Albert II

1397-1439, king of Germany and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 1438-39.

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▪ 2006
 On April 6, 2005, His Most Serene Highness Albert, hereditary prince of Monaco and marquis of Baux, ascended to the throne of the tiny Mediterranean principality upon the death of his father, Prince Rainier III (Rainier III ). Albert had ruled as regent during the last week of his father's life, and on July 12 he was formally enthroned as Prince Albert II. Under Rainier, Monaco had become a prosperous centre for banking, manufacturing, and tourism. Many observers wondered, however, whether Albert would be able to ensure the continued stability and prosperity of his realm. Rainier himself had expressed concern that Albert did not possess “the necessary toughness” to rule. Although the new ruler was considered intelligent and well prepared for his new role, in May news of an illegitimate son revived memories of the romantic scandals that had marred the public careers of Albert's sisters, the Princesses Caroline and Stephanie. Days before he was enthroned, Albert acknowledged that he was the father of the two-year-old son of a French-Togolese woman after the magazine Paris-Match published an interview in which she identified the prince as the father. In officially recognizing his relationship to the boy, Albert made his son an heir to a fortune worth more than a billion dollars—but not to the throne. In 2002 Rainier had modified Monaco's constitution to restrict the succession to “direct and legitimate” heirs, leaving the unmarried Albert without a direct heir.

      Albert-Alexandre-Louis-Pierre de Grimaldi was born on March 14, 1958, in Monaco, the second child and only son of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace. After his graduation with distinction from secondary school in 1976, Albert received training in the government of the principality. He graduated from Amherst (Mass.) College in 1981 with a B.A. in political science. Following a tour of duty with the French navy, he trained in business and in international law with firms in New York City and Paris. A lifelong sports enthusiast, Albert ran cross country while in college and attained a black belt in judo. He competed in the 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, and 2002 Winter Olympics as a member of Monaco's bobsleigh team. Beginning in 1985 he served in various capacities with the International Olympic Committee, and in 1994 he became chairman of the Monegasque Olympic Committee. Albert also maintained an active involvement in humanitarian activities. In 1982 he was named chairman of the Monaco Red Cross, and he later founded the Monaco Aid and Presence Association to alleviate poverty in Africa and other less-developed areas. He served as president of Monaco's delegation to the United Nations from 1993, when the principality was first admitted to the UN, until his accession.

Janet Moredock

▪ 1994

      On Aug. 9, 1993, Albert II was sworn in as the sixth king of the Belgians, succeeding his childless older brother, King Baudouin (see OBITUARIES (Baudouin I )), Europe's longest-reigning monarch at the time of his sudden death in July. Having shown little interest in becoming the king, Albert surprised many when he chose not to abdicate in favour of his elder son, Prince Philippe. Although groomed for the throne, Philippe was thought by some in the government to be less ready than his father to act as the head of state for a Belgium troubled by a faltering economy and increasing political divisiveness between French-speaking Wallonia and Flemish-speaking Flanders. Constitutional reform in 1993 both federalized the government and curbed the power of the monarchy, but Albert, like Baudouin, remained an important symbol of unity for a nation drifting toward dissolution. The new king, speaking in French, Flemish, and German, warned of the "menaces of individual and collective egoism" during a low-key investiture interrupted by a rebellious deputy's cry of "Long live the Republic of Europe!" A similar outburst had marred Baudouin's swearing-in 42 years previously.

      Albert Félix Humbert Théodore Christian Eugène Marie of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince of Belgium and Prince of Liège, was born June 6, 1934, in Brussels. His father, King Leopold III, chose house arrest over exile during the German occupation of Belgium in World War II, and the suspicion of collaboration raised by that decision eventually forced Leopold's abdication in favour of Baudouin in 1951. After being educated at home and in Geneva and Brussels, Prince Albert entered the Belgian navy in 1953. As the heir to the throne he became a member of the Belgian Senate. From 1962 until his ascension, the prince served as the honorary chairman of the Belgian Office of Foreign Trade, leading some 70 important trade missions and becoming an expert on shipping. However, that tenure was tainted by a 1979 kickback scandal involving Belgium's largest conglomerate and the construction of a hospital in Saudi Arabia. Prince Albert also served as the longtime president of the Belgian Red Cross and as a member of the International Olympic Committee.

      During his brother's lengthy reign, the prince acquired a reputation as a jet-setter. He enjoyed fast cars and boats and, clad in leather, took to the road on high-powered motorcycles. In 1959 he married Paola Ruffo di Calabria, a glamorous Italian princess once refused entrance to the Vatican because she was wearing a miniskirt. With her husband's ascension to the throne, she shared the title of queen with Baudouin's widow, Fabiola. In addition to Philippe (born 1960), the royal family included a daughter, Astrid (born 1962), and another son, Laurent (born 1963).

      (JEFF WALLENFELDT)

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▪ Holy Roman emperor

born Aug. 16, 1397
died Oct. 27, 1439, Neszmély, Hung.

      German king from 1438, king (Albert) of Hungary, king (Albrecht) of Bohemia, and duke (Albrecht) of Luxembourg. As a member of the Habsburg dynasty he was archduke (Albert V) of Austria from infancy (1404).

      On the death of his father-in-law, the Holy Roman emperor Sigismund, Albert was crowned king of Hungary (Jan. 1, 1438), elected king of Germany (March 18), and, despite opposition, actually crowned king of Bohemia (June 29). Calling a diet at Nürnberg (1438), he ended all feuds based on the right of private warfare and appointed arbiters to settle disputes. He further divided Germany into administrative circles, again with the maintenance of peace in mind. Although he died the following year during a campaign against the Turks, the rule of Albert's successors was stabilized through implementation of his measures.

▪ king of Belgium
in full  Albert Félix Humbert Théodore Christian Eugène Marie of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha 
born June 6, 1934, Brussels, Belg.

      king of the Belgians from 1993.

      The second son of King Leopold III, Albert was educated at home and in Geneva and Brussels and entered the Belgian navy in 1953. From 1962 until his ascension, he served as honorary chairman of the Belgian Office of Foreign Trade, leading some 70 important trade missions and becoming an expert on shipping. He also served as the longtime president of the Belgian Red Cross and as a member of the International Olympic Committee.

      In 1959 he married Paola Ruffo di Calabria, an Italian princess. The couple had three children: Philippe (b. 1960), Astrid (b. 1962), and Laurent (b. 1963). Albert succeeded his childless older brother Baudouin (Baudouin I) after the latter's death in July 1993. Though many had speculated he would abdicate in favour of his eldest son, Albert was sworn in as sixth king of the Belgians on August 9, 1993. While constitutional reform in 1993 had federalized the government and limited the power of the monarchy, Albert remained an important symbol of unity to the country as it faced growing political divisiveness between French-speaking Wallonia and Flemish-speaking Flanders.

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Universalium. 2010.

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