During the German occupation of Belgium in the Second World War King Leopold III of Belgium was held under house arrest in his palace. In 1944, shortly before the liberation of Belgium, he and his family were deported to Germany. His brother Prince Charles managed to escape and hid in Sart-lez-Spa until the liberation of Belgium.
Since King Leopold III was still abroad and officially declared ’unable to rule’, his brother Prince Charles was appointed Regent on 20 September 1944. He endorsed the policy of the government in exile during the war. In May 1945 Leopold III was liberated by the Americans. However, Prince Charles remained in office as Regent. Successive governments could not agree to end the ’impossibility of reigning’ and part of the Belgian public was against the return of the king. Charles reigned until 20 July 1950, when the government officially proclaimed that his brother’s inability to rule had come to an end.
The question of the Kings ability to rule, the so called Royal Question, divided the country for several years. Many Belgians considered Prince Charles as the man who saved the monarchy. He supported the government’s foreign policy, that was contrary to the policy of neutrality recommended by his brother. Charles was an outstanding diplomat and during his regency Belgium resumed a role on the international stage. The foundation of the Benelux was ratified and Belgium became a member of the United Nations Organisation, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and of the Council of Europe. In 1950 a referendum brought Leopold III back on the throne. Prince Charles retired from public life and became a painter, known as Karel van Vlaanderen.