Leopold I of Belgium

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Leopold I (Leopold George Christian Frederick; German: Leopold Georg Christian Friedrich; Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, later Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Saxony; 16 December 1790 – 10 December 1865) was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His children included Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico. He was also an uncle of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

He was born in Coburg and died in Laeken.[1]

Contents

Early life

He was the youngest son of Franz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Countess Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf, and later became a prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after the territorial swap by his father of Ehrenburg Palace in the Bavarian town of Coburg.

In 1795, as a mere child, Leopold was appointed colonel of the Izmaylovsky Guards Regiment in Russia. Seven years later, he became a major general. When Napoleonic troops occupied the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg in 1806 Leopold went to Paris. Napoléon offered him the position of adjutant, but he refused. Instead, he took up a military career in the Imperial Russian Cavalry. He campaigned against Napoléon and distinguished himself at the Battle of Kulm at the head of his cuirassier division. In 1815, at the age of 25, Leopold reached the rank of lieutenant general in the Imperial Russian Army.

In Carlton House on 2 May 1816, he married Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, the only legitimate child of the British Prince Regent (later King George IV of the United Kingdom) and therefore heiress to the British throne, and was created a British field-marshal and Knight of the Garter. On 5 November 1817, Princess Charlotte was delivered of a stillborn son; she herself died the following day. Had she lived, she would have become Queen of the United Kingdom on the death of her father, and Leopold presumably would have assumed the role later taken by his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, as Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, and never been chosen as King of the Belgians. Despite Charlotte's death, the Prince Regent granted Prince Leopold the British style of Royal Highness by Order-in-Council on 6 April 1818.[2]

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