Leopold II of Belgium
Overview
 
Leopold II (9 April 1835 – 17 December 1909) was the second king of the Belgians. Born in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 the second (but eldest surviving) son of Leopold I
Leopold I of Belgium
Leopold I was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha...

 and Louise-Marie of Orléans, he succeeded his father to the throne on 17 December 1865 and remained king until his death.

Leopold is chiefly remembered as the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State
Congo Free State
The Congo Free State was a large area in Central Africa which was privately controlled by Leopold II, King of the Belgians. Its origins lay in Leopold's attracting scientific, and humanitarian backing for a non-governmental organization, the Association internationale africaine...

, a private project undertaken by the King. He used Henry Morton Stanley
Henry Morton Stanley
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, GCB, born John Rowlands , was a Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone. Upon finding Livingstone, Stanley allegedly uttered the now-famous greeting, "Dr...

 to help him lay claim to the Congo, an area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

.
Quotations

"The Congo Free State is unique in its kind. It has nothing to hide and no secrets and is not beholden to anyone except its founder."

Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965

Encyclopedia
Leopold II (9 April 1835 – 17 December 1909) was the second king of the Belgians. Born in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 the second (but eldest surviving) son of Leopold I
Leopold I of Belgium
Leopold I was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha...

 and Louise-Marie of Orléans, he succeeded his father to the throne on 17 December 1865 and remained king until his death.

Leopold is chiefly remembered as the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State
Congo Free State
The Congo Free State was a large area in Central Africa which was privately controlled by Leopold II, King of the Belgians. Its origins lay in Leopold's attracting scientific, and humanitarian backing for a non-governmental organization, the Association internationale africaine...

, a private project undertaken by the King. He used Henry Morton Stanley
Henry Morton Stanley
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, GCB, born John Rowlands , was a Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone. Upon finding Livingstone, Stanley allegedly uttered the now-famous greeting, "Dr...

 to help him lay claim to the Congo, an area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

. The Powers at the Berlin Conference
Berlin Conference
The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period, and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power...

 allowed the Free State to accede to its final Act in 1885, which committed the State to bringing the inhabitants into the modern world and that all nations be allowed to trade freely. From the beginning, however, Leopold essentially ignored these conditions and ran the Congo brutally, using a mercenary force, for his own personal gain. He extracted a fortune from the Congo, initially by the collection of ivory, and after a rise in the price of rubber in the 1890s by forcing the native population to collect sap from rubber plants. His harsh regime was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people. The Congo became one of the most infamous international scandals of the early 20th century, and Leopold was ultimately forced to relinquish control of it to the government of Belgium.

Biography

Leopold II married Marie Henriette, Archduchess of Austria
Archduchy of Austria
The Archduchy of Austria , one of the most important states within the Holy Roman Empire, was the nucleus of the Habsburg Monarchy and the predecessor of the Austrian Empire...

, in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 on 22 August 1853.

Leopold II also engaged in a religious ceremony with Blanche Zélia Joséphine Delacroix
Caroline Lacroix
Blanche Zélia Joséphine Delacroix, better known as Caroline Lacroix was a French-Romanian prostitute well-noted in her lifetime for being the most prominent and notorious of Leopold II of Belgium's mistresses....

, also known as Caroline Lacroix, a prostitute, on 14 December 1909, with no validity under Belgian law, at the Pavilion of Palms, Royal Palace of Laken, in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, five days before his death. The priest of Laeken Cooreman performed the ceremony.

He was the 975th Knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Order of the Golden Fleece
The Order of the Golden Fleece is an order of chivalry founded in Bruges by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430, to celebrate his marriage to the Portuguese princess Infanta Isabella of Portugal, daughter of King John I of Portugal. It evolved as one of the most prestigious orders in Europe...

 in Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, the 748th Knight of the Order of the Garter
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

 in 1866 and the 69th and 321st Grand Cross
Grand Cross
The phrase Grand Cross is used to denote the highest grade in many orders of knighthood. Sometimes the holders of the highest grade are referred to "knights grand cross" or just "grand crosses"; in other cases the actual insignia itself is called "the grand cross".Alternatively, in some other...

 of the Order of the Tower and Sword
Order of the Tower and Sword
The Military Order of the Tower and of the Sword, of Valour, Loyalty and Merit is a Portuguese order of knighthood and the pinnacle of the Portuguese honours system. It was created by King Afonso V in 1459....

