The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Belgian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Belgian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Belgian Politicians.
With an HPI of 88.24, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor is the most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 94 different languages on wikipedia.
Charles V (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria from 1519 to 1556, King of Spain (Castile and Aragon) from 1516 to 1556, and Lord of the Netherlands as titular Duke of Burgundy from 1506 to 1555. As he was head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire, extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over the Austrian hereditary lands and the Burgundian Low Countries, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and the short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the Sun never sets".Charles was born in the County of Flanders to Philip the Handsome of the Austrian House of Habsburg (son of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Mary of Burgundy) and Joanna of Castile of the Spanish House of Trastámara (daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon). The ultimate heir of his four grandparents, he inherited all of his family dominions at a young age. After the death of Philip in 1506, he inherited the Burgundian Netherlands, originally held by his paternal grandmother Mary. In 1516, he became co-monarch of Spain with his mother Joanna, and as such he was the first king of Spain to inherit the country as dynastically unified by the Catholic Monarchs, his maternal grandparents. The Spanish possessions at his accession also included the Castilian West Indies and the Aragonese Kingdoms of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia. At the death of his paternal grandfather Maximilian in 1519, he inherited Austria and was elected to succeed him as Holy Roman Emperor. He adopted the Imperial name of Charles V as his main title, and styled himself as a new Charlemagne.Charles V revitalized the medieval concept of the universal monarchy and spent most of his life defending the integrity of the Holy Roman Empire from the Protestant Reformation, the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, and a series of wars with France. With no fixed capital city, he made 40 journeys, travelling from country to country; he spent a quarter of his reign on the road. The imperial wars were fought by German Landsknechte, Spanish tercios, Burgundian knights, and Italian condottieri. Charles V borrowed money from German and Italian bankers and, in order to repay such loans, he relied on the proto-capitalist economy of the Low Countries and on the flows of gold and especially silver from South America to Spain, which caused widespread inflation. He ratified the Spanish conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires by the Spanish Conquistadores Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro, as well as the establishment of Klein-Venedig by the German Welser family in search of the legendary El Dorado. In order to consolidate power in his early reign, Charles suppressed two Spanish insurrections (Comuneros' Revolt and Brotherhoods' Revolt) and two German rebellions (Knights' Revolt and Great Peasants' Revolt). Crowned King in Germany, Charles sided with Pope Leo X and declared Martin Luther an outlaw at the Diet of Worms (1521). The same year Francis I of France, surrounded by the Habsburg possessions, started a conflict in Lombardy that lasted until the Battle of Pavia (1525) led to his temporary imprisonment. The Protestant affair re-emerged in 1527 as Rome was sacked by an army of Charles's mutinous soldiers, largely of Lutheran faith. After his forces left the Papal States, Charles V defended Vienna from the Turks and obtained the coronation as King in Italy by Pope Clement VII. In 1535, he annexed the vacant Duchy of Milan and captured Tunis. Nevertheless, the loss of Buda during the struggle for Hungary and the Algiers expedition in the early 40s frustrated his anti-Ottoman policies. Meanwhile, Charles V had come to an agreement with Pope Paul III for the organisation of the Council of Trent (1545). The refusal of the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League to recognize the council's validity led to a war, won by Charles V with the imprisonment of the Protestant princes. However, Henry II of France offered new support to the Lutheran cause and strengthened a close alliance with the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire since 1520. Ultimately, Charles V conceded the Peace of Augsburg and abandoned his multi-national project with a series of abdications in 1556 that divided his hereditary and imperial domains between the Spanish Habsburgs headed by his son Philip II of Spain and the Austrian Habsburgs headed by his brother Ferdinand, who was Archduke of Austria in Charles's name since 1521 and the designated successor as emperor since 1531. The Duchy of Milan and the Habsburg Netherlands were left in personal union to the King of Spain, but remained part of the Holy Roman Empire. The two Habsburg dynasties remained allied until the extinction of the Spanish line in 1700. In 1557, Charles retired to the Monastery of Yuste in Extremadura and died there a year later.
With an HPI of 85.16, Pepin the Short is the 2nd most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.
