History Files History Files
Donate add-in

European Kingdoms

Western Europe


Kings of the Belgians
AD 1831 - Present Day

Belgium has a long and rather complicated history that goes back further than might be imagined. In recent years researchers have concluded that all Europeans are descended (in part) from an early founder population of humans of the Aurignacian culture who lived in the area of Belgium around 35,000 BC.

Claiming descent from the Celtic tribes of the Belgae who were located in the same region, from 1792 until the end of the French Napoleonic Wars, Belgium was directly part of France. Before that it had been governed by the Austrian Habsburgs, and after, from 1814-1830, it formed part of the new kingdom of Holland. Dissatisfied with this, the Belgians split away in 1830, and declared their own kingdom soon afterwards.

Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was invited to become the country's first king by the Belgian National Congress. He had been married to Charlotte, daughter of George IV of Britain, but she had died in labour. His sister married the king's younger brother, Edward, duke of Kent, and gave birth to Victoria, queen of Britain from 1837.

(Additional information from External Link: Philippe becomes new Belgian king as Albert II abdicates (BBC News), and Belgium ex-King Albert II faces fine if refuses DNA test (BBC News).)

1831 - 1865

Leopold I

Formerly Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.


Daughter. Became consort to Emperor Agustin of Mexico.

1865 - 1909

Leopold II

Brother. Son.

1909 - 1934

Albert I

Nephew. Died in climbing accident.

1914 - 1918

Having jointly guaranteed in 1839 to support the neutrality of Belgium, when the country is invaded by Germany, Belgium's allies, Britain, France, and Russia, are forced to declare war against Imperial Germany and Austria at midnight on 4 August in what becomes known as the Great War or First World War. The small Belgian army eventually retreats into France to join the allies there on what becomes the trenches of the Western Front.

Belgium refugees in 1914
Belgian refugees (looking surprisingly jolly) were photographed here in 1914, on the road between Malines and Brussels while they attempted to outrun the invading imperial German army


Two years after the end of the war, just like his cousin in Great Britain, the king quietly drops the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. No decree is issued, leading to some confusion for later chroniclers. The family name is changed to 'of Belgium' in the three major languages of the country.

1934 - 1940

Leopold III

Captured and surrendered to Germany in 1940. Deported.

1940 - 1944

Leopold is captured by the Nazi Germans and surrenders Belgium. After liberation in 1944 he is not allowed to return to home, and his brother rules as regent instead.

1944 - 1950


Regent. Brother of Leopold III.

1945 - 1948

Following its release from renewed German occupation during the Second World War, Luxembourg abandons its neutrality and becomes a front-rank enthusiast for international co-operation. In 1948 Luxembourg furthers its attempts to encourage a more unified Europe by becoming a founder member of a customs union with Belgium and the Netherlands.


A public referendum reveals that Leopold is still considered king. Left-wing politicians cannot accept him and a constitutional crisis results. Leopold abdicates on 16 July 1951 in favour of his son, Baudouin.

1950 - 1951

Leopold III

Restored. Abdicated (d.1983).

1951 - 1993


Son. Died 31 July 1993. No heir.


The Democratic Republic of Congo achieves independence from Belgium.

1993 - 2013

The unexpected death of King Baudouin catapults his younger brother, Albert, onto the throne. While he entirely fulfils the duties of his office, from 2005 he is dogged by allegations that he had fathered a love child during a long affair with Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps in 1966-1983. The alleged child, Delphine BoŽl, continues to support those allegations after Albert abdicates the throne in 2013, citing ill health.

1993 - 2013

Albert II

Brother. Abdicated on 21 July 2013, National Day.

2010 - 2011

King Albert exercises his authority in mediating between political leaders when it comes to the formation of a government. Parliament is in stalemate, leaving Belgium without a government for a total of 541 days after elections have failed to find a clear winner. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities within Belgium often run high, with the issue having brought down several governments in the past, but this may be the first time that a government has failed to be formed at all until the king intervenes.

2013 - Present