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Baudouin

King of Belgium, 1951-1993

King Baudouin

Baudouin Albert Charles Leopold Axel Marie Gustave of Saxe-Coburg Gotha was born at the Chateau of Stuyvenberg, near Brussels, on September 7, 1930, the second child of then-Prince Leopold and Astrid, Princess of Sweden.

At the age of 3, Baudouin lost his much-beloved grandfather, King Albert I, in a mountain climbing accident in the Ardennes. On the accession to the throne of his father, King Leopold III, on February 23, 1934, Prince Baudouin received the title " Duke of Brabant." Shortly before his 5th birthday, his mother, Queen Astrid, was killed when a car being driven by King Leopold skidded off the road and struck a tree.

On May 10, 1940, while Belgium was being invaded by Germany, Prince Baudouin, accompanied by his elder sister Princess Josephine-Charlotte and his younger brother Prince Albert, left the country first for France and then Spain. The Princes returned to Belgium on August 2, and were kept under guard in the Laeken Palace outside Brussels during the Nazi occupation. Taken to Austria by their captors in 1945, the family was eventually liberated by the American Seventh Army. The royal family spent most of the next five years living in Switzerland, until antimonarchist feelings cooled.

In May 1950, a small majority of Belgian voters approved Leopold's return in a referendum, and King Leopold III, accompanied by Prince Baudouin and Prince Albert, returned to Belgium on July 22, 1950. On August 1 of the same year, Leopold decided to ask the Government and Parliament to vote on a law delegating his powers to his eldest son; such a law was passed on August 11. On July 17, 1951, the Prince Royal swore the constitutional oath and became King Baudouin I.

Major Events of His Reign

On April 18, 1951, Belgium signed the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community. Later, that institution would form the foundations for the European Economic Community, now the European Union.

In January-February 1960, a round table was organized in Brussels between leading Congolese politicians and a Belgian government delegation. Independence was officially granted, and a Congolese Constitution was outlined. On June 30, 1960, the King attended the hand-over of power in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa, Zaire).

On September 16, 1960, it was reported that King Baudouin had become engaged to Fabiola de Mora y Aragon, the daughter of a rich Spanish count. The couple was married in Brussels on December 15, 1960. They were never able to have children, as all five of the Queen's pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

Belgians greet Dona Fabiola de Mora y Aragon after the announcement of her engagement to King Baudouin. The couple are at the king's country estate.
Belgians greet future Queen Fabiola

Long-simmering tensions between the Flemish and French communities of Belgium were somewhat eased in 1970, when a constitutional revision granted cultural autonomy to each community, giving them sole powers to deal with cultural issues. The two communities remained at odds, however, throughout most of Baudouin's reign, despite his many attempts to soothe relations.

In 1976, on the 25th anniversary of his reign, Baudouin decided to devote the funds donated to him by the population to the King Baudouin Foundation, with the purpose of improving the living conditions of the people. It continues to carry out projects and publish documents in fields as varied as the battle against poverty and social exclusion, the environment, architectural and artistic heritage, training of young people, etc.

In 1980, the Flemish and French-speaking communities were granted powers in cultural and personal matters (health care and assistance to persons). For the German-speaking community, a directly-elected Council was set up. The statutes of the Walloon Region and the Flemish Region were also defined. Enormous powers were granted to the two regions -- the regional economy and employment, land use, town and country planning, the environment, housing, etc. Their financial resources were also expanded, particularly with rebates on taxes paid and by limited tax-raising powers (own taxation). In parallel, the Court of Arbitration was set up to settle conflicts between the communities and regions, and between these entities and the national authorities.

A constitutional problem arose in spring 1990. At the beginning of April, the Chamber and the Senate approved a draft law on the liberalization of abortion. On March 30, King Baudouin notified the Prime Minister that he was prevented by his conscience from sanctioning this law, as it is incumbent on the third branch of the legislative power. Based on Article 82 of the Constitution, the Council of Ministers observed that the King found it impossible to reign. In such a case, it is the Council of Ministers which exercises the constitutional prerogatives of the King. The Council sanctioned the law on April 3, and enacted it. On April 5, the combined Chambers of Parliament observed the end of the King's impossibility of reigning, so that he could once again exercise his constitutional prerogatives.

King Baudouin was plagued by health issues during the final years of his reign, including undergoing prostate surgery in 1991 and open-heart surgery in 1992. He died of a heart attack while vacationing in Motril, Spain, on July 31, 1993, and was succeeded by his younger brother, who became King Albert II. King Baudouin was interred in the royal vault at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken in Brussels.

SOURCES
The Belgian Monarchy www.monarchie.be
"Baudouin I, King of Belgium, Dies at 62" New York Times www.nytimes.com
"Obituary: King Baudouin of the Belgians" The Independent www.independent.co.uk

SEE ALSO
King Leopold III
King Albert I
European Union
Zaire

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Low Countries >> Belgium >> 20th Century

This page was last updated on May 29, 2017.