugal, and Bulgaria.

Whereas the king of the Belgians descends in the direct male line from this German dynasty, its ancestry includes most of the sovereigns who reigned before 1831 over what is now the territory of Belgium.

Through his grandmother, Queen Astrid, the king is a descendant of William I, king of the Netherlands, who was Belgium's sovereign from 1815 to 1830, and from Joséphine de Beauharnais, first wife of Emperor Napoleon I, who governed the Belgian lands at the very beginning of the nineteenth century.

Through Queen Elisabeth and Queen Louise-Marie, the king of the Belgians descends in several instances from all the dynasties which reigned over Belgian lands through the centuries until the end of France's 'Ancien Régime' in 1789.

His ancestors include members of the illustrious Hapsburg dynasty, such as Empress Maria Theresa, and Emperor Charles V who was born in Ghent in 1500. The latter was the grandson of Mary of Burgundy (born in Brussels in 1457, died in Bruges in 1482), the heiress in particular of the duchy of Burgundy, the duchies of Brabant and Limburg, and the counties of Flanders, Hainaut, and Namur.

Thanks to relations by marriage of the dukes of Burgundy, just about all of the medieval dynasties feature ancestors of the king of the Belgians.


Main Sources

The Belgian Dynasty website of the Royal Family of Belgium

The Belgium.be Official Information & Services website



Text copyright © William Willems. An original feature for the History Files.