Belgian Royalty: King Baudouine (1951-93)

Figure 1.--This photograph shows Crown Prince Baudouine and his little brother Albert. He wears a white beret, while short pants sailor suit, white socks, and white strap shoes. Albert is still in curls and wears a little boy white shorts outfit, also with white strap shoes. The family is visiting Sweden, probably about 1936. Note Albert's French styled choupette hair.

Baudouin (Boudewijn in Dutch) was the fifth king of the Belgians. Baudouin lost his mother in a tragic accident. He was dressed less elaborately than his father as a child, often appearing in sailor suits before World War II. He lived through the the defeat of the Belgian and Allied armies and tragic NAZI occupation of his country. He was with his father Leopold III in Belgium during the occupation, except for a harrowing last few months in Austria. He followed his father in exile after the War. As an older boy he wore short pants suits. He succeeded his father King Leopold III in 1951. He was quite a young man, not 20 years old. His father, Leopold III, abdicated. His reputation was ruined by surrendering to the Germans. It was Baudouin's task to restore confidence in the country's monarchy. His long reign saw the loss of the Belgian colonies, and the transition of Belgium towards a federal state. He married the Spanish princess Doņa Fabiola de Mora y Aragon in 1960 who became Queen, but they had no children. Baudouin reigned for over 40 years until his death in 1993. Happily he encountering less tumultous times than his father and grandfather. He was highly respected as king and helped restore the reputation of the Crown. His unexpected passing away in 1993 submerged the whole ofBelgium in a deep mourning. Hundreds of thousands of Belgians paid a last tribute to their beloved King. Having no descendants, King Baudouin was succeeded by his younger brother who became King Albert II.


Leopold III

Leopold as the eldest son of King Albert I ascended to the throne in 1934 as Leopold III after the tragic death of his father. Although greeted with greatvwarmth by the Belgian people, his reputation was tarnished by the colapse of the Belgian Army in World War II. Thus when the Allies entered Belgium in 1944, Leopold was never returned to the throne. His brother Charles served as regent until 1951 when his son Baudouin was crowned.


Leopold mairred Princess Astrid of Sweden in 1926. Princess Astrid of Sweden was born on November 17, 1905. She was the youngest daughter of Prince Charles of Sweden, Duke of Vastergotland, and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Astrid's grandparents were King Oscar II of Sweden and King Frederick VIII of Denmark. Astrid's sister, Princess Martha, married the future King Olaf V of Norway. The couple met at an evening ball. Leopold immediately was captivated by the ravishing Swedish princess. Some months later, King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium invited the press to the royal palace in Brussels to announce the marriage. Queen Elisabeth, incorrigible romantic that she was, insisted in saying "It is a marriage of love...tell it to our people. Nothing was arranged. Not a single political consideration prevailed in our son's decision." Leopold and Astrid were married in Brussels on November 10, 1926. Astrid was immediately adopted by the Belgians. She was tender, understanding and profoundly human. Her public and official engagements irradiated enthusiasm. Leopold was her most fervent admirer. The love shared by the young couple was evident to all. In more than one occasion people could see them holding hands, even during official engagements. She was tragically killed in an automobile accident in August 1935 while Leopold was at the wheel. Leopold's second marriage in 1941 during the German occupation Marie Lilianne Baels, who some accused of pro-German sympathies, did not help is standing with the Belgian people. Many still remembered Queem Astrid with great affection.


Baudouin was King Leopold III's second child. King Leopold had six children all togrther, three with his first wife and three with his second wife. Leopold married Princess Astrid of Sweden in 1926. Princess Astrid of Sweden was born on November 17, 1905. She was the youngest daughter of Prince Charles of Sweden, Duke of Vastergotland, and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Astrid was immediately adopted by the Belgian people as their own. The couple had three children. Baudouin was Leopold and Astrid's eldest son, but the second son Alber also became king. Queen Astrid was killed in a tragic car accident in 1935. Leopold married again several years later in 1941. He had three more children with his second wife Marie Lilianne Baels, Princess de Rethy, who was never really accepted by the Belgian people. We have little information on the realtionships among the children, but the available photographs suggest that they were close.


