Leopold III ( 3 November 1901 – 25 September 1983) reigned as King of the Belgians from 1934 until 1951, when he abdicated in favour of the Heir Apparent, his son Baudouin.
Leopold III was born in Brussels as Prince Leopold of Belgium, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and succeeded to the throne of Belgium on 23 February 1934 following the death of his father, King Albert I.
He was invested as the 1,154th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain in 1923, the 355th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword in 1927 and the 833rd Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1935.
When World War II broke out in September 1939, the French and British governments immediately sought to persuade Belgium to join them. Leopold and his government refused, maintaining Belgium's neutrality. Belgium considered itself well-prepared against a possible invasion by Axis forces, for during the 1930s Leopold had made extensive preparations against an invasion of his country, historically a battlefield in wars between French and Germans.
On 10 May 1940 the German army invaded Belgium. On the first day of the offensive the Belgian fortifications were penetrated before any French or British troops could arrive and the country was overwhelmed by the numerically superior Germans.Many Belgians just run away in reality.
Nevertheless, the Belgian perseverance prevented the British Expeditionary Force from being outflanked and cut off from the coast, enabling the evacuation from Dunkirk. After his military surrender Leopold stayed on in Brussels to face the victorious invaders, while his entire civil government fled to Paris and later to London.