Pepin the Short, also called the Younger (German: Pippin der Jüngere, French: Pépin le Bref, c. 714 – 24 September 768) was King of the Franks from 751 until his death in 768. He was the first Carolingian to become king.The younger son of the Frankish prince Charles Martel and his wife Rotrude, Pepin's upbringing was distinguished by the ecclesiastical education he had received from the monks of St. Denis. Succeeding his father as the Mayor of the Palace in 741, Pepin reigned over Francia jointly with his elder brother Carloman. Pepin ruled in Neustria, Burgundy and Provence, while his older brother Carloman established himself in Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia. The brothers were active in suppressing revolts led by the Bavarians, Aquitanians, Saxons and the Alemanni in the early years of their reign. In 743, they ended the Frankish interregnum by choosing Childeric III, who was to be the last Merovingian monarch, as figurehead king of the Franks. Being well disposed towards the church and papacy on account of their ecclesiastical upbringing, Pepin and Carloman continued their father's work in supporting Saint Boniface in reforming the Frankish church, and evangelising the Saxons. After Carloman, who was an intensely pious man, retired to religious life in 747, Pepin became the sole ruler of the Franks. He suppressed a revolt led by his half-brother Grifo, and succeeded in becoming the undisputed master of all Francia. Giving up pretense, Pepin then forced Childeric into a monastery and had himself proclaimed king of the Franks with support of Pope Zachary in 751. The decision was not supported by all members of the Carolingian family and Pepin had to put down a revolt led by Carloman's son, Drogo, and again by Grifo. As king, Pepin embarked on an ambitious program to expand his power. He reformed the legislation of the Franks and continued the ecclesiastical reforms of Boniface. Pepin also intervened in favour of the papacy of Stephen II against the Lombards in Italy. He was able to secure several cities, which he then gave to the Pope as part of the Donation of Pepin. This formed the legal basis for the Papal States in the Middle Ages. The Byzantines, keen to make good relations with the growing power of the Frankish empire, gave Pepin the title of Patricius. In wars of expansion, Pepin conquered Septimania from the Islamic Umayyads, and subjugated the southern realms by repeatedly defeating Waiofar and his Gascon troops, after which the Gascon and Aquitanian lords saw no option but to pledge loyalty to the Franks. Pepin was, however, troubled by the relentless revolts of the Saxons and the Bavarians. He campaigned tirelessly in Germany, but the final subjugation of these tribes was left to his successors. Pepin died in 768 and was succeeded by his sons Charlemagne and Carloman. Although unquestionably one of the most powerful and successful rulers of his time, Pepin's reign is largely overshadowed by that of his more famous son, Charlemagne.
With an HPI of 84.74, Clovis I is the 3rd most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 77 different languages.
Clovis (Latin: Chlodovechus; reconstructed Frankish: *Hlodowig; c. 466 – 27 November 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries. Clovis succeeded his father, Childeric I, as a king of Salian Franks in 481, and eventually came to rule an area extending from what is now the southern Netherlands to northern France, corresponding in Roman terms to Gallia Belgica (northern Gaul). At the Battle of Soissons (486) he established his military dominance of the rump state of the fragmenting Western Roman Empire which was then under the command of Syagrius. By the time of his death in either 511 or 513, Clovis had conquered several smaller Frankish tribes in the northeast of Gaul including some northern parts of what is now France. Clovis also conquered the Alemanni tribes in eastern Gaul, and the Visigothic kingdom of Aquitania in the southwest. These campaigns added significantly to Clovis's domains, and established his dynasty as a major political and military presence in western Europe. Clovis is important in the historiography of France as "the first king of what would become France".Clovis is also significant due to his conversion to Catholicism in 496, largely at the behest of his wife, Clotilde, who would later be venerated as a saint for this act, celebrated today in both the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. Clovis was baptized on Christmas Day in 508. The adoption by Clovis of Catholicism (as opposed to the Arianism of most other Germanic tribes) led to widespread conversion among the Frankish peoples; to religious unification across what is now modern-day France, Belgium and Germany; three centuries later, to Charlemagne's alliance with the Bishop of Rome; and in the middle of the 10th century under Otto I the Great, to the consequent birth of the early Holy Roman Empire.
With an HPI of 82.15, Leopold II of Belgium is the 4th most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.
