As of today, Belgium is ‘a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy’. For that reason, Belgian monarchy and succession was very relevant throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (Doucy, et al., 2018)

Among all of the reigns, the most notable was Leopold III’s. It gave way to a conflict among Belgian society, which had political and economic consequences due to its magnitude, and which concluded in the sudden abdication of the King. 

In order to explain it properly, we have to take a proper look at the political tendencies underlying  in the different regions of Belgium. The two most important ideological tendencies during these period were the inclinations of Flanders and Wallonia.

The Flemish, while considered as socially inferior to some Walloons, were more inclined to monarchy than them. That is why, when the conflict arose, they sided with Leopold III, even if in the end, they started parting from this idea.

The Walloons, though economically better off, and therefore regarded as a higher social class in ample terms,  however, opposed to Leopold III as soon as the conflict took place. This is because Walloons have had less links with Belgian monarchy, sharing roots with their French neighbors, were monarchy was unsuccessful and a Republic was established after the French Revolution.

The dispute arose within the context of the german occupation in the Second World War. Leopold argued that Belgium had to remain in a neutral position during World War Two. because the State had always been known for its position of neutrality during conflicts.

For this reason, the government started suspecting that he sympathized with Hitler’s Germany. The government wanted him to allow France and other Allies to pass through Belgian territory and to allow Belgium to aid other Allies, since it was under german occupation. However, he refused and the government believed that this went against Belgium’s Constitution.

His popularity among Belgian society started to fall, specially after his marriage with Lilian Baels (very shortly after the death of the beloved Queen Astrid or Astrid of Sweden) which was looked down upon by Flemish society. Nonetheless, he started gaining respect during his period of German captivity  and his posterior exile in Sweden.


               (Biografías y Vidas)    (Public domain)      (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2017)

From left to right: King Leopold III; Astrid of Sweden; Princess Lilian Baels.

After World War Two, a referendum took place in 1950 in order to decide whether the King came back or not. It concluded with the return of Leopold III. This was thanks to the support of Flanders’ population, which remained loyal.

However, the conflict was left unresolved. Tension started to increase; Belgians went out to the streets, and in order to end with this situation, the King abdicated in 1951, leaving the throne to his son Baudouin.


  1. Biografías y Vidas. (n.d.). Leopoldo III. Retrieved from Biografías y Vidas: https://www.biografiasyvidas.com/biografia/l/leopoldo_iii.htm
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2017, July 27). Lilian, Princess of Réthy. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilian,_Princess_of_R%C3%A9thy#/media/File:Lilian_baels.png


  1. Benz, W., Graml, H., Henke, K.-D., Loth, W., Raulff, H., Robel, G., & Woller, H. (1986). Los Estados del Benelux. In W. Benz, H. Graml, K.-D. Henke, W. Loth, H. Raulff, G. Robel, & H. Woller, Historia Universal Siglo XX: el siglo XX; II. Europa después de la segunda guerra mundial 1945-1982. Tomo 1 (pp. 150-154). España: Siglo XXI de España Editores, S.A.


  1. Doucy, A. J., Van der Wee, H. F., Lamberts, E. L., Van Molle, L., Murphy, A. B., & Materné, J. M. (2018, December 3). Belgium. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/place/Belgium


  1. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2018, December 1). Royal Question. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Question

  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2018, December 1). Leopold III of Belgium. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_III_of_Belgium




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