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Leopold Ii

king, commercial and brussels

LEOPOLD II (Louts PHILIPPE MARIE VictoR), king of the Belgians: b. Brussels, 9 April 1835; d. Brussels, 17 Dec. 1909. He was the eldest son of Leopold I, and married in 1853 Maria Henrietta, Archduchess of Austria (d. 1902), daughter of Archduke Joseph of Austria. He early manifested great interest in the opening up of central Africa, and in 1876 organized at Brussels the African International Association, the purpose of which was to utilize African discoveries for commercial purposes. He aided, and to a large extent financed, Stan ley's explorations on the Kongo in 1879-82. By the Berlin Congress of 1885 the Kongo Free State was formed, its territory neutralized and its sovereignty conferred on King Leopold. In 1889 the king willed this domain to the Belgian people. Certain grave scandals in connection with its administration and the commercial ex ploitation of the natives in the profits of which the king shared were brought to light in 1903 and action taken by the British Parlia ment to have an inquiry into the abuses com plained of. The result was that reforms were

effected, and in 1908 the Kongo Free State be came a Belgian colony. King Leopold was a man of notoriously immoral life. But he was an able monarch, who governed as well as reigned, and initiated many schemes for the commercial advancement of his country. Dur ing his reign its foreign commerce increased sixfold and its merchant fleet fivefold, and it began to take its place as a colonial power. His only son, Leopold, died in 1869; his second daughter, Stephanie, was married to Prince Rudolf of Austria who died mysteriously in 1889. He was succeeded by his nephew, Albert I (q.v.). Consult MacDonnell, J. de C., 'King Leopold II) (Landon 1905); Rappoport, A. S., (Leopold, King of the Belgians' (New York 1910).