Monday, November 1, 2010

The Family of Leopold I

Leopold I, King of the Belgians (1790-1865) actually had three families. By Charlotte Augusta of Wales (1796-1817), he had two babies, lost to miscarriage, and a son who died at birth, followed shortly thereafter by his mother. By Louise-Marie of Orléans (1812-1850), Leopold had four children: Prince Louis-Philippe, Crown Prince of Belgium (1833-1834), Leopold II, King of the Belgians (1835-1909), Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders (1837-1905) and Princess Charlotte, Empress of Mexico (1840-1927). In his later years, by his young, brash and unpopular favorite, Arcadie Claret Meyer, the King had two sons, George and Arthur, who were both created Barons von Eppinghoven. 

The Exiled Belgian Royalist gives interesting summaries of the lives of Leopold's children by Queen Louise. Their three surviving offspring, Leopold II, Prince Philippe and Empress Carlota were all very different personalities. Leopold II had the intelligence and satirical eye of both parents. He possessed his father's political shrewdness, financial sense and ambition, albeit, unfortunately, without his tact and charm. Leopold II also had the Coburg weakness for the ladies, but was less discreet and caused more scandal than did Leopold I. A tireless colonial imperialist and builder of monuments, Leopold II may have inherited his insistence on grandeur partly from his mother, although he sadly lacked her counterbalancing humility and sweetness. Queen Louise complained of the Belgians' petty ways; her son, however much one may dislike many of his methods, undeniably strove, as he saw it, to make Belgium great. 

By contrast, Leopold's brother Philippe had Louise's retiring manner, her love of home and family, her propriety and piety. Despite his admirable traits, however, I have to admit that I find him less interesting than his more dynamic brother and sister. It is Carlota whom I probably find to be the most appealing of the siblings. She seems to have united so many of the best qualities of the first King of the Belgians and his Queen; beauty, brilliance, grand aspirations, energy, determination and charisma, but also kindness, gentleness and charity. What a pity her promising life was so tragically marred. 


MadMonarchist said...

Of course Carlota is easily my favorite of the bunch (too bad I cannot share some of her admirable qualities rather than mental illness). Besides her good character I admire her zeal and ambition, her desire to do something great and make a favorable impact on the world. To some extent I could admire the zeal and ambition of Leopold II as well if only his character did not make him so hard to admire.

Anonymous said...

Not proven that he had two illegitimate children - Arcadie was known to have relationships with other men.