.

On 15 November 1902, Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 anarchist Gennaro Rubino
Gennaro Rubino
Gennaro Rubino was an Italian anarchist who unsuccessfully tried to assassinate King Leopold II of Belgium.-Early life:Rubino was born in Bitonto, during the period of Italian unification...

 attempted to assassinate
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 Leopold, who was riding in a royal cortege from a ceremony in memory of his recently-deceased wife, Marie Henriette. After Leopold's carriage passed, Rubino fired three shots at the King; the shots missed Leopold and Rubino was immediately arrested.

In Belgian domestic politics, Leopold emphasized military defense as the basis of neutrality, but he was unable to obtain a universal conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 law until on his death bed. He died in Laeken on 17 December 1909, and was interred in the royal vault at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken
Church of Our Lady of Laeken
The Church of Our Lady of Laeken is a neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church in Laeken, Brussels. It was originally built in memory of Queen Louise-Marie, wife of King Leopold I to the design of architect Joseph Poelaert....

 in Brussels.

He was succeeded as King of the Belgians by his nephew Albert
Albert I of Belgium
Albert I reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 until 1934.-Early life:Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad in Brussels, he was the fifth child and second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen...

, son of his brother Philippe.

He was the brother of Empress Carlota of Mexico
Charlotte of Belgium
Charlotte of Belgium is remembered today as Carlota of Mexico as empress consort of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, ex-Archduke of Austria.-Princess of Belgium:The only daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians by his second wife,...

 and first cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

Issue

Leopold II had four children with his queen, Marie Henriette:
  • Louise-Marie Amélie
    Princess Louise-Marie of Belgium
    Louise Marie of Belgium , princess of Belgium, was the eldest daughter of Leopold II, king of the Belgians, and his wife Marie Henriette, archduchess of Austria.-Marriage and issue:...

    , born in Brussels on 18 February 1858, and died at Wiesbaden on 1 March 1924. She married Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
  • Léopold Ferdinand Elie Victor Albert Marie, Count of Hainaut (as eldest son of the heir apparent
    Heir apparent
    An heir apparent or heiress apparent is a person who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting, except by a change in the rules of succession....

    ), later Duke of Brabant (as heir apparent), born at Laeken/Laken
    Laken
    Laeken or Laken is a residential suburb in north-west Brussels in Belgium...

     on 12 June 1859, and died at Laken on 22 January 1869, from pneumonia, after falling into a pond.
  • Stéphanie Clotilde Louise Herminie Marie Charlotte
    Princess Stéphanie of Belgium
    Stéphanie was a Belgium princess by birth, and then made Crown Princess of Austria through her marriage to the heir of the Habsburg dynasty, Archduke Rudolf...

    , born at Laken on 11 May 1864, and died at the Archabbey of Pannonhalma in Győr-Moson-Sopron
    Gyor-Moson-Sopron
    Győr-Moson-Sopron is the name of an administrative county in north-western Hungary, on the border with Slovakia and Austria. It shares borders with the Hungarian counties Komárom-Esztergom, Veszprém and Vas. The capital of Győr-Moson-Sopron county is Győr...

