Baudouin in 1960
|King of the Belgians|
|Reign||17 July 1951 – 31 July 1993|
|Born||7 September 1930|
Stuyvenberg Castle, Laeken, Brussels, Belgium
|Died||31 July 1993 (aged 62)|
Villa Astrida, Motril, Spain
Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón (m. 1960)
|Father||Leopold III of Belgium|
|Mother||Astrid of Sweden|
Baudouin (Dutch: Boudewijn, German: Balduin; 7 September 1930 – 31 July 1993) reigned as the King of the Belgians, following his father's abdication, from 1951 until his death in 1993. He was the last Belgian king to be sovereign of Congo.
He was the elder son of King Leopold III (1901–83) and his first wife, Princess Astrid of Sweden (1905–35). Because he had no children with his wife, Fabiola de Mora, the crown passed to his younger brother, Albert II (formerly Prince of Liège), following his death.
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Baudouin was born in the Château du Stuyvenberg, near Laeken, Brussels, in Belgium, in 1930, the son of Prince Leopold, the then Duke of Brabant, and his first wife, Astrid of Sweden. His father became King of the Belgians, as Leopold III, in 1934 and Prince Baudouin became Duke of Brabant. Baudouin's mother died in 1935 in an automobile accident.
Part of Leopold III's unpopularity was the result of a second marriage in 1941 to Mary Lilian Baels, an English-born Belgian commoner, later known as Princess de Réthy. More controversial had been Leopold's decision to surrender to Nazi Germany during the Second World War, when Belgium was invaded in 1940; many Belgians questioned his loyalties, but a commission of inquiry exonerated him of treason after the war. Though reinstated in a plebiscite, the controversy surrounding Leopold led to his abdication.
King Leopold III requested the Belgian Government and the Parliament to approve a law delegating his royal powers to his son, Prince Baudouin, who took the constitutional oath before the United Chambers of the Belgian Parliament as Prince Royal on 11 August 1950. He ascended the throne and became the fifth King of the Belgians upon taking the constitutional oath on 17 July 1951, one day following his father's abdication.
The Congolese called the young king Mwana Kitoko ("beautiful boy").
During Baudouin's reign the colony of Belgian Congo became independent. During the parade following the last ceremonial inspection of the Force Publique, the royal sabre of the king was momentarily stolen by Ambroise Boimbo. The photograph, taken by Robert Lebeck, was widely published in world newspapers, with some seeing the act as a humiliation for the king. The next day the king attended the official reception; he gave a speech that received a blistering response by Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
Baudouin attended the State funeral of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, as the head of state of Belgium, and one of many dignitaries at that state funeral, along with Paul-Henri Spaak, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and former three-time Prime Minister of Belgium.
In 1990, when Baudouin refused to sign into law a bill permitting abortion, the cabinet assumed the power to promulgate the law while he was treated as "unable to govern" for twenty-four hours.
In 1976, on the 25th anniversary of Baudouin's accession, the King Baudouin Foundation was formed, with the aim of improving the living conditions of the Belgian people.
Baudouin was a devout Roman Catholic. Through the influence of Leo Cardinal Suenens, Baudouin participated in the growing Renewal Movement and regularly went on pilgrimages to the French shrine of Paray-le-Monial.
In 1990, when a law submitted by Roger Lallemand and Lucienne Herman-Michielsens that liberalised Belgium's abortion laws was approved by Parliament, he refused to give Royal Assent to the bill. This was unprecedented; although Baudouin was de jure Belgium's chief executive, Royal Assent has long been a formality (as is the case in most constitutional and popular monarchies). However, due to his religious convictions, Baudouin asked the Government to declare him temporarily unable to reign so that he could avoid signing the measure into law. The Government under Wilfried Martens complied with his request on 4 April 1990. According to the provisions of the Belgian Constitution, in the event the King is temporarily unable to reign, the Government as a whole fulfills the role of Head of State. All members of the Government signed the bill, and the next day (5 April 1990) the Government declared that Baudouin was capable of reigning again.
In 1960, Baudouin declared the Belgian colony of Congo independent. During the declaration of independence, Baudouin delivered a highly contested speech in which he celebrated the acts of the first Belgian owner of the Congo, King Leopold II, whom he described as "a genius". In the same event on the day of the independence, the first democratically elected prime minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, answered in a speech that was very critical for the Belgian regime. Lumumba mentioned the killing of many Congolese, the insults and humiliations and the slavery they suffered.
Lumumba's speech infuriated King Baudouin and started a harsh conflict between both men. After the independence of Congo, the rich province of Katanga set up a secession that received substantial military and financial support from the Belgian government and Belgian companies with business interests in this region. King Baudouin strengthened his relationships with the Katangese politician Moise Tshombé, whom he made a knight in the order of Leopold. In the meanwhile, the Belgian government as well as the CIA supported or organized themselves plans to murder Patrice Lumumba.
In early December 1960, Patrice Lumumba and two colleagues were imprisoned in military barracks about 150 kilometers from Leopoldville. They were underfed and mistreated, then released in mid-January 1961. Within hours Lumumba was again captured, relocated, beaten, and within hours executed by Congolese soldiers under Belgian command; a Belgian police officer cut up Lumumba’s body and dissolved the corpse in acid.
In 2001, a parliamentary investigation set up by the Belgian government concluded that King Baudouin, amongst others, was informed of a murder plan set up by later dictator Joseph Mobutu and the Katangese rebel Moise Tshombé. Both men had agreed to the Belgian colonel Guy Weber to "neutralize Lumumba, if possible physically". The King, informed, did nothing more and this neglect was described as 'incriminating' by the parliamentary investigation, although there was no evidence found that the king ordered the set up of the plans.
Baudouin reigned for 42 years. He died of heart failure on 31 July 1993 in the Villa Astrida in Motril, in the south of Spain. Although in March 1992 the King had been operated for a Mitral valve prolapse in Paris, his death still came unexpectedly, and sent much of Belgium into a period of deep mourning. His death notably stopped the 1993 24 Hours of Spa sportscar race, which had reached the 15-hour mark when the news broke.
Within hours the Royal Palace gates and enclosure were covered with flowers that people brought spontaneously. A viewing of the body was held at the Royal Palace in central Brussels; 500,000 people (5% of the population) came to pay their respects. Many waited in line up to 14 hours in sweltering heat to see their King one last time. Along with other members of European royalty, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom attended the funeral (the only foreign state funeral ever attended by her in person as monarch).
Titles and Styles
|Ancestors of Baudouin of Belgium|
Baudouin of Belgium
Cadet branch of the House of WettinBorn: 7 September 1930 Died: 31 July 1993
| King of the Belgians
| Duke of Brabant
Title next held byPhilippe