When Germany invaded Belgium in World War I, King Albert I took personal command of the Belgian Army. He led his army for 4 years, fighting alongside his troops, while his wife, Queen Elisabeth, worked as a nurse at the front. His 12 year-old son, the Crown Prince, also fought in the ranks

Albert I of Belgium

Sword of honor offered by the city of Paris to Albert I of Belgium

Albert wearing the uniform of a British infantry officer inspecting the front line with British and Belgian officers.

Uniform with war honours

At the start of World War I, Albert refused to comply with Germany’s request for safe passage for its troops through Belgium in order to attack France, which the Germans alleged was about to advance into Belgium en route to attacking Germany in support of Russia. In fact, the French Government had told its army commander not to go into Belgium before a German invasion. The German invasion brought Britain into the war as one of the guarantors of Belgian neutrality under the Treaty of 1839. King Albert, as prescribed by… Continue Reading (9 minute read)

15 thoughts on “When Germany invaded Belgium in World War I, King Albert I took personal command of the Belgian Army. He led his army for 4 years, fighting alongside his troops, while his wife, Queen Elisabeth, worked as a nurse at the front. His 12 year-old son, the Crown Prince, also fought in the ranks”

  1. malalatargaryen

    >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.

    >…

    >During his time on the front, rumours spread on both sides of the lines that the German soldiers never fired upon him out of respect for him being the highest ranked commander in harm’s way, while others feared risking punishment by the Kaiser himself, who was his cousin.

  2. GolgiApparatus1

    This war marked the end of the era where kings led their armies at the front. It really was the first ‘modern’ war.

  3. mermigx

    > In his youth, Albert was seriously concerned with the situation of the working classes in Belgium, and personally travelled around working class districts incognito, to observe the living conditions of the people

    I guess that rulers who give a shit about common people become popular and their name stays alive through history…

  4. poiuy43

    “C’mon now men over the top, for King and Country”

    “Ya mean you?”

    “Yes, now come now on the double”

  5. Loki-L

    A big improvement over his predecessor, Leopold II, who was one if histories greatest monsters and may have killed more Congolese than Hitler killed Jews.

  6. Raymond-H-Burr

    I am currently in the early chapters of The Guns of August. (I know WWII far better than WWI.) It amazes me at how well France knew the war was coming as well as both sides generally accepting the path through neutral Belgium was the path of attack.

  7. InternationalOne0

    So rare do you find a king worthy of his kingness

  8. luisapet

    “His 12 year old son, the Crown Prince also fought in the ranks”.

    Kids these days are soooooo sheltered! 😉

  9. 303ball

    Belgian resistance cost the Germans time and ultimately the war.

  10. tired_old_man_

    Leading from the front.

  11. Singer211

    He also died in a mountaineering accident later on.

    His entire family were a bunch of bad assets.

  12. Minovskyy

    The Belgium monarch is also the only European monarch titled “of the people”, not of the land or state. So Albert’s title was officially *King of the Belgians*, as opposed to King of Belgium.

  13. EV_M4Sherman

    Sounds like a badass, but he held the Belgian army on their little strip of ground and really didn’t allow French or British troops to launch attacks from his sector. As a result, the Entente which controlled the seas could use the coast to turn the German flank. Instead the many battles of Ypres were fought.

  14. illaj26

    I didn’t realize how badass Belgium was in WW1 until I listened to Dan Carlin’s podcast. They could have let the German army roll through and remain somewhat unscathed.

    Instead they opted to blow a bunch of their own bridges leading to France and deal with seriously harsh repercussions.

  15. Pinktail

    I vote to bring this tradition back, let the president’s and prime minister’s and their family too be on the frontline. Lets see then, how many wars will be waged.

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