    , Hungary
    Hungary
    Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

    , on 23 August 1945. She married (1) Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria
    Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria
    Rudolf , archduke of Austria and crown prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, was the son and heir of Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, and his wife and empress, Elisabeth...

     and then (2) Elemér Edmund Graf Lónyay de Nagy-Lónya et Vásáros-Namény (created, in 1917, Prince Lónyay de Nagy-Lónya et Vásáros-Namény).
  • Clémentine
    Princess Clementine of Belgium
    align="right"|Clementine of Belgium was a member of the Belgian Royal Family and the wife of Napoléon Victor Bonaparte, Bonapartist pretender to the throne of France.-Early life:Princess Clémentine was born at the Royal Castle of Laeken in...

    , born at Laken on 30 July 1872, and died at Nice on 8 March 1955. She married Prince Napoléon Victor Jérôme Frédéric Bonaparte
    Napoléon Victor Jérôme Frédéric Bonaparte
    Victor, Prince Napoléon, titular 4th Prince of Montfort was the Bonapartist pretender to the French throne from 1879 until his death in 1926...

     (1862–1926), head of the Bonaparte
    Bonaparte
    The House of Bonaparte is an imperial and royal European dynasty founded by Napoleon I of France in 1804, a French military leader who rose to notability out of the French Revolution and transformed the French Republic into the First French Empire within five years of his coup d'état...

     family.


Leopold II was also the father of two illegitimate sons through Caroline Lacroix
Caroline Lacroix
Blanche Zélia Joséphine Delacroix, better known as Caroline Lacroix was a French-Romanian prostitute well-noted in her lifetime for being the most prominent and notorious of Leopold II of Belgium's mistresses....

, later adopted in 1910 by Lacroix's second husband, Antoine Durrieux:
  • Lucien Philippe Marie Antoine (9 February 1906 – 1984), duke of Tervuren
  • Philippe Henri Marie François (16 October 1907 – 21 August 1914), count of Ravenstein

Private colonialism

Leopold fervently believed that overseas colonies were the key to a country's greatness, and he worked tirelessly to acquire colonial territory for Belgium. Neither the Belgian people nor the Belgian government was interested, however, and Leopold eventually began trying to acquire a colony in his private capacity as an ordinary citizen. The Belgian government lent him money for this venture.

After a number of unsuccessful schemes for colonies in Africa or Asia, in 1876 he organized a private holding company
Holding company
A holding company is a company or firm that owns other companies' outstanding stock. It usually refers to a company which does not produce goods or services itself; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies. Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and can allow...

 disguised as an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society.

In 1878, under the auspices of the holding company, he hired the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley
Henry Morton Stanley
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, GCB, born John Rowlands , was a Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone. Upon finding Livingstone, Stanley allegedly uttered the now-famous greeting, "Dr...

 to establish a colony in the Congo
Kingdom of Kongo
The Kingdom of Kongo was an African kingdom located in west central Africa in what are now northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo, and the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 region. Much diplomatic maneuvering resulted in the Berlin Conference
Berlin Conference
The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period, and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power...

 of 1884–85, at which representatives of fourteen European countries and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 recognized Leopold as sovereign of most of the area he and Stanley had laid claim to. On 5 February 1885, the result was the Congo Free State
Congo Free State
The Congo Free State was a large area in Central Africa which was privately controlled by Leopold II, King of the Belgians. Its origins lay in Leopold's attracting scientific, and humanitarian backing for a non-governmental organization, the Association internationale africaine...

 (later becoming, successively, the Belgian Congo
Belgian Congo
The Belgian Congo was the formal title of present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo between King Leopold II's formal relinquishment of his personal control over the state to Belgium on 15 November 1908, and Congolese independence on 30 June 1960.-Congo Free State, 1884–1908:Until the latter...

, the Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)
The Republic of the Congo was an independent republic established following the independence granted to the former colony of the Belgian Congo in 1960...

, Zaire
Zaire
The Republic of Zaire was the name of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo between 27 October 1971 and 17 May 1997. The name of Zaire derives from the , itself an adaptation of the Kongo word nzere or nzadi, or "the river that swallows all rivers".-Self-proclaimed Father of the Nation:In...

