Baudouin of Belgium

Baudouin[1] (US: /bˈdwæ̃/;[2][3] Dutch: Boudewijn; German: Balduin; 7 September 1930 – 31 July 1993) was 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 the Congo.

Baudouin in 1960
King of the Belgians
Reign17 July 1951 – 31 July 1993
PredecessorLeopold III
SuccessorAlbert II
Prime Ministers
Born(1930-09-07)7 September 1930
Stuyvenberg Castle, Laeken, Brussels, Kingdom of Belgium
Died31 July 1993(1993-07-31) (aged 62)
Villa Astrida, Motril, Kingdom of Spain
Full name
Dutch: Boudewijn Albert Karel Leopold Axel Maria Gustaaf
French: Baudouin Albert Charles Léopold Axel Marie Gustave
German: Balduin Albrecht Karl Leopold Axel Marie Gustav
FatherLeopold III of Belgium
MotherAstrid of Sweden
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Belgian Royalty
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Leopold I
Leopold II
Albert I
Leopold III
Albert II

He was the elder son of King Leopold III (1901–83) and his first wife, Princess Astrid of Sweden (1905–35). Because he and his wife, Queen Fabiola, had no children, at Baudouin's death the crown passed to his younger brother, King Albert II.

Ascent to the throne

Baudouin was born in the Château du Stuyvenberg, near Laeken, Brussels, in Belgium, in 1930, the elder son and second child 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.

During the war, following D-Day the king was deported by command of Adolf Hitler to Hirschstein.

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 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").


On 15 December 1960, Baudouin was married in Brussels to Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón. The King and Queen had no children; all of the Queen's five pregnancies ended in miscarriage.[4]

Notable events

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,[5][6] with some seeing the act as a humiliation for the king.[7] The next day the king attended the official reception; he gave a speech that received a blistering response by Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.[8]

Baudouin and French President Charles de Gaulle were the two prominent world leaders at the state funerals of both John F. Kennedy in November 1963 and his predecessor General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower in March 1969, as the head of state of Belgium.[9][10] At Kennedy's, he was accompanied by Paul-Henri Spaak, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and former three-time Prime Minister of Belgium. At Eisenhower's, he was accompanied by Prime Minister Gaston Eyskens.[11]

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.

He was the 1,176th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain, which was bestowed upon him in 1960, the 930th Knight of the Order of the Garter and also the last living knight of the Papal Supreme Order of Christ.[12][13]

Religious influences

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.[14] 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.

Baudouin and the death of Patrice Lumumba

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.[15]

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.[15]

Death, succession, and legacy

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.[16] Although in March 1992 the King had been operated on 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).

King Baudouin was interred in the royal vault at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken, Brussels, Belgium. He was succeeded by his younger brother, who became King Albert II.

Titles and Styles

  • 7 September 1930 – 17 February 1934: His Royal Highness Prince Baudouin of Belgium, Count of Hainaut
  • 17 February 1934 – 17 July 1951: His Royal Highness The Duke of Brabant
  • 17 July 1951 – 31 July 1993: His Majesty The King of the Belgians


Monograms of King Baudouin
King Baudouin's arms as knight of the Swedish Order of the Seraphim
King Baudouin's Garter encircled arms
(United Kingdom)
King Baudouin's arms as knight of the Spanish orders of the Golden Fleece, Charles III and Isabella the Catholic
King Baudouin's arms as knight of the Supreme Order of Christ (Holy See)





See also


  1. Baudouin's full name was Baudouin Albert Charles Léopold Axel Marie Gustave de Belgique (pronounced [bodwɛ̃ albɛʁ ʃaʁl leopɔld aksɛl maʁi ɡystav də bɛlʒik]) in French and Boudewijn Albert Karel Leopold Axel Marie Gustaaf van België (pronounced [ˈbʌudəʋɛin ˈɑlbərt ˈkaːrəl ˈleːjoːpɔlt ˈɑksəl maːˈri ɣʏˈstaːf fɑm ˈbɛlɣijə]) in Dutch. In isolation, the Dutch word van is pronounced [vɑn].
  2. "Baudouin I". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  3. "Baudouin". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  4. "Koningin Fabiola had vijf miskramen". 21 April 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  5. Glasenapp, Jörn (2008) '"Der Degendieb von Léopoldville. Robert Lebecks Schlüsselbild der Dekolonisation Afrikas" In Paul, Gerhard (ed.) (2008) Das Jahrhundert der Bilder: 1949 bis heute Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, pp. 242-249, ISBN 978-3-525-30012-1, in German
  6. "Ambroise Boimbo, "l'homme qui à humilier le Roi de Belge" au du Congo". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  7. "La photo du sabre du Roi Baudouin, le 30 juin 1960". Mbokamosika. 20 December 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  8. McIntire, Suzanne; Burns, William E. (2009). Speeches in World History. Infobase Publishing. pp. 438–40.
  9. Grose, Peter (31 March 1969). "Nixon will Meet with De Gaulle Today". The New York Times. p. 1. President de Gaulle arrived by plane from Paris, on his first visit to the United States since the funeral of President Kennedy in 1963.
  10. Belair Jr., Felix (1 April 1969). "World's Leaders Join in Services for Eisenhower". The New York Times. p. 1.
  11. "Partial List of Leaders From Abroad at Funeral". The New York Times. 1 April 1969. p. 32.
  12. Herold, Stephen. "Society of the Golden Fleece". Chevaliers De La Toison D'or - Toison espagnole (spanish fleece). La Confrérie Amicale. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  13. Velde, François R. "List of the Knights of the Garter". Heraldica.
  14. "Belgium: Commoner for A Day, or Two". Time. 16 April 1990. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  15. Verslag namens de Onderzoekscommissie van de Belgische Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers van het parlementair onderzoek met het oog op het vaststellen van de precieze omstandigheden waarin Patrice Lumumba werd vermoord en van de eventuele betrokkenheid daarbij van Belgische politici, 16 november 2001
  16. Lyons, Richard D. "Baudouin I, King of Belgium, Dies at 62," New York Times. August 1, 1993.
  18. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. "Baudoin wearing the orders of the Garter and Leopold". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  20. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF) (in German). p. 53. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  30. "Baudoin wearing German honours". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  31. "Editorial & News Images: News Photography, Pictures, Awards, Events, Sports, Celebrity Photos". 2 May 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  32. Iceland Presidency Website Archived 2013-06-07 at the Wayback Machine, Baudoin, konungur Belgíu - Belgía - 1979-10-16 - Stórkross með keðju (= Baudouin, King of Belgians, Belgium, 16 October 1979, Grand Cross with Collar)
  37. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  40. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  41. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  43. "Les Souverains De Belgique En Norvège Pictures". Getty Images. 18 June 1965. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  44. "Baudoin wearing Spanish honours". 26 September 1978. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  45. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  46. "Boletín Oficial del Estado" (PDF). Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  47. "Boletín Oficial del Estado" (PDF). Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  52. "The Royal Couple Of Thailand In Belgium". Getty Images. 1 January 1960. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  55. Acović, Dragomir (2012). Slava i čast: Odlikovanja među Srbima, Srbi među odlikovanjima. Belgrade: Službeni Glasnik. p. 364.
  56. Acović, Dragomir (2012). Slava i čast: Odlikovanja među Srbima, Srbi među odlikovanjima. Belgrade: Službeni Glasnik. p. 364.
  62. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  63. "Queen Fabiola of Belgium, Mohammad Reza Pictures". Getty Images. 23 November 1964. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  64. Badraie Archived 2004-03-02 at the Wayback Machine
  65. Badraie Archived 2016-04-06 at the Wayback Machine


  • Wilsford, David, ed. Political leaders of contemporary Western Europe: a biographical dictionary (Greenwood, 1995) pp 25–31.

Other languages

  • A. Molitor, La fonction royale en Belgique, Brussels, 1979
  • J.Stengers, De koningen der Belgen. Van Leopold I tot Albert II, Leuven, 1997.
  • Kardinaal Suenens, Koning Boudewijn. Het getuigenis van een leven, Leuven, 1995.
  • Kerstrede 18.12.1975, (ed.V.Neels), Wij Boudewijn, Koning der Belgen. Het politiek, sociaal en moreel testament van een nobel vorst, deel II, Gent, 1996.
  • H. le Paige (dir.), Questions royales, Réflexions à propos de la mort d'un roi et sur la médiatisation de l'évènement, Brussels, 1994.
Baudouin of Belgium
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 7 September 1930 Died: 31 July 1993
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Leopold III
King of the Belgians
Succeeded by
Albert II
Royal titles
Preceded by
Duke of Brabant
Title next held by
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