Leopold II (9 April 1835 – 17 December 1909) was the second King of the Belgians from 1865 to 1909 and, through his own efforts, the owner and absolute ruler of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908. Born in Brussels as the second but eldest surviving son of Leopold I and Louise of Orléans, he succeeded his father to the Belgian throne in 1865 and reigned for 44 years until his death—the longest reign of any Belgian monarch. He died without surviving legitimate sons. The current Belgian king descends from his nephew and successor, Albert I. Leopold was the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State, a private project undertaken on his own behalf. He used Henry Morton Stanley to help him lay claim to the Congo, the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, the colonial nations of Europe authorized his claim by committing the Congo Free State to improving the lives of the native inhabitants. Leopold ignored these conditions and ran the Congo using the mercenary Force Publique for his personal gain. He extracted a fortune from the territory, initially by the collection of ivory, and after a rise in the price of natural rubber in the 1890s, by forced labour from the native population to harvest and process rubber. Leopold's administration of the Congo Free State was characterised by atrocities, including torture and murder, resulting from notorious systematic brutality. In 1890, George Washington Williams coined the term "crimes against humanity" to describe the practices of Leopold II of Belgium's administration of the Congo Free State. The hands of men, women, and children were amputated when the quota of rubber was not met and millions of the Congolese people died. Colonial accounts typically emphasized Leopold's modernizing changes in the Congo and not the genocide he facilitated. These and other facts were established at the time by eyewitness testimony, on-site inspection by an international commission of inquiry, and the 1904 Casement Report. Modern estimates range from 1 million to 15 million deaths, with a consensus growing around 10 million. Some historians argue against these figures, citing the lack of reliable censuses, the enormous mortality caused by smallpox and African trypanosomiasis, and the fact that there were only 175 administrative agents in charge of rubber exploitation. In 1908, the reports of deaths and abuse and pressure from the Congo Reform Association and other international groups induced the Belgian government to take over the administration of the Congo from Leopold as a new territory, Belgian Congo.
With an HPI of 80.48, Philip I of Castile is the 5th most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 49 different languages.
Philip the Handsome (22 July 1478 – 25 September 1506), also called the Fair, was Duke of Burgundy from 1482 to 1506 and the first Habsburg King of Castile (as Philip I) for a brief time in 1506. The son of Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy, Philip was less than four years old when his mother died, and upon her death, he inherited the Burgundian Netherlands. In 1496, his father arranged for him to marry Joanna, the second daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Around the same time, Philip's sister Margaret was given in marriage to Joanna's brother John, Prince of Asturias, as part of an agreement between their fathers. After the deaths of her elder siblings John and Isabella and her infant nephew, Miguel da Paz, Prince of Portugal, Joanna became heir presumptive to the thrones of Castile and Aragon. She became Queen of Castile when her mother died in 1504. Philip was proclaimed King in 1506, but died a few months later, leaving his wife distraught with grief. Philip was the first Habsburg monarch in Spain, and is the progenitor of every later monarch of Spain, even up to today. He died before his father, and therefore never inherited his father's territories or became Holy Roman Emperor. However, his son Emperor Charles V eventually united the Habsburg, Burgundian, Castilian, and Aragonese inheritances. Philip holds a special place in Habsburg history because he was the pivot around which the dynasty acquired a large portion of its extensive lands. By inheriting the Burgundian Netherlands and acquiring much of Spain and its possessions in the New World by marriage to Joanna, Philip was instrumental in vastly enhancing the territories of the Habsburgs, and his progeny would dominate European history for the next two centuries. Philip's wife Joanna was an elder sister to Catherine of Aragon, who married successively the brothers Arthur, Prince of Wales, and King Henry VIII of England. Philip did once visit England, and the young Prince Henry was much impressed with him. Indeed, Henry is said to have regarded Philip as providing a model of leadership towards which he aspired.
With an HPI of 79.89, Albert II of Belgium is the 6th most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.
Albert II (born 6 June 1934) was King of the Belgians from 1993 to 2013. King Albert II is the son of King Leopold III, and the last living child of Queen Astrid, born princess of Sweden. He is the younger brother of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg and King Baudouin, whom he succeeded upon Baudouin's death in 1993. He married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria (now Queen Paola), with whom he had three children. Albert's eldest son, Philippe, is the current King of the Belgians. On 3 July 2013, King Albert II attended a midday session of the Belgian cabinet. He then announced that, on 21 July, Belgian National Day, he would abdicate the throne for health reasons. He was succeeded by his son Philippe on 21 July 2013. Albert II was the fourth monarch to abdicate in 2013, following Pope Benedict XVI, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Emir Hamad bin Khalifa of Qatar. In so doing, he was also the second Belgian monarch to abdicate, following his father Leopold III who abdicated in 1951, albeit under very different circumstances.
With an HPI of 79.19, Leopold III of Belgium is the 7th most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 61 different languages.
Leopold III (3 November 1901 – 25 September 1983) was King of the Belgians from 1934 until 1951. On the outbreak of World War II, Leopold tried to maintain Belgian neutrality, but after the German invasion in May 1940, he surrendered his country, earning him much hostility, both at home and abroad. His act was declared unconstitutional by Prime Minister Hubert Pierlot and his cabinet, who presently moved to London to form a government-in-exile, while Leopold and his family were placed under house arrest. In 1944, they were moved to Germany and then Austria, before being liberated by the Americans, but banned for some years from returning to Belgium, where his brother Prince Charles had been declared regent. Leopold's eventual return to his homeland in 1950 nearly caused a civil war, and under pressure from the government, he abdicated in favour of his son, Prince Baudouin, in July 1951. Leopold's first wife, Astrid of Sweden, was killed in a road accident while on a driving holiday in Switzerland in August 1935, being much mourned by the public. His second morganatic marriage, to Lilian Baels in captivity in 1941, was not valid under Belgian law, and she was never permitted the title of queen.
With an HPI of 78.79, Mary of Burgundy is the 8th most famous Belgian Politician. Her biography has been translated into 47 different languages.
Mary (French: Marie; Dutch: Maria; 13 February 1457 – 27 March 1482), Duchess of Burgundy, reigned over the Burgundian State, now mainly in France and the Low Countries, from 1477 until her death in a riding accident at the age of 25. As the only child of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife Isabella of Bourbon, she inherited the Burgundian lands upon the death of her father in the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. She spent most of her reign defending her birthright; in order to counter the appetite of the French king Louis XI for her lands, she married Maximilian of Habsburg, who became Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I long after her death. The marriage was a turning point in European politics, leading to a French–Habsburg rivalry that would endure for centuries.
With an HPI of 78.78, Albert I of Belgium is the 9th most famous Belgian Politician. His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.
Albert I (8 April 1875 – 17 February 1934) reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 to 1934. He ruled during an eventful period in the history of Belgium, which included the period of World War I (1914–1918), when 90 percent of Belgium was overrun, occupied, and ruled by the German Empire. Other crucial issues included the adoption of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, the ruling of the Belgian Congo as an overseas possession of the Kingdom of Belgium along with the League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi, the reconstruction of Belgium following the war, and the first five years of the Great Depression (1929–1934). King Albert died in a mountaineering accident in eastern Belgium in 1934, at the age of 58, and he was succeeded by his son Leopold III (r. 1934–1951). He is popularly referred to as the "Knight King" (roi-chevalier or koning-ridder) or "Soldier King" (roi-soldat or koning-soldaat) in Belgium in reference to his role during World War I.
With an HPI of 78.29, Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy is the 10th most famous Belgian Politician. Her biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Archduchess Margaret of Austria (German: Margarete von Österreich; French: Marguerite d'Autriche; Dutch: Margaretha van Oostenrijk; Spanish: Margarita de Austria; 10 January 1480 – 1 December 1530), suo jure Countess of Artois, was Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1507 to 1515 and again from 1519 to 1530. She was the first of many female regents in the Netherlands. A central political figure of the early 16th century, Margaret was one of the greatest government administrators, political negotiators, and patrons of her time. She helped Emperor Charles V overcome his uncertain steps at the beginning of his reign and was an invaluable asset to his rule until her death.
Pantheon has 131 people classified as politicians born between 100 BC and 1980. Of these 131, 25 (19.08%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Albert II of Belgium, Ursula von der Leyen, and Herman Van Rompuy. The most famous deceased politicians include Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Pepin the Short, and Clovis I. As of October 2020, 13 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Princess Joséphine Caroline of Belgium, Sophie Wilmès, and Henri Jaspar.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.