In the The Romanovs: One Last Dance Novel:
The future King Leopold III was born Leopold Philippe Charles Albert Meinrad Hubertus Marie Miguel, His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Belgium, Duke of Brabant, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on 3 November 1901 at Laeken Palace, just outside of Brussels. His father, King Albert I of the Belgians, was the nephew of the late King Philippe II. Leopold's mother, Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria, was the eldest child of Karl Feodor of Bavaria by his second wife, Marie Josephe of Braganza. Leopold had two younger siblings: Charles (born 1903) and Marie-Jose (born 1906); each was named for their maternal grandparents.
In April of 1915, Prince Leopold joined the King's Private 12th Belgian regiment at age 14. The King told his son's regiment officer, "make him dig trenches, let him see what it's like to have blistered hands." Leopold fought with this regiment during the Great War, after which he studied at St. Anthony's Seminary in the United States, beginning in 1919.
Always a big fan of nature and a seasoned traveller, especially with his mother, Leopold joined her on one of many get away trips to Sweden in 1926. That same year, he was introduced to Princess Astrid, the niece of King Gustaf V. After a whirlwind romance, the couple wed on 4 September 1926 in Stockholm. The newlyweds travelled the world, and became famous for their ability to show affection for one another in public; something most royals at the time rarely did.
Astrid and Leopold had three children: Josephine-Charlotte (born October 1927), Baudouin (born September 1930) and Albert (born June 1934). Both sons would later become King of the Belgians.
Astrid gave birth to a second son on 6 June 1934, named for his grandfather. Just months later, Leopold's father, King Albert, was killed in a hiking accident in February 1935; Leopold was now king. That August, Queen Astrid joined her husband on a getaway to Switzerland. Leopold was driving when the car swerved and crashed, throwing Astrid from the vehicle. While the future king survived with a broken arm, his wife did not survive.
Much to the dismay of his brother Charles, Queen Elisabeth gave her consent for Leopold to marry again, and to a commoner. But Leopold's happiness was to be put on hold; in May 1940, Hitler's army had invaded Brussels, even after extensive preparations by King Leopold and the parliament had been set in place years before to prevent such a catastrophe. On 27 May 1940, Leopold gave in, telling his people: "Whatever happens, I have to share the same fate as my troops." The King's new fiancée Lilian Baels and his young children accompanied him to exile in France. However, the family's safety was only temporary; Paris was invaded by the German army before the year's end. Meanwhile, King Leopold married the English-born Lilian while under the watch of German eyes, on 11 September 1941; their union was officially announced on December 7. Born in Britain in 1916, Lilian was quite a bit younger than her new husband, but a fun spirit none the less. She gave birth to the couple's first child, Alexander on 18 August 1942. In 1944, Leopold was sent to Switzerland in exile, along with Lilian and Alexander, while the King's three elder children remained in Brussels. With Baudouin too young to rule, the crown temporarily fell to the King's disgruntled younger brother Charles. Upon royal family's return to Brussels in 1945, Leopold reluctantly reinstated himself as King. Meanwhile, he and Lilian would welcome two more children together: Marie-Christine, affectionately known as "Daphne", arrived in 1951 and little Marie-Esmeralda, who was nicknamed 'Esme', came in 1956. When King Leopold felt the time was right, he stepped down from the throne, handing his kingly duties to Baudouin in 1951, and spent the rest of his days writing and traveling the world for as possible.
King Leopold III died in September of 1983. His second wife survived him by nineteen years, dying in 2002. His second son by Astrid has reigned as King Albert II since Baudouin's death in 1991, and has three legitimate children and ten grandchildren; he abdicated in 2013 in favor of his eldest son, Philippe. In 2020, Albert publicly admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock, the newly-created Princess Delphine, formerly Delphine Boel, born in 1968, as a result of the King's affair with Sybille de Selys Longchamps.
King Leopold's daughter Daphne has remained estranged from the rest of the family. While Leopold's three children with Lillian hold the style and titles of HRH Prince/ss of Belgium, they also keep in contact with the rest of the family. Marie-Esmeralda has since married twice and has two children: Alexandra and Leopoldo with her second husband. She writes under the name Esmeralda de Rethy. Josephine-Charlotte, Leopold's daughter with Astrid, married the Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg in 1953. Together they had five children and twenty-one grandchildren.
In the "What If?" Storyline:
It takes one quite some time to become accustomed to living under the same roof with another person...especially someone has humorous as Stasie! I can still hardly believe it myself, but I am a married man now. My wife, the fourth daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, is quite a catch, if I do say so myself! Anastasia - I like to call her 'Stasie' - is a funny girl, with a rather tomboyish way about her, and a rough and wild sense of humor.
She's quite the feisty little thing - literally! I'm quite a bit taller than she, but it doesn't seem to bother her much. I think she's just taken by my looks...which I've never been too impressed with really. Stasie is worrisome, to the point of tears - something I think she comes by honesty via her mother, the empress, poor thing! But we have had good times together and learn new things from each other...whether we want to or not!
Our petit Philippe is doing well, growing all too fast and quickly learning that he can make noises! Maman is beyond pleased and Papa is quite ecstatic, although I think it will take some time for ma chere Stasie to become accustomed to being someone's 'Maman'. I'm quite taken aback myself at the prospect of fatherhood, although I'm looking forward to it with great anticipation. I wish to teach him things...everything and anything I can think of! Of course he'll learn languages; certainly French, Dutch and English. Perhaps even a bit of Russian! I see no reason why he should not; after all, it is his mother's native tongue. And then of course there are the protocols of being a prince and heir to the throne; he'll have to master all sorts of things! I do hope Papa can help me in this matter, as I am still learning so much myself!
We've returned to Saint Petersburg, but for such a somber affair, as poor Stasie mother, The Empress, has passed away. I am at a loss of how to comfort her, as she's not one to show emotion, but cannot help it, as she is again in the family way. It saddens me to see her so miserable, yet there's not much I can do to help!
Border & Background from the Inspiration Gallery