The July Monarchy and Belgium

The July Monarchy and Belgium

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  • Louis Philippe I, King of the French (1773-1850).

    WINTERHALTER Franz Xaver (1805 - 1873)

  • Leopold Ier.

    DECAISNE Henri (1799 - 1852)

  • Marriage of Leopold Ier, King of the Belgians, and Louise of Orleans, August 9, 1832.

    COURT Joseph-Désiré (1797 - 1865)

Louis Philippe I, King of the French (1773-1850).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Marriage of Leopold Ier, King of the Belgians, and Louise of Orleans, August 9, 1832.

Author : COURT Joseph-Désiré (1797 - 1865)

Date shown: August 9, 1832

Dimensions: Height 90 - Width 116

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Château de Compiègne website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet web site

Picture reference: 91DE583 / MV 5122

Marriage of Leopold Ier, King of the Belgians, and Louise of Orleans, August 9, 1832.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Publication date: August 2008

Historical context

Alongside its big neighbors, France and Great Britain, Belgium is a very young state: barely one hundred and eighty years of existence! For several centuries, it was just one of the many provinces - the Catholic Netherlands ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs - that made up the vast empire formed by Charles V. Napoleon Ier accomplished a profound legal reform there, and modern Belgium still owes it most of its civil code.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna united the Southern Netherlands and the Northern Netherlands under the authority of William Ier Orange: it is about creating a powerful buffer state to contain France. Definitively freed from Dutch tutelage, it can finally set up its institutions and stand on its own feet.

Image Analysis

Official portrait painter of the great courts of Europe, Franz-Xaver Winterhalter (1806-1873) represented the "citizen king" in the uniform of lieutenant general, dressed in a black frock coat decorated with a double row of oak leaves and scarlet trousers with double band in gold braid. He carries to the side a sword with hilt, acorn and scabbard ornaments in gold. The red cordon of the Legion of Honor crosses his right shoulder. It features the insignia of the Legion of Honor and the Order of Leopold I on the from Belgium. His right hand rests on the renewed 1814 charter, constitutional guarantor of the agreement between Louis-Philippe and the French. Winterhalter sought to translate the complex personality of a sovereign into the dignity of his office: the royal figure standing out against a tormented sky symbolizes the monarch’s loneliness in the face of his responsibilities. Widely circulated, this portrait of the king has been the subject of numerous replicas.

A pupil of Gros and Girodet, the Belgian painter Henri Decaisne (1799-1852) was greatly appreciated by Louis-Philippe, who placed him in important commissions for the Historical Museum of Versailles, including this portrait of Leopold Ier, king of the Belgians. By choosing an artist born in Brussels, the King of the French pays a powerful tribute to the young Belgian nation and to its king, moreover his son-in-law since August 8, 1832. The artist has represented Leopold Ier standing at the foot of the platform on which sits the symbol of his office, no doubt alluding to the political difficulties encountered by Leopold to consolidate his power.

It was also Louis-Philippe who, on July 10, 1833, commissioned from Joseph-Désiré Court (1797-1865) a painting representing the marriage of his daughter, Princess Louise of Orleans, to Leopold Ier, King of the Belgians, in the chapel of the Château de Compiègne. This is an official, almost photographic, painting of the Catholic ceremony. The bride and groom are at the center of the canvas; on the left, the French witnesses and the clergy; on the right, standing behind the spouses, King Louis-Philippe and the Belgian witnesses, while Queen Marie-Amélie and three other princesses are kneeling; behind them, a group of guests, dominated by the tall figure of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Sebastiani de La Porta. A large number of guests gathered in the stands to attend the ceremony.


In 1832, the idea of ​​an alliance between the Belgian and French monarchies gradually seemed to take hold. Leopold Ier and Louis-Philippe both derive their power from a national revolution, and their respective positions remain fragile, at home and abroad. Ruler of the Netherlands, William of Orange did not accept Belgian independence: in August 1831, he launched an offensive against the young nation, and France militarily supported Belgium during the Ten Days campaign. Widower by first marriage of Charlotte, heir to the throne of England, whom he had married in 1816, Léopold broke his morganatic marriage with the actress Karoline Bauer: to ensure the future of his dynasty, the King of the Belgians must remarry and seek a royal alliance. For its part, the July Monarchy must establish itself on the international scene by concluding diplomatic alliances that would consolidate its position in Europe.

It is in this context that negotiations between France and Belgium begin, with a view to a union between Leopold Ier and Princess Louise of Orleans, eldest daughter of Louis-Philippe. The negotiations between the two sovereigns, however, will last several months. The establishment of the marriage contract is the subject of heated debate, as well as the religious aspects of the union. Louis-Philippe must negotiate with Pope Gregory XVI the conditions of a mixed marriage. Of Lutheran faith, Léopold accepts that his unborn children will be brought up in the Catholic religion, “this will be another link with the Belgian people” (in Théodore Juste, Leopold Ier, King of the Belgians: according to unpublished documents, 1868). Due to the cholera epidemic in Paris, the ceremony was finally celebrated on August 9, 1832, in the royal chapel of the Château de Compiègne.

Far from being an anecdotal event, this wedding is a political and diplomatic act of prime importance. Leopold Ier and Queen Louise, who were esteemed and popular rulers, are the founders of the present Belgian dynasty. It was not until 1839, after heavy fighting with the Netherlands, that Belgian independence was definitively acquired. No one better than Leopold took his role as constitutional monarch seriously. Remaining cautiously neutral during the European revolutions of 1848, he was undoubtedly one of the most astute rulers.

  • Belgium
  • Louis Philippe
  • wedding
  • July Monarchy
  • alliance policy

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "The July Monarchy and Belgium"

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