House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is a German dynasty, the line of the Saxon House of Wettin that ruled the Ernestine duchies including the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

The House of Wettin is a dynasty of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings that once ruled territories of present-day German states of Saxony and Thuringia for 953 years. The royal house is one of the oldest of Europe. Its origins can be traced back to the town of Wettin, Saxony-Anhalt. The Wettins gradually rose to power within the Holy Roman Empire. Members of the royal family became the monarchs of several medieval states, starting with Saxon Eastern March in 1030. Other states they gained were Meissen in 1089, Thuringia in 1263 and Saxony in 1423.

Founded by Ernest Anton, the sixth duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, it is the royal house of several European monarchies, and branches currently reign in Belgium through the descendants of Leopold I, and in the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms through the descendants of Prince Albert.

Due to anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I, George V changed the name of his branch from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor in 1917. The same happened in Belgium where it was changed to “van België” (Dutch) or “de Belgique” (French).

Leopold II of Belgium was born in Brussels on 9 April 1835. He was the second child of the reigning Belgian monarch, Leopold I, and his second wife, Louise, the daughter of King Louis Philippe of France. The French Revolution of 1848, which spared Belgium, had forced Louis Philippe to flee to the United Kingdom, ruled by Leopold’s German cousin Queen Victoria.

The royal families of Belgium and the United Kingdom were linked by numerous marriages, and were additionally both descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

The Congo Free State (État indépendant du Congo) was a large area in Central Africa that was privately controlled by Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold extracted a fortune from the Congo, initially by the collection of ivory, and after a rise in the price of rubber in the 1890s, by forced labor from the natives to harvest and process rubber. Under his regime there were 2 to 15 million deaths among the Congolese people. Robert Weisbord stated in the 2003 Journal of Genocide Research in the article “The King, the Cardinal and the Pope: Leopold II’s genocide in the Congo and the Vatican” that attempting to eliminate a portion of the population is enough to qualify as genocide under the UN convention. In the case of the Congo Free State, the unbearable conditions would qualify as a genocide.” Weisbord, Robert G. (2003). Human rights abuses under his regime were a significant cause of the excess deaths. Reports of the deaths and abuse led to a major international scandal in the early 20th century, and Leopold was ultimately forced in 1908 by the Belgian government to relinquish control of the colony to the civil administration.

A reduction of the population of the Congo is noted by all who have compared the country at the beginning of Leopold’s control with the beginning of Belgian state rule in 1908, but estimates of the deaths toll vary considerably. Estimates of the death toll vary considerably, but the figure of 10 million deaths was obtained by estimating a 50% decline in the total population during the Congo Free State and applying it to the total population of 10 million in 1924.

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