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The author of the delightful and illuminating do of the royal families of Spain (Royal Vendetta--1966) now takes on a much more recent dynasty, the throne of Belgium. The dramatis personae here are relatively few. Perhaps the most enterprising and remarkable of the kings of Belgium was the first one, Leopold I, ""pale, handsome and cold-hearted"" third son of a petty German princeling. Certainly this charming opportunist wrung every ounce of advantage from his good looks and winning ways, and during the ""rush to the cradle"" era of British heir-production he became uncle by marriage to the young Queen Victoria. When the Belgians overthrew the Dutch and declared their independence, Leopold, by this time much in evidence at court and marriage chapel, was offered the throne of the new country. Leopold I was a strong but ""constitutional monarch"" who kept Belgian neutrality; Leopold II increased his power at a time of toppling thrones but cruelly exploited the Congo, was notoriously extravagant in amors; Albert with his beautiful, kindly Queen Elizabeth, was a hero of World War II, Leopold III was forced to abdicate. In impetuousness, strength and skill in diplomacy the kings were occasionally outshone by their women the tragic Queen of Mexico, Charlotte; the lively daughters of Leopold II; the magnificent Queen Elizabeth. Perhaps less witty than Royal Vendetta, because the author treads lightly among contemporary personalities and their but this is a jolly arras-view of a regal round. Gossip and grandeur.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1968
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill