His Majesty King Baudouin I of the Belgians was born His Royal Highness Baudouin Albert Charles Leopold Axel Marie Gustave, Count of Hainaut in the chateau of Stuyvenberg, near Brussels, on the 7th of September 1930. He was the second child and first son of the then Duke and Duchess of Brabant, later His Majesty King Leopold III and Her Majesty Queen Astrid, born Princess of Sweden. The much loved couple had already a daughter, the Princess Josephine Charlotte.
When Prince Leopold ascended the throne on the 23rd of February 1934, the young prince assumed the title of Duke of Brabant, traditionally reserved for the King's eldest son and heir. The Belgian Royal Family was seen as an example of perfect happiness, enlarged with the birth of Prince Albert, who was given the title of Prince of Liège. But, tragically, Baudouin's mother, the beautiful and elegant Queen Astrid, died in a dreadful car accident in Kussnacht, in Switzerland. Her funeral was memorable by the astonishing display of public grief, unprecedented by then.
On the 10th of May 1940, Hitler’s forces invaded Belgium. Prince Baudouin, accompanied by his elder sister Princess Josephine-Charlotte and his younger brother, Prince Albert, were first sent to France and then Spain. The royal children later returned on the 2nd of August 1940. During the month of June of 1944, the Allies landed. King Leopold, Princess Liliane (whom the King had married in 1941, generating much disappointment in the Belgian people, who had expected that their loyalty to Queen Astrid’s memory would be reflected in the King himself) and the children were deported to Hirschenstein, in Germany, and then to Strobel in Austria, where they were liberated by the American army on the 7th of May 1945.
Due to the difficult political situation in Belgium around the “Question Royale”, King Leopold and the Royal Family left Austria in October to live in Pregny, Switzerland. It would only be in July of 1950, after months of political debate, that the King and his two sons returned to Belgium. On the 1st of August of the same year, the sovereign decided to request the Government and Parliament to pass a law ensuring his powers were transferred to his son and heir the Duke of Brabant, who assumed the title of Prince Royal on the 11th of August 1950. Nearly one year later, King Leopold made it known he wished to renounce his constitutional powers in favour of his son and Prince Baudouin was enthroned on the 17th of July 1951. He took the constitutional oath of Sovereign in the Chamber of Deputies, under the canopy, and made his speech from the throne. King Baudouin I became the fifth King of a house founded by Leopold I and continued through Leopold II, Albert I and his father Leopold III. According to the constitution, the King reigns but does not govern. The King's persona is inviolable: His ministers are responsible for him.
On the 15th of December 1960, King Baudouin married the elegant and dignified Spanish aristocrat, Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón in a splendid and magnificent wedding ceremony, where most of European and the World's royalty gathered to celebrate the King's marriage, together with hundreds of thousands of the Belgians in the streets of Brussels.
On the occasion of his Silver Jubilee, His Majesty decided to create a foundation, which would bear his name. The aim of the King Baudouin Foundation is to improve the living conditions of the population. It undertakes projects and publishes works in fields varied as the fight against poverty and the training of the Belgian youth. A national tribute entitled Fêtes 40-60 was organised to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of the King and the fortieth year of his reign. The festivities took place between the 7th of September 1990 (the King’s birthday) and the 21st July 1991 (the Belgian National holiday). For these events, His Majesty highlighted subjects close to his heart: young people and dialogue between the Communities, the Regions and their citizens.
On the 31st of July 1993, King Baudouin died in Motril, in southern Spain. His Majesty died of a heart attack whilst he and his wife, Queen Fabiola, were vacationing in their Spanish residence. The mourning of the Belgian people was absolutely unprecedented and the country became united for the first time in many years. Thousands waited up to ten hours to enter the Royal Palace and pay homage in front of the late King’s body. Hundreds of thousands joined in mourning through the streets of Brussels on the day of the King’s funeral and burial. One of the biggest gatherings of heads of state happened on that day, proving an unanimous feeling: someone unique, unrepeatable and irreplaceable had died. Queen Fabiola, surrounded by the whole Belgian and Luxembourg Royal Families (the Grand-Duchess was the eldest sister of King Baudouin, Princess Josephine Charlotte) and always escorted by the new King, the Prince of Liège, was accompanied in that saddest of days by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom – in the first occasion she attended a funeral outside her country –, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, the Kings and Queens of Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands; the Princes of Liechtenstein and Monaco; several presidents and members of most royal houses of the whole world made it the most impressive gathering of royalty and statesmen ever to happen in such an event. King Baudouin was buried in the Royal Crypt in the Notre Dame church, in Laeken.
His loyal devotion to his country and people made him adored, loved and respected amongst the Belgians. Baudouin was a loving King to his people and a loving husband to his wife. His name is still carried on by Queen Fabiola, who has made sure that her beloved husband is forever remembered in the hearts of the Belgians.