, and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 or DRC (not to be confused with Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
The Republic of the Congo , sometimes known locally as Congo-Brazzaville, is a state in Central Africa. It is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo , the Angolan exclave province of Cabinda, and the Gulf of Guinea.The region was dominated by...

 formerly owned by France), an area 76 times larger than Belgium, which Leopold was free to rule as a personal domain through his private army, the Force Publique
Force Publique
The Force Publique , French for "Public Force", was both a gendarmerie and a military force in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1885, , through the period of direct Belgian colonial rule...

.

The first economic focus of the colony was ivory, but this did not yield the expected levels of revenue. When the global demand for rubber exploded, attention shifted to the labor-intensive collection of sap from rubber plants. Abandoning the promises of the Berlin Conference in the late 1890s, the Free State government restricted foreign access and extorted forced labor from the natives. The abuses suffered were horrific, especially in the rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

 industry, and included the effective enslavement
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 of the native population, savage beatings, widespread killing, and frequent mutilation
Mutilation
Mutilation or maiming is an act of physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of any living body, usually without causing death.- Usage :...

 when the unrealistic quotas were not met. Missionary John Harris of Baringa
Baringa
Baringa is a village in Tshuapa District, Befale Territory in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.It stands on the banks of the Maringa River at approximately 100 km upriver from Basankusu....

, for example, was so shocked by what he had come across that he wrote to Leopold's chief agent in the Congo saying: "I have just returned from a journey inland to the village of Insongo Mboyo. The abject misery and utter abandon is positively indescribable. I was so moved, Your Excellency, by the people's stories that I took the liberty of promising them that in future you will only kill them for crimes they commit."

Estimates of the death toll range from two million to fifteen million. Determining precisely how many people died is next to impossible as accurate records were not kept. Louis and Stengers state that population figures at the start of Leopold's control are only "wild guesses", while E.D. Morel's attempt and others at coming to a figure for population losses were "but figments of the imagination".

Adam Hochschild
Adam Hochschild
Adam Hochschild is an American author and journalist.-Biography:Hochschild was born in New York City. As a college student, he spent a summer working on an anti-government newspaper in South Africa and subsequently worked briefly as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1964...

 devotes a chapter of his book, King Leopold's Ghost
King Leopold's Ghost
King Leopold's Ghost is a best-selling popular history book by Adam Hochschild that explores the exploitation of the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium between 1885 and 1908....

, to the problem of estimating the death toll. He cites several recent lines of investigation, by anthropologist Jan Vansina and others, examining local sources from police records, religious records, oral traditions, genealogies, personal diaries, and "many others", which generally agree with the assessment of the 1919 Belgian government commission: roughly half the population perished during the Free State period. Since the first official census by the Belgian authorities in 1924 put the population at about 10 million, that implies a rough estimate of 10 million dead.

Smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 and sleeping sickness also devastated the disrupted population. By 1896 the sleeping sickness had killed up to 5,000 Africans in the village of Lukolela on the Congo River
Congo River
The Congo River is a river in Africa, and is the deepest river in the world, with measured depths in excess of . It is the second largest river in the world by volume of water discharged, though it has only one-fifth the volume of the world's largest river, the Amazon...

. The mortality figures were collected through the efforts of Roger Casement
Roger Casement
Roger David Casement —Sir Roger Casement CMG between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his British honours—was an Irish patriot, poet, revolutionary, and nationalist....

, who found, for example, only 600 survivors of the disease in Lukolela in 1903.

Reports of outrageous exploitation and widespread human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 abuses led to international outcry in the early 1900s leading to a widespread war of words
The Congo Free State Propaganda War
The Congo Free State Propaganda War occurred during the era when European Imperialism was at its greatest height. Demand for oriental goods remained the driving force behind European imperialism, and the European stake in Asia remained confined largely to trading stations and strategic outposts...

