King Leopold II of Belgium is known for amassing a personal fortune by plundering the Congo Free State—a colony he owned—and exploiting its people and resources.
Leopold II is often cited as one of the architects of modern colonialism, and his reign in the Congo is considered one of the most brutal and oppressive in colonial history.
Leopold II was born into a wealthy family in Brussels in 1835. He was educated at the prestigious University of Oxford, where he developed a keen interest in exploration and colonial expansion. In 1876, he became King of the Belgians after the death of his father.
Leopold was known for being a tireless promoter of Belgian colonial expansion.
In 1884, Leopold is also known for convening the Berlin Conference, an international conference in Berlin to discuss ways to divide up Africa among the European colonial powers.
The Congo Free State was created as a result of this conference.
The Congo Free State was essentially Leopold’s personal fiefdom; he had complete control over its territory and its people.
Leopold’s regime in the Congo was known for using forced labor, horrific working and living conditions, and rampant disease.
Thousands of Congolese were killed or died from exhaustion, disease, or starvation.
For this reason, Leopold II is also known for killing an estimated 10 million Congolese people who died during Leopold’s rule.
This horrific death toll has led to Leopold being known as one of history’s greatest monsters.
His name is still synonymous with cruelty and exploitation today.
The abuses Leopold’s regime is known for sparked international outrage.
In 1908, Belgium finally annexed the Congo Free State and ended Leopold’s rule. Although he was no longer in power, Leopold continued to profit from the exploitation of the Congo and it is estimated that he personally amassed a fortune of $1 billion from the Congo.
Despite Leopold II being known for his role in causing such unimaginable suffering in the Congo, Leopold II remains an iconic figure in Belgium.
A number of prominent buildings and monuments are named after him, including the Royal Palace in Brussels and statues in several cities across Belgium. For many Belgians, Leopold II is known for being a great King who brought wealth and prosperity to their country.
King Leopold II of Belgium was one of the most controversial monarchs in history. While Leopold II is known for his many accomplishments, Leopold II is also remembered for his role in the Congo Free State, where millions of Africans were killed or died from disease and mistreatment.