Leopold III (König von Belgien)

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geboren in Brüssel (Belgien)
gestorben in Brüssel (Belgien)

His Majesty King Leopold III of Belgium. 1901-1983.
(Hon. Member 1936)
Leopold was born in 190 I, the son of King Albert and Queen Elizabeth and was brought up as a future king, even though his father had not then acceded to the throne. He was sent to England at the outbreak of war in 1914 and later enrolled at Eton. After the war he visited the USA and Brazil with his parents, but it was not until 1925 that he paid the first of his many visits to the Congo. A year later he married Princess Astrid from Stockholm. In 1934 his life changed abruptly when his father died in a rock-climbing accident at Marche-les-Dames in the Ardennes.
It was a difficult succession, the Belgian people clinging to the legend of Albert, Le Roi Chevalier, who had led 'gallant little Belgium' in the First World War. Although his public life was stormy and stressful, he had his happy married life, but this too was shattered the next year when, driving near Lucerne, he misjudged a bend and Queen Astrid was killed.
Leopold's increasing confidence in government led to a rather high-handed attitude to his ministers which led to the estrangement which the war provoked. Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940 and, whilst the government eventually set up in London, Leopold stayed put and shortly surrendered. His visit to Hitler at Berchtesgaden to ask for the release of Belgian prisoners-of-war, followed by his marriage to a commoner in 1941 greatly tarnished his reputation and when the war was finally over, parliament declared him 'incapable of reigning.' His younger brother Charles acted as Regent, but Leopold returned in 1949 following a referendum. Widespread strikes and demonstrations wrought such havoc in the country, however, that a year later Leopold abdicated in favour of his son Prince Baudouin.
For the last 30 years Leopold devoted himself to anthropological studies and photography and, whilst not the mountaineer his father was, took part in numerous scientific expeditions to Africa, South America and Australasia. In order to allow his son to succeed where he had failed he withdrew completely from public life and, in the end, earned respect even of those who had been his bitterest opponents.
G. W. Templeman
Rennie Bere writes:
Early in 1959 when I was living in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, in western Uganda, we had an unexpected request to make arrangements for a visit by King Leopold and a small party. As it happened the safari lodge was rather full at the time so I offered the hospitality of our own house to the King and the Princess Liliane (Princess de Rethy) - it was a fairly large but distinctly primitive building made of palm logs and papyrus thatch. As a result of this, and because he didn't want to travel round the park in a large party, my wife and I spent two days virtually alone with them.
Naturally, when at home, talk was mainly about the wildlife and its conservation, subjects about which he was extremely well informed, but we occasionally strayed into the mountains, stimulated, no doubt, by the alpine pictures scattered around the house, and we found many common memories. He was evidently a thoroughly experienced mountaineer who had done many of the classic routes in different parts of the Alps but particularly in the Chamonix and Dauphine areas both of which he knew well. So he would suddenly ask, in the middle of a conversation about elephants: 'Do you know the Aiguille d'Argentiere, the Verte or maybe Les Ecrins?'
One evening I mentioned my interest in the exploration of the Ruwenzori (visible from the house) carried out in 1932 by the Belgian party led by Count Xavier de Grunne, AC member'killed when with the Resistance during World War II - his cousin and close friend, he told me. He then spoke of the appalling position he had found himself in, in 1940, when the Germans overran Belgium and he, as commander-in-chief, was forced to surrender. He felt bitterly the lack of understanding and accusations of treachery he met from this country, for which he had both affection and admiration. All that need be said here about this complex question is that he was no admirer or supporter of the Nazis and that The Times obituarist and his biographer, Lord Keyes, come out firmly in-his favour.
Before he left he asked me if I would take him up the Uganda side of the Ruwenzori in 1960, and we began to plan an expedition which political events and unrest in the then Belgian Congo made impossible for him. He was a very nice man, and we offer our sympathy to his widow, the Princess Liliane.
Quelle: Alpine Journal Volume 89, 1984, Seite 260-261

Quelle: American Alpine Journal Volume 26, 1984, Seite 347

1933 1.Beg.Campanile di Brabante (Brabanter Turm) „Tissi-Rudatis-Normalweg“,VI-,95 HM,2252m,
3.Beg.Große Zinne-Westwand „Dülfer“,V/A0,250 HM,2999m, (Sextener Dolomiten)
G.Schauer, Isny im Allgäu

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