Leopold III


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(b. 3 Nov. 1901, d. 25 Sept. 1983).

King of the Belgians 1934–51 He was educated at Eton and at Ghent University. Following the German invasion in World War II he took command of the army, which was hopelessly outnumbered, and on 28 May 1940 he ordered a cease-fire, even though the Prime Minister ordered the Belgians to continue their resistance. He was resident at Laeken Castle until June 1944, when he was imprisoned by the Germans. After his liberation in 1945 he went into exile in Switzerland while a commission investigated his conduct during the war. It found no fault in his actions, and in 1950 a small majority voted for his return in a referendum. However, there were serious riots and Belgium was near civil war. He was finally persuaded to abdicate in favour of his son Baudouin I (b. 1930, d. 1993), who managed to unite his country and strengthen the monarchy.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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