855.001 Leopold/5–245: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium (Sawyer) to the Secretary of State

587. Some weeks ago it was said in Belgium that no subject was more thought about and less talked about than return of King. Today no subject is more talked about. Possibility that he may not be found alive adds to agitation. Spaak, toward whom King has unfriendly feeling, is