Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


WIENER, Léopold: Belgium, 1865, Bronze, 77 mm
Obv: Bust of Leopold II    LEOPOLD II ROI DES BELGES
Rev: On the steps of the throne, King Leopold standing grandly with arm outstretched toward female figure symbolizing the legislature of Belgium who is holding a staff and is leaning against a tablet inscribed, LEX BELGICA. Below on a pedestal is written VOTE 1830, indicating that the king is swearing to observe the constitutional laws of 1830. Behind Leopold is a throne emblazoned with the Belgium Coat of Arms. Around, 17 DEC: 1865
Ref: Med. Hist. Belg. 55/21;  Forrer VI, p. 494;  Weiss BW279

Leopold Louis Philippe Marie Victor (1835-1909) was born in Brussels, where he was given the title of Duc of Brabant. In 1853 he married Marie Henriette Anne d'Autriche, Archduchess of Austria. Leopold II became King of Belgium on the death of his father Leopold I in 1865.  He is noted largely for his acquisition of the Belgium Congo in Africa, which he obtained and administered through the harsh and oppressive treatment of its native inhabitants. He accomplished this colonial expansion initially by sponsoring the expedition of Henry Stanley to the Congo. In 1885 Leopold established the Congo Free State (later The Belgium Congo, Zaire and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) under his own personal rule. In 1908 Sir Roger Casement's revelations of the exploitation of the Congolese rubber-gathers forced Leopold to cede the Congo to the Belgian state.  His subjugation and exploitation of the indigenous population to produce rubber on his many rubber plantations led to the death  and mutilation of millions of  black Africans.  Leopold's crimes, which have been compared to those of Hitler and Stalin, have been documented in the best selling history book by Adam Hochschild, which covers Leopold's actions in the Congo Free State between 1885 and 1908.

The medal commemorates the accession of Leopold II as King of Belgium in 1865.

LINK to review of King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild (from wikipedia)