L'opinion et le Roi : 1940-1944

  • José Gotovitch


This present study tries to encircle the image of King Leopold III as it was fashioned by public opinion during the occupation. It excludes the collaborationist movements and the exiled Belgians in London.  Different sources have been interrogated : reports on public opinion destinated to the Cabinet-in-exile in London, available diaries and most of all underground leafl,ets and newspapers.
The public opinion underwent a strong evolution from 1940 till 1944 and changed according to social classes. The author particularly describes some significant moments: the surrender of the army, the King's marriage, the forced labour. After a highly pronounced admiration during 1940, a very clear turn is already palpable at the end of 1941. This reverse is due to regained confidence in democracy. It translates the refusal
of dictatorial projects formulated in certain circles, intending to invest the King with absolute power in a corporative society, which should be rid of parliament and political parties. The image of the Royal prisoner of war received a decisive blow by his marriage. This deconsacration was reinforced by the germanophile sentiments, imputed to His court,
and by the royal silence kept about some methods of the occupational power.
The Church however proved to be a resolute defender of the King.  On the other hand, Flanders and Wallonia react differently. At Liège, the hostility even spreads among some christian-democratic circles.
Gradually the Royal Question, which has agitated the opinion from 1940-1942, fades away, and the deportation of Leopold III took place in a climate of indifference.
However, not a single authorized voice of the underground movement demands the retirement of the King at the moment of the liberation.  For all groups and parties it remains an open question, their only wish being to obtain explanations.
Thus, the Royal Question, based on the positions adopted during the occupation, can only be explained by the circumstances which happened after the war.

How to Cite:

Gotovitch, J., (1978) “L'opinion et le Roi : 1940-1944”, Res Publica 20(1), p.55-98. doi:

Download pdf
View PDF



Published on
30 Mar 1978
Peer Reviewed