. The campaign to examine Leopold's regime, led by British diplomat Roger Casement and former shipping clerk E. D. Morel
E. D. Morel
Edmund Dene Morel, originally Georges Eduard Pierre Achille Morel de Ville was a British journalist, author and socialist politician. In collaboration with Roger Casement, the Congo Reform Association and others, Morel, in newspapers such as his West African Mail, led a campaign against slavery...

 under the auspices of the Congo Reform Association, became the first mass human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 movement. Supporters included American writer Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

, who wrote a stinging political satire
Political satire
Political satire is a significant part of satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics; it has also been used with subversive intent where political speech and dissent are forbidden by a regime, as a method of advancing political arguments where such arguments are expressly...

 entitled King Leopold's Soliloquy
King Leopold's Soliloquy
"King Leopold's Soliloquy" is a 1905 pamphlet by Mark Twain. Its subject is King Leopold's rule over the Congo Free State. A work of political satire harshly condemnatory of his actions, it ostensibly recounts Leopold speaking in his own defense....

, in which the King supposedly argues that bringing Christianity to the country outweighs a little starvation. Rubber gatherers were tortured, maimed and slaughtered until the turn of the century, when the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 forced Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 to call a halt. Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

 also blasted the 'rubber regime' in his 1908 work The Crime of the Congo, written to aid the work of the Congo Reform Association
Congo Reform Association
The Congo Reform Association exposed gross and rampant abuses of labor and by public servants in King Leopold II of Belgium's Congo Free State, leading to the annexation of Congo by Belgium in 1908. In March, 1904, Dr. Henry Grattan Guinness , Edmund Dene Morel, and Roger Casement founded the Congo...

. Doyle contrasted Leopold's rule to the British rule of Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, arguing decency required that those who ruled primitive peoples to be concerned first with their uplift, not how much could be extracted from them. It should be noted that, as Hochschild describes in King Leopold's Ghost, many of Leopold's policies were adopted from Dutch practices in the East Indies, and similar methods were employed to some degree by Germany, France and Portugal where natural rubber occurred in their colonies.

Finally, in 1908, the Belgian parliament
Belgian Federal Parliament
The Belgian Federal Parliament is a bicameral parliament. It consists of the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate . It sits in the Palace of the Nation .- Chamber of Representatives :...

 compelled the King to cede the Congo Free State to Belgium.

Leopold II is still a controversial figure in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His statue in the capital, Kinshasa
Kinshasa
Kinshasa is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The city is located on the Congo River....

, was removed after independence. Congolese culture minister Christoph Muzungu decided to reinstate the statue in 2005, pointing out the sense of liberating progress that had marked the beginning of the Free State and arguing that people should see the positive aspects of the king as well as the negative; but just hours after the six-metre (20 ft) statue was erected in the middle of a roundabout near Kinshasa's central station, it was taken down again without explanation. The Congo continues, however, to use a variation of the Free State flag, which it adopted after dropping the name and flag of Zaire
Zaire
The Republic of Zaire was the name of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo between 27 October 1971 and 17 May 1997. The name of Zaire derives from the , itself an adaptation of the Kongo word nzere or nzadi, or "the river that swallows all rivers".-Self-proclaimed Father of the Nation:In...

.

Legacy

Though unpopular at the end of his reign — his funeral cortege was booed — Leopold II is remembered today by many Belgians as the "Builder King" (Koning-Bouwer in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, le Roi-Bâtisseur in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

) because he commissioned a great number of buildings and urban projects, mainly in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, Ostend
Ostend
Ostend  is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It comprises the boroughs of Mariakerke , Stene and Zandvoorde, and the city of Ostend proper – the largest on the Belgian coast....

 and Antwerp. These buildings include the Royal Glasshouses in the grounds of the Palace at Laken
Laken
Laeken or Laken is a residential suburb in north-west Brussels in Belgium...

, the Japanese Tower, the Chinese Pavilion, the Musée du Congo (now called the Royal Museum for Central Africa
Royal Museum for Central Africa
The Royal Museum for Central Africa is an ethnographical and natural history museum in Tervuren, just outside Brussels, Belgium. It was first built to show off King Leopold II's Congo Free State for the 1897 World Exhibition. It focuses mainly on Congo, Belgium's former colony...

