Thursday 21 July 2016

Nice work if you can get it

Isn't he gorgeous? Young, dashing and with a whole dinner on his chest. This [appropriately shown R looking Right] is Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld who later became Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and later still Leopold I, King of the Belgians.  He was one of those kings-for-hire that sprang up in 19thC Europe. Saxe-Coburg being one of the fragmentary Principalities that made up Germany before WWI.  The name change was about a shuffling of bits and pieces of territory among the nobility consequent on the death of a distant relative - all these chaps were distantly related to each other. Leopold was married in 1816 at the age of 26 to Charlotte, the daughter of the British Prince of Wales.  That was considered a Good Thing and Leopold acquired British citizenship.  But Charlotte, like so many less well-connected women of the time, died of puerperal fever the following year.  Her son didn't make it either.  Actually, a case could be made that less well-heeled women survived better because they weren't being tricked about with by doctors. His nephew Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha had another go at marrying into the British royal family, plighting his troth with Queen Victoria in 1840.

A few years later in 1832, Leopold was offered the throne of Greece but decided that the situation in the Southern Balkans was too unstable to be comfortable.  And b'godde it was a long way from Brighton. The Greeks managed to secure the services of another minor Germany royal called Otto. When Belgium got fed up with being part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, one of the reasons was that the Southern provinces were largely Catholic and the North more Protestant.  So there is a certain irony that the most acceptable available King was a practicing Lutheran.  Anyway, Leopold accepted the position and was crowned in Brussels on 21st July 1830 to create the Kingdom of the Belgians.  In consequence today is a public holiday in Belgium either Nationale feestdag van België / Fête nationale belge / Belgischer Nationalfeiertag according to which language your municipality falls into. It must be one of the few things about which the divided country agrees.  Then again, I'm sure there are republicans in Belgium who'd rather have their head of state elected,

No comments:

Post a Comment