Belgian Royalty: Regent Charles

Figure 1.--Prince Charles wore a frilly white dress with eyelet lace at the age of 4 or 5. He also wears a wide-brimmed sailor hat.

Charles was the youngest son of Albert I. He and his his brother Leopold were dressed in very fancy clothes by their mother Queen Elizabeth in the years before World War I. They were very close in age and often dressed alike. Charles as a younger brother of King Leopold III never ascended to the throne. His brother's reputation was, however tarnished by the colapse of the Belgian Army in World War II. Thus after World War II Charles served as regent. The Belgian people never accepted as their king again. bit they dis crown his son in 1951, ending Charles's regency.


Charles' father was King Albert I (1909-34), probably the most beloved of all Belgian kings. His resistance to the Germans and the brave stand of the Belgian Army against the full force of the German Army made him a national hero. Charles' mother was beautiful and stylish Queen Elizabeth. While of German (Bavarian) birth, her resistance to the Germans and work during the war endeared her to the Belgian people.

Albert I

I have no information on Albert's childhood or the kind of clothes he was dressed in as a boy. Albert I ascended the throne on the death of his uncle, Leopold II, in 1909, due to the death of the intended heirs. Leopold's son died, then his older nephew, Albert's older brother, which left Albert next in line. Albert at birth was third in line the line of succession behind his father and elder brother, Prince Baudouin. No one expected him to be king. The unexpected death of Baudouin in January of 1891 immediately raised Albert to prominence within his country. He was very young, only 16 years old, when Leopold II died. His heroic resistance to the Germans in World War I made him a national hero.

Queen Elizabeth

One interesting member of the Bavarian Wittelsbach royal family is the Princess Elizabeth. She maried Albert I of Belgium and became Queen of Belgium. The clothes she selected for her sons (Princes Albert and Charles) were some of the most fashionable I have noted for European princes. Despite the fact that she was German, her patriotic service to Belgium during the World War I made her as popular as her husband.


A little over a year after their felicitous mairrage, on November 3, 1901, Albert and Elizabeth were delighted with the birth of a little prince, the future King Leopold III of the Belgians. Two more children would join Leopold in the royal nursery in Brussels. Leopold He was about 2 years older than his younger brother Charles. Thus the two young princes, about the same age, grew up together. Their younger sister, Marie Jose was born on August 4, 1906. She was in 1930 to marry Prince Umberto of Italy and briefly reign as Queen in 1946.

Figure 2.--This is one of the earlir images I have of Albert and his brother Charles. Queen Elizabeth liked to dress the boys in identical or matching outfits. Albert wears a frilly outfit with kneepants, but Charles still appears to be wearing a dress similar to his older brother's outfit. Note the bangs and curls.

Charles's Clothes

Leopold and his brother Charles were always smartly outfitted by their mother. Often they were done up in identical outfits. They may have been two of the best dressed European princes. Unlike the British princes of about the same period they did not just alternate between sailor suits and kilts. Elizabeth believed in dressing her children very fashionably. The boys, after breeching, were often outfitted in Fautleroy suits and lacy blouses with frilly collars for dress occasions. Their mother liked to dress the boys in matching or identical outfits. Presumably she was influenced in her fashion tastes by her chilhood in the Bavarian court. Most of the headwear Charles' headwear appears to be broad-brimmed sailor hats. He wore them with dresses ecen before he was breached. We see quite a variety here, but they all seem to be the basic hat. The hats vary as to the with of the brim and the edge trimming. They are also worn differently. Elizabeth appears to have liked velvet Fauntleroy suits. Some were worn with lace or ruffled collars, but as older boys, large palin collars seem to have been more common. The boys appear to have worn them at least through about 11 years of age. While not quite Fauntleroy suits, the boys when they were younger wore light colored suits (I'm not sure about the color) trimmed in lace and ruffles. They appear to have been comfortable outfits with open collars. There were two versions of these suits. One with a skirt bottom and another as they got older with kneepants. Photographs show the boys wearing frilly, open collar blouses to a fairly advanced age. They were always rather fancy, but comfortable-looking open collar blouses. Their mothers seems to have been very fond of these fancy blouses with ruffled collars, lace, or other fancy work. Many of these blouces seem to have very large, rather childish collars. The boys look to still be wearing them at about 13 or so. The boys also wore sailor suits. I'm not sure at what age they began wearing sailor suits. One photograph shows Charles at about 5 years of age wearing a blue long pants sailor suit. As is so often the casem his brother Leopold wears an identical suit. This may well have been his forst sailor suit. I do not know if Charles and his brother wore Belgian folk costumes. Somehow I rather doubt it. They did wear Bavarian folk costumes when visiting their Bavarian cousins. Charles during World War I wore a Boy Scout uniform. His older brother Leopold wore an army uniform. We do not know when Charles joined the Scouts or if Leopold was also a Scout. Apparently Charles was thought too young to wear an army uniform, but a Scout uniform would appear sufficently patriotic.

