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King of the Belgians (Belgium): From 1830 Until 2000

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After its constituent lands had been passed between dynasties and empires for centuries, Belgium was created by a revolution in 1830. Below is a chronological list of the people who have ruled Belgium; the dates given are the periods of said rule. The royal title is "King of the Belgians".

Leopold I 1831 - 1865

Having turned down the Greek crown in 1830, Leopold accepted election to the new crown of Belgium in 1831, establishing the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as monarchs. He kept the nation neutral in international affairs and strengthened the government and defence. His daughter became Empress of Mexico.

Leopold II 1865 - 1909

Son of Leopold I, Leopold II continued to grow the defences of Belgium while staying neutral. He promoted the exploration and seizure of the resources of the Congo Free State, which Belgium annexed in 1908. This colonial exploitation saw mass murder.

Albert I 1909 - 1934

As Leopold II’s son had died before his father, the crown passed to a nephew, Albert I. He led the nation during World War 1, on one occasion acting as commander of the Franco-Belgian northern army group, and then guided the reconstruction. He allied defensively with France and died from a fall while rock climbing.

Leopold III 1934 - 1951

Son of Albert I, Leopold III withdrew from a defensive alliance with France. When Germany invaded in 1940 he surrendered his army when it became encircled, spending the rest of the war in captivity. His decision to stay with the troops rather than go with the government in exile in London led to complaints against the king, and in 1950 he reacted to pressure, abdicating.

Prince Charles (Regent) 1944 - 1950

Charles, brother of King Leopold III, acted as regent from 1944 (while Leopold III was imprisoned by the Nazis) until 1950, as after the war Leopold remained away pending a vote to see who should be king. Leopold won by 58%.

Baudouin I 1951 - 1993 (ruled as Prince Royal from 1950 - 51)

Baudouin took over after his father abdicated, acting as a unifying force for much of his reign, rebuilding faith in the monarchy. He granted the independence of Congo in 1960, and in 1990 stepped down rather than approve the legalization of abortion; he was reinstated the day after it passed.

Albert II 1993 - 2013

Mark Renders / Getty Images
Mark Renders / Getty Images
As Baudouin I died childless, his brother Albert inherited the throne. As with Baudouin, he has attempted to unify a nation increasingly divided between French and Flemish speaking regions, at times playing a key role. He abdicated in 2013.
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