Portrait of Leopold (1835-1909), Duke of Brabant, Crown Prince of Belgium (1840-1865), King of the Belgians (Leopold II) from 1865 to 1909, 1855
Leopold was born in Brussels on 9 April 1835. He was the second child of the reigning Belgian monarch, Leopold I, and his second wife, Louise, the daughter of King Louis Philippe of France. The French Revolution of 1848, which spared Belgium, forced Louis Philippe to flee to the United Kingdom, of which Leopold's first cousin Queen Victoria was monarch. The royal families of Belgium and the United Kingdom were linked by numerous marriages, and were additionally both descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Louis Philippe died two years later, in 1850. Leopold's fragile mother was deeply affected by the death of her father, and her health deteriorated. She died that same year, when Leopold was 15 years old. Three years later in 1853, at the age of 18, he married Marie Henriette of Austria in Brussels on August 22. Marie Henriette was a cousin of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, and granddaughter of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor through her father, Austrian archduke Joseph. Marie Henriette was lively and energetic, and endeared herself to the people by her character and benevolence, and her beauty gained for her the sobriquet of "The Rose of Brabant".
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