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Leopold I (1790–1865) was a German prince who became the first King of the Belgians following Belgian independence in 1830. He reigned between July 1831 and December 1865.
Born into the ruling family of the small German duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Leopold took a commission in the Imperial Russian Army and fought against Napoleon after French troops overran Saxe-Coburg during the Napoleonic Wars. After Napoleon's defeat, Leopold moved to the United Kingdom where he married Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only child of the Prince Regent (the future King George IV).
After the Greek War of Independence (1821–32), Leopold was offered the position of King of Greece but turned it down, believing it to be too precarious. Instead, Leopold accepted the kingship of the newly established Kingdom of Belgium in 1831. His reign was marked by attempts by the Dutch to recapture Belgium. Leopold was considered liberal and encouraged economic modernisation, playing an important role in encouraging the creation of Belgium's first railway in 1835 and subsequent industrialisation.
Engraver: Leopold Wiener
Portrait of Leopold I left, surrounded by the inscription 'Leopold First King of the Belgians' in French. Engraver's initials below.
LEOPOLD PREMIER ROI DES BELGES
Crowned with a Royal Crown of Belgium escutcheon (Lion of Brabant) between inside a wreath of two olive branches. Motto 'Unity makes strength' in French above, date below.
L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE
God protects Belgium ***
DIEU PROTEGE LA BELGIQUE ***