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His Majesty, King Leopold III, 1902-1983



Prince Leopold, who was bom in the royal palace in Brussels on November 3, 1902, followed in his royal father’s, Albert I, footsteps in his love of the mountains. He attended Eton, but in the main was given a military education in preparation for his kingly duties, which he assumed upon his ascent to the throne on February 23, 1934. A few months later his wife, Queen Astrid, was killed in an automobile accident on one of their frequent trips to Switzerland. Of their three children, the eldest son, Prince Baudouin, was later to succeed him when he was forced to abdicate on July 16, 1951 as the result of political pressure stemming from disapprobation of his surrender to the Nazis in 1940, even though he had been recalled to the throne by popular plebiscite held on March 12, 1950. He died of a heart attack at the royal palace in Brussels September 20, 1983.

He enjoyed climbing and became very proficient as a mountaineer. Most of his climbs were in the Alps to which he escaped when he could. Although he was familiar with many different regions in the Alps, apparently he enjoyed the fine rock climbing offered by the Dolomites, where in September 1933 he made the first ascent of an unclimbed spire named in his honor, the Campanile di Brabant. He was made an honorary member of the American Alpine Club in 1938.

Kenneth A. Henderson