), and their surrounding park in Tervuren
Tervuren
Tervuren is a municipality in the province of Flemish Brabant, in Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium. The municipality comprises the villages of Duisburg, Tervuren, Vossem and Moorsel. On January 1, 2006, Tervuren had a total population of 20,636...

, the Cinquantenaire
Cinquantenaire
Parc du Cinquantenaire or Jubelpark is a large public, urban park in the easternmost part of the European Quarter in Brussels, Belgium....

in Brussels, and the 1895-1905 Antwerpen-Centraal railway station. He also built an important country estate in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat , Italian: San Giovanni Capo Ferrato, is a commune of the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.It is located on a peninsula next to Beaulieu-sur-Mer and to Villefranche-sur-Mer and extends out to Cap Ferrat...

 on the French Riviera
French Riviera
The Côte d'Azur, pronounced , often known in English as the French Riviera , is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco...

, including the Villa des Cèdres, which is now a botanical garden
Botanical garden
A botanical garden The terms botanic and botanical, and garden or gardens are used more-or-less interchangeably, although the word botanic is generally reserved for the earlier, more traditional gardens. is a well-tended area displaying a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names...

. These were all built using the profits from the Congo. In 1900, he created the Royal Trust
Royal Trust (Belgium)
The Royal Trust was proposed in a letter by king Leopold II of Belgium on 9 April 1900, in addition some properties were added to the donation in a letter of 15 November 1900. The Belgian government accepted the donation by law on 31 December 1903...

, by which means he donated most of his property to the Belgian nation.

After the King transferred his private colony to Belgium, there was, as Adam Hochschild
Adam Hochschild
Adam Hochschild is an American author and journalist.-Biography:Hochschild was born in New York City. As a college student, he spent a summer working on an anti-government newspaper in South Africa and subsequently worked briefly as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1964...

 puts it in King Leopold's Ghost
King Leopold's Ghost
King Leopold's Ghost is a best-selling popular history book by Adam Hochschild that explores the exploitation of the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium between 1885 and 1908....

, a "Great Forgetting". Hochschild records that, on his visit to the colonial Royal Museum for Central Africa in the 1990s, there was no mention of the atrocities committed in the Congo Free State, despite the museum's large collection of colonial objects. Another example of this "Great Forgetting" may be found on the boardwalk of Blankenberge
Blankenberge
Blankenberge is a town and a municipality in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the town of Blankenberge proper and the settlement of Uitkerke.On 1 January 2010 Blankenberge had a total population of 18,907...

, a popular coastal resort, where a monument shows a colonialist bringing "civilization" to the black child at his feet. In 2004, an activist group cut off the hand of a Congolese bronze figure, one of a multi-figure group in a 1931 sculptural monument to Leopold II on the beach in Ostend, in protest against the Congo atrocities.

See also

  • Leopold II was selected as a main motif for the recent 12.50 euro Leopold II commemorative coin minted in 2007. The obverse shows his portrait facing right.
  • Kings of Belgium family tree
    Kings of Belgium family tree
    This is a family tree of the kings of Belgium....

  • Crown Council of Belgium
    Crown Council of Belgium
    The Crown Council of Belgium is composed of the King of the Belgians, the Ministers and the Ministers of State. The King chairs the Crown Council...

  • Émile Banning
    Émile Banning
    Émile Theodore Joseph Hubert Banning was a doctor of philosophy and literature and a Belgian senior civil servant who played an important role in the Belgian politics of the 19th century....

  • The Congo Free State Propaganda War
    The Congo Free State Propaganda War
    The Congo Free State Propaganda War occurred during the era when European Imperialism was at its greatest height. Demand for oriental goods remained the driving force behind European imperialism, and the European stake in Asia remained confined largely to trading stations and strategic outposts...



Ancestry



External links



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