Leopold III, King, 1901-1983

On 10 May 1940 Germany invaded Belgium and King Leopold assumed command of the Belgian Army. Leopold requested aid from the Allies who sent troops to aid the Belgian forces. However, after two weeks of difficult fighting which had cornered the Belgians in the northeast of their country, Leopold made the unassisted, arbitrary decision to surrender, 28 May 1940. The army, the people and the government led by Prime Minister Pierlot opposed this admission defeat and declared his capitulation illegal. But it was too late to reverse the action. The Germans swept into Belgium and confined Leopold to the Palace of Laeken near Brussels. He further antagonized his citizens by contracting a morganatic marriage during the war. When the US invaded Belgium in 1944, Leopold was taken by the Wehrmacht to Germany where he was found by the Americans in 1945. The Belgian people refused to let Leopold return to the throne and would not even allow him return to Belgium until 1950.

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