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,
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 that 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.