Figure 4.--His Royal Higness Prince Charles of Belgium (Count of Flanders) in a photograph taken before World War I. Note the elaborately laced-trimed blouse and short, but full hair style.

Hair Styles

Queen Elizabeth styled the boys hair identically. As younger boys they wore bangs and curly hair down to their necks. After breeching the hair was cut a little shorter and styled over their ears--but well above shoulder length. Some of the styyles are quite destinctive with the gair rather seeming to stick out at the temples. The Queen seems to have had their hair cut shorter at about 6 pr 7 years of age. The available images suggest that she may had had Charles' hair cut earlier than Leopold's, perhaps so the two could be outfitted identically. After that, there hair styles do not seem to change much. Charles wore his hair with a right part, but rather nearer to to the center than most parts.


I am not sure what the boys thought of the fancy outfits their mother selected for them. In some of the photographs they do not seem to be all that happy. As they appear to have continued to wear the fancy, rather childish outfits until, about 13 years of age, presumably they had begun to complain to their parents about it.

World War I

I am not sure what happened to the children during World War I. I don't know where they lived are how the war affected them. Charles would have been 11 years old when the war began in 1914. Most of the country was over run by the Germans, but the Allies retained a hold on a small part. Whether Charles and his family lived here or in France, I am not sure.

After the War

The end of World War I also meant the beginning of a very happy period in the royal family's life. Charles' parents were regarded as heros by the Belgian people and Europe at large. Albert died died in a tragic mountain climbing accident near Namur in 1934 and was succeeded by his son Leopold III, who would face the Germans Nazis in World War II. Albert's death was mourned universally.

Leopold III (1934-45)

Charles brother Leopold III (1901-1983) ascended the throne in 1934, after their father's death. His brother was relatively young, only 33 years old when he became king. Within only 5 years Belgium faced another war wuth Germany. The Germans invaded in 1939 and after the colapse of the Belgian Army, Leopold was forced to surender his army and country to an even more brutal invader. I'm not sure about Charles' role during this period. Despite Leopold's defiance of the Germans, the London-based Belgian government-in-exile refused to recognize his right to rule, and, on its return to Belgium with the Allied armies in late 1944. His marriage during the War to a woman regarded as pro-NAZI did not help his reputation.

Personal Life

We have little information at this time on Charles' personal life. As far as we know, he never married and did not have any children. I have atte,pted to find more information on the internet, but although Charles is listed in passing by many sites, there is little actual information about him.

Regency (1944-51)

Leopold's brother Charles was elected as regent in 1944. The Government in 1945 ectended the regency indefinitely. A commission of inquiry in 1946 exonerated Leopold on the grounds that he had not capitulated without first informing the other Allied powers and that following his surrender he had refused to govern under the Germans. The controversy concerning his loyalty continued, however, and Leopold remained in exile in Switzerland after the end of the war. Leopold III had two sons, Baudouin born in 1930 and Albert (Prince of Liege) who was was born in 1934. Baudouin mother was Astrid of Sweden. I have little information on how the boys were dressed. The only photograph I have acquired so far show Prince Baudouin at about 6 or 7 years of age wearing a long pants sailor suit and strap shoes.

Baudouin I (1951-93)

Charle's Regency ended in 1951. The royal family had hoped that the Belgian people would reevaluate Leopold III's conduct during the War. The Belgians, however, people never accepted efforts to return Leopold III to the throne. Charles could not remain regent for ever. A public referendum revealed that Leopold III was egarded as king by most Belgians. Left-wing politicians, however, refused to accept him causing a constitutional crisis. Finally Leopold abdicated July 16, 1951 in favour of his eldest son, Badouin. Baudouin crowned in 1951 and reigned for 42 years. He did much to restore the popularity of the crown. He died died of heart failure in Motril, in the south of Spain, on July 31, 1993.

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site royal pages:
[Return to the Main Albert I page]
[Return to the Main royal pages]
[Austria] [Bavaria] [Belgium] [Denmark] [France] [Germany] [Italy] [Netherlands]
[Norway] [Romania] [Russia] [Spain] [Sweden] [United Kingdom]

Created: Februaruy 28, 1999
Last updated: May 17, 2002