Her Serene Highness Mademoiselle Louise-Marie Thérèse Charlotte Isabelle d’Orléans was born on 3 April 1812 at Palmero as the eldest daughter and second child of Louise Philippe, Duke of Orléans, and his wife Princess Maria Amalia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. In 1830, Louise-Marie’s parents became the King and Queen of the French when the Orléans branch of the French royal fouse ascended to the throne following the fall of their cousin King Charles X of France, who hailed from the senior Bourbon line. This was a bittersweet development for Queen Marie-Amélie as her aunt was the late Queen Marie Antoinette of France, who fell victim to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

When Louis Philippe became king, the title of his eighteen year-old daughter was upgraded to that of Her Royal Highness Princess Louise-Marie d’Orléans. The princess was raised along with her elder brother Ferdinand, Duke of Orléans, as well as with eight younger brothers and sisters: Princess Marie, Louis, Duke of Nemours, Princess Françoise (who died aged two), Princess Clémentine, François, Prince of Joinville, Charles, Duke of Penthièvre (who died aged eight), Henri, Duke of Aumale, and Antoine, Duke of Montpensier. All the surviving children of Louis Philippe and Marie-Amélie of the French contracted glittering marital alliances.

Princess Louise-Marie was the first of her siblings to marry. On 9 August 1832, the princess was wed to King Léopold I of the Belgians (1790-1865; né Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). Léopold had been elected as king of the Belgians the year prior to his second marriage. His first wife, Princess Charlotte of Great Britain, Ireland and Hannover, was the only child of the eventual King George IV and his wife Duchess Caroline of Braunschweig. Léopold and Charlotte married in 1816 in what was a mutually happy coupling for the pair; however, their joy was short-lived as Charlotte died in 1817 on the same day that she was delivered of a stillborn son. The death of Charlotte triggered a succession crisis in the Hanoverians of Great Britain, and led to the late princess’ numerous elderly uncles rushing into unions with eligible (and younger) princesses in order to produce an heir to secure the future of the dynasty.

By virtue of her marriage, Louise-Marie became the first Queen of the Belgians. She and King Léopold quickly set about establishing a family. Their first child, a son and heir, was born on 24 July 1833. He was named Louis Philippe Léopold Victor Ernest after his maternal grandfather, his father, and his cousin Queen Victoria. At his birth, Louis Philippe automatically became Crown Prince of Belgium. Sadly, the infant boy passed away due to an inflammation of his mucous membranes on 16 May 1834, two months before he would have celebrated his first birthday.

The second child of King Léopold and Queen Louise-Marie entered the world on 9 April 1835. Owing to the death of his older brother the previous year, Prince Léopold Louis Philippe Marie Victor was first in the line of succession after his father, who he succeeded upon the death of Léopold I in 1865. King Léopold II married Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria in 1853. As the couple’s only son, another Léopold, died at the age of nine in 1869, Léopold II and Marie Henriette do not count the current Royal House of Belgium amongst their descendants. The King and Queen went on to have three daughters, the Princesses Louise (1858-1924), Stéphanie (1864-1945), and Clémentine (1872-1955). Princess Louise married her cousin Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in a union which ended in divorce after the birth of two children. Princess Stéphanie married the ill-fated Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, with whom she had a daughter, before Rudolf committed suicide with his mistress in 1889 at Mayerling. Only the youngest daughter of the king, Clémentine, found a “happy ever after” with her choice of husband. The princess had fallen in love with Prince Victor Napoléon during her father’s reign. However, Léopold II forbid the union on the grounds that it would offend the French Republic. Clémentine’s devotion to her Victor stood the test of time, and after her father died in 1909, the princess secured the approval of her cousin, King Albert I of the Belgians, for her marital plans. Princess Clémentine of Belgium and Prince Victor Napoléon married in 1910 and became the parents of two children, Marie-Clotilde and Louis.

Léopold and Louise-Marie’s third child and third son, Philippe, was born on 24 March 1837. Titled the Count of Flanders, Prince Philippe married Princess Marie of Hohenzollern in 1867. Philippe and Marie had five children: Prince Baudouin (1869-1891), Princess Henriette (1870-1948), the short-lived Princess Joséphine (1870-1871), the long-lived Princess Joséphine (1872-1958), and Prince Albert (1875-1934). The Count of Flanders died in 1905 before his elder brother. Therefore, when Léopold II left his earthly frame in 1909, he was succeeded by his nephew, Albert. King Albert I of the Belgians had married Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria in 1900. Their descendants include the modern Belgian royal family and Luxembourgish grand ducal family.

The only daughter and final child of King Léopold I and his wife was born on 7 Jun 1840. Princess Maria Charlotte Amélie Auguste Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine of Belgium was destined for a tragic future. In 1857, Charlotte married Archduke Maximilian of Austria, the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph: the couple were never able to have children of their own. Maximilian and Charlotte reigned as the last Emperor and Empress of Mexico between 1864 and 1867, the year in which Maximilian was executed by the troops of Benito Juarez. Already suffering from declining mental health, and having been in Europe since 1876 seeking aid for her husband, Empress Charlotte rather lost her mind when she was informed of her husband’s brutal end. She lived out her days at Bouchout Castle in Meise, Belgium. After a bout of pneumonia, the Dowager Empress of Mexico died at the great age of eighty-six. Charlotte was the last surviving child of King Léopold I and Queen Louise-Marie of the Belgians.

Queen Louise-Marie of the Belgians (1812-1850)

Queen Louise-Marie of the Belgians never had the opportunity to meet any of her grandchildren. The queen died at the age of thirty-eight on 11 October 1850 at Ostend. She rests beside her husband in Royal Crypt of the Church of Our Lady of Laeken.

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