Belgium celebrates 100 years of independence by remembering their first German King

The nineteenth century European small country Kings are fun and invariably German. The German city states they were from were being absorbed at the same time new states were popping up seeking legitimacy. In Belgium’s case, the fact that it and the same Royal house was around 100 years later proves legitimacy is what they got. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp remembers the first Belgian King Leopold I by using his official portrait painted by Belgian portrait painter Lievin de Winne. The stamp engraving was done by Jean De Bast who himself was later honored with a stamp we covered here. See He always treated the Royals well and todays stamp is no exception.

Todays stamp is issue A67, a 60 Centimes stamp issued by the Kingdom of Belgium on July 1st, 1930. It was a three stamp issue on the occasion of the 100th anniversary  of Belgian independence from the Netherlands. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents whether mint or in this case used.

Leopold was born Royal in Coburg Germany in a small German state in modern day Bavaria. When his home was overrun by Napoleon he traveled to Paris to seek an appointment in Napoleon’s Court. Unsatisfied with an offer of an adjunct position, Leopold was off to Russia to fight France as a part of the Czar’s Army. His service was distinguished and he was made a Lieutenant General by the age of 25 in 1815. Post war he moved to London and obtained British citizenship. There he married Princess Charlotte who would have been Queen of Great Britain had she lived. Leopold would then have been Prince Consort. It was not meant to be however as Charlotte died a year later a day after giving birth to a stillborn son. Leopold then had a long relationship with German actress Caroline Bauer. In her late in life memoirs she claims to have had a private religious marriage to Leopold but this is denied by his family.

Greece was breaking off from the Ottoman empire and offered it’s new throne to Leopold. He thought their situation was too precarious and refused. Greece found another German King. Belgium was in a long war to break away from the Netherlands. A series of French royals was considered and rejected but then Leopold was a compromise choice favored by Great Britain. Leopold accepted becoming King Leopold I of newly independent Belgium. There was a last short war with the Netherlands that was  beaten off with help from the French. Most Belgians were closer to France ethnically then Dutch. Leopold entered a second marriage to Louise of Orleans, the daughter of French King Louis Philippe. This resulted in four children. Leopold worked very hard to avoid European wars of the time by staying neutral. The economy however was not in good shape since ties with the Netherlands were cut.

Leopold managed to survive the insurrections of 1848. A group of Émigré alleged Belgians crossed from France to overturn the monarchy but Belgian troops managed to capture and disarm them. The political conflicts at the time were between conservative Catholics and secular liberals. As a Lutheran, liberals saw Leopold as one of them but he tried to keep an aura of being above politics. This worked as the liberals won most of the elections of the period.

Queen Louisa died of tuberculosis in 1850 at age 38. Her children were the Royal line. During this period Leopold fathered two sons via a mistress. At his request the sons and the mistress were given minor titles by the German city state of his birth. Leopold’s close connection to the British royal line is shown by the fact that both Queen Victoria and her husband Prince consort Albert were Leopold’s niece and nephew in different but close lines. Leopold died in 1865 and was succeeded as King of the Belgians by his son who served as Leopold II.

Well my drink is empty and I find the close interconnection of European Royals to almost like a prototype of modern Euro integration. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.



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