Prince Baudouine was born in Brussels (1930). It was a propitious year for the young prince as this was the centenial of Belgium's independence from the Netherlands, a political munion that had been piced together by the Congress of Vienna. Baudouine grew up with an older sister and younger brother. They had loving caring parents and the children by all accounts had a pleasant childhood growing up in the palace, although we have few details at this time. And we see the children in outings to beaches annd other attractions. The children, however, experienced a series of traumatic events. The first tragedy occurred when Baudouine was only 3 years old. His grandfather, King Albert, was killed while rock climbing in the Ardennes (1934). His father Leopold becamne King Leopold III and Baudouine became heir apparent as Crown Prince, Duke of Barbant. Perhaps the most severe tragedy that can occur to a young child was experiebced by the Belgian royals. Their mother, Quenn Astrid, was killed in a car accident in Switzerland (1935). The young prince led a private life, but was familiar to the Belgian people. He accompanied his father at many formal events such as military reviews.


King Leopold III was a strong proponent of Scouting. I do not know if he was a Scout himself. (We have little information on the early Belgian Scout movement.) Baudouin in 1937 became old enough to join the Cubs and was very enthusiastic about it. European royal children had once been kept separate from commoners, but in the 20th century this had begun to change. King Leopold decided to create a special Cub Scout pack for his son. It was a very interesting group of boys selected to represent all sectors of Belgian society. The 20 Cubs selected were from different cities (Brussels, Antwerp and Gent). They included both Walloons (French speaking) others were Flamands (Dutch speaking). Some of the bots were from noble families, but others wee commoners--from both middle and working classes families. The Pack met in the park surrounding the Laken Palace, located in the northern part of Brussels. A Cub hut was available for the boys there. Experienced, bilingual Cub leaders were selected from the "open" and the Roman Catholic Scout movements. The King explained, "For Baudouin/Boudewijn I wish a normal scout training as all the others have to undergo". When the Cubs first met they did not know each other and they just noticed that there were two or three boys who were newcomers that did not yet have their uniforms yet. After two meetings they asked Akela when the Prince would start coming to the Pack meetings. Actually Baudouin had been there all the time, he just didn't mention that he was Prince Baudouin and no special attention had been given him. [Kroonenberg]

Childhood Clothing

Baudouine like most royal children wore dresses, but only as an infant as the fashion of dressing young boys in dresses had largely disappeared by the 1930s, even for royalty. We note Baudouine wearing short pants outfits as a boy, opften with white ankle socks. Some of his short pants outfits were worn with berets. He also wore long pants sailor suits. He did not wear the fancy lace-trimmed outfits his father and uncle war. He did wear short pants suits into his teen years, often with patterened socks. As a younger boy he wore strap shoes with many outfits. We are not sure who chose his clothing. His mother died in 1935 in a tragic accident. He was only about 5 years old at the time. His father remarried in 1941 when Baudouine was only about 11. I assume that she then took a role in selecting the clothes of her stepsons.


Presumably the children were tutored in the palace at an early age, although we do not yet have details. Prince Baudouine entered a private school at age 7. Belgium is a bilingual country. As part of his preparation to be king, had his classes were conducted in French and the other half in Flemish. The education of the children was interupted with the German invasion (1940). We think that under German house arrest that they were tutored in the palace, but we have no details at this time. The royals were finally liberated (1945), at which time Baudouine and his siblings could continue therir education. This was complicated, however, by public attitudes toward hios father in Belgium.

German Western Offensive

The NAZIs launched their long-awaited Western Offensive (May 10, 1940). The major force of the NAZI offensive fell first on the Netherlands and Belgium. King Leopold took personal command of the Army. NAZI paratroopers took the suspsedly impregnable Eban Emall Fort on the Albert Canal anf German Panzers poured into Belgium and in 2 weeks had surronded the Belgian Army. King Leopold suurendered the Belhian Army (May 28). This was potentially devestating and could have potentially made it impossible for the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at Dunkirk. This whad it occurred woukld have proibably forced the British to accept a NAZI dictated peace and the creation of a British vichy. Valiant fighting by the French First Army in the end made the evacuatioin possible. The Belgian government decided to go to Britain to continue the fight and expected King Leopold to accompany them as Queen Wilhemina had done in the Netherlands. King Leopold, however, in good conscious could not abandon his soldiers to the Germans. The Belgian Army was interned in POW camps in Germany.

Figure 2.--King Leopold's three children with Princess Astrid are seen here. Baudouin wears a Boy Scout uniform. I'm not sure when the photograph was taken, but he looks to be about 11 years old, which would mean 1941. At the time Belgium was occupied by the Germans. NAZI occupation authorities in most of Europe banned Scouting, but they took a somewhat different approach in Belgium.

The Occupation

The King was not interned with the Army. The NAZIs returned him to the Laken Palace. The King was permitted visitors. When the Germans invaded Belgium on May 10, 1940, Prince Baudouin, accompanied by his elder sister, Princess Josephine-Charlotte, and his younger brother, Prince Albert went first to France, then to Spain. Once the Germans returned the King to the Laken Palace, the family decided to return to Belgium (August 2, 1940). Prince Baudouin was with his family in Belgium during most of the War. We have few details on his experiences during this period. Baudouine pursued his studies until 1944 at Laeken and at the Château royal de Ciergnon in the Ardennes. The Princes' Cub pack was allowed to resume meetings. Racial concerns affected NAZI occupation policies. The NAZIs viewed the Dutch and the Flemish (Dutch speaking Belgians) as potential future Germans. The Dutch Army was never interned nor were the Flemish soldiers in Belgian Army. The severity of the occupation in the two countries, however, varied. The NAZIs appointed a fervant NAZI to oversee the occupied Netherlands--Seyss Inquart. He had already been involved in actions against Jews in Austria and Poland. Thev Belgian occupation on the otherhand was overseen by the German Army. The officer in charge was General Alexander von Falkenhausen (1878-1966). He was not a NAZI and in fact looked down on Hitler and the NAZIs. As a result, the NAZI occupation was initially more lenient than in the Netherlands. He was not procecuted as a war criminal after the War.


His father remarried in 1941. I have no information on Baudouine's relationship with his new step-mother. She was not popular with the Belgian people who considered her pro-NAZI.

Scouting during the Occupation

The NAZIs banned Dutch scouting and guiding. The units were disbanded and adults found to be secretly engaged in Scouting dealt with harshly. The Germans in Belgium permitted Belgian Scouting to continue, albeit under limitations. The time came soon after the Occupation had begun for Prince Bauduin to make the Cub Scout Promise and become a Scout. The German Authorities had prohibited the Scouts and Guides to wear uniform in public. The German Commander in Chief called on King Leopold to inform him that the ban on uniforms would not be imposed on the Royal Group. King Leopold declined this exception for his sons' group and decided that like other Belgian Scouts that they would no longer wear Scout uniforms either. Political matters are difficult to explain to an avid Cub who was looking forward to becoming a Scout. Baudouin apparently pleded with his father about wearing his Scout uniform. Finally the King gave his permission to his son to wear his uniform this one time. This is the image seen here. It was the only time Prince Baudouin wore his uniform (figure 2). It was the day he made the Scout Promise. The whole Troop was allowed to be in uniform. By this time his younger brother Albert had joined the Cub pack. [Kroonenberg]

D- Day (June 6, 1944)

The Allies landed in Normany beginning the liberation of Western Europe (June 6). The invasion force was pinned up in Normany for several weeks, by July had broken out from the bridgehead and was moving toward Paris and Belgium. The German occupation authorities after the invasion, deported King Leopold to southern Germany (June). A little later was permitted to let his family join him, his wife Princess Lilian, and the royal children. They were heald at Hirschstein, Germany. Later they were moved again to Strobl in Austria.


The Allies after the break out at St. Lo raced through France and reached Paris (August 23). They reached Belgium in September. The British reached Brussels (September 3) and Antwerp with its priceless deepwater port (September 4). The Germans retook some areas of Belgium in the Ardennes Offensive-Battle of the Bulge (December), but were soon pushed out of almost all of the country (January 1945). The royal family was not liberated at the same time as other Belgians because the NAZIs had removed them to Germany after D-Day. They were liberated several months later. It was at Strobl in Austria that American forces liberated them (May 7, 1945). The NAZIs surrendered the next day.


King Leopold wanted to return to Nelgium immediately. This proved not to be politicall possible. Many questions his War-time leadership. This proved to be very controversial. Many charges wwere made against the King. He can be faulted for errors of judgement, but charges of cowardice or collaboration were unfounded. Because of the political climate, the King went to Switzerlnd where Baudouine and the family joined him in exile (1945-50). His uncle Charles served as regent of Belgium. When the Belgian people voted for Leopold's return in March 1950, Baudouin went back to his homeland with his family. His father's unpopularity, primartily because of surrendering to the Germans. The Belgian people were sharply divided about King Leopold. After extended discussion it was decided that Leopold shouls abdicate in favor of Prince Bauduin.


Baudouin was crowned the fifth king of Belgium (July 17, 1951). He was still very young and most Belgians were concerned about him.

Continued Interest in Scouting

Prince Baudouin despite the many difficulties had enjoyed Scouting. As an adult he continued to be interested in the Scouting movement. He would attend major Scouting events when ever possible. His scouting name was "De Trouwe Eland" = "The Loyal Elk". Years later the port of Ostend presented him with a yacht he christened "DE ELAND" = "The Elk". This was an unusual name for a ship and puzzled many Belgians not realizing that it was his Scout name. [Kroonenberg]


Baudouine married Spanish princess Doņa Fabiola de Mora y Aragon (1928- ) in 1960 who became Queen. They had no children. She was the daughter of the Count of Mora, Marquis de Casa Reiera, she is the much loved and admired widow of the late King Baudouin. A considerable part of her efforts have always been directed towards children, the needy and health care. She continues to be very active with children's charities, in particular the Queen Fabiola National Foundation for Mental Health and the Queen Fabiola University Children's Hospital. At the same time, she has remained dedicated to the perpetuation of the outstanding cultural programs originated by Queen Elisabeth, consort of King Albert I and presides over the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition.


Leopold III's eldest son was crowned in 1951. He reigned until his death in 1993, encountering less tumultous times than his father and grandfather. The era was not, however, exactly tranquil. The long-standing rivalries between the Flemish-speaking people in the north and the French-speaking segments of the population in the south grew more intense. There were frequent changes of government. In the 1970s and 1980s inflation and unemployment disrupted the economy. The king's most notable action occurred in 1959 when, after civil unrest in the African colony of the Belgian Congo, he announced that the colony should be independent. He traveled to Africa in December 1959, and on June 30, 1960, proclaimed the Belgian Congo's independence at Léopoldville (now Kinshasa, Congo after being called Zaire for years). The Congo's independence was a disaster as the Belgian Government after brutally exploiting the country for years had done virtually nothing to prepare the people of the Congo for independence. The legacy of this short-sighted policy can be seen in the continuing disorder still rampant in the Congo. King Baudouine ruled for over 40 years. This was the longest reign of any Belgian monarch. During that reign, he held forth the promise that his visionary dream for a United Europe would soon becomea reality.

Death (1993)

When King Bauduin died, thousands of Belgian scouts and guides came to Brussels to pay their respects. They assisted with preparations at the Royal Palace arranging the flowers and they lined part of the funeral procession's route. Thecservice was held at the Cathedral. When the hearse with King's body reached them, the hundreds of scouts and guides saluted, for the very last time, their Royal Brother Scout. TheKing likemany Belgians lost part of their youth and the chance to fully enjoy Scouting because of the War. [Kroonenberg]

Albert II (1993- )

Baudouin had no heirs so his brother Albert took the constitutional oath on August 9, 1993, and ascended to the throne of Belgium, becoming the sixth King of the Belgians. King Albert has been married to Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria since 2 July 1959.


Kroonenberg, Piet J. "Royalty and Scouting," November 2002.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 5:42 PM 2/7/2011