- Leopold I
- (1790-1865)Leopold George Christian Frederick, first king of the Belgians, was the youngest son of Francis Federick, duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. A page at the court of Napoléon Bonaparte and then a general in the Russian army, he married Princess Charlotte, heir presumptive to the British throne, in 1816. After her death in 1817 he remained in Britain, where he accepted election as king following the Belgian Revolution. On arrival in Brussels, Leopold received the keys to the city at the porte de Flandre from Burgomaster Nicolas Rouppe and his inauguration took place on 21 July 1831 at the place Royale on a throne erected on a dais before the decorated façade of the church of Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg.Leopold was an active proponent of urban development and embellishment in seeking to upgrade Brussels to a condition befitting a capital city. He sought to reinforce royal power by obtaining the right to appoint burgomasters and aldermen, but he met determined opposition from traditionalists who viewed excessive centralization as destructive of Belgian liberties. The king secured the right to appoint only the burgomaster of the communes. An ardent enthusiast of railways, an interest he acquired during his years in Britain, Leopold promoted rail construction and encouraged industrial and commercial development. In 1832, he married Louise-Marie d'Orleans, daughter of King Louis-Philippe of France. Leopold died at the Château royal de Laeken on 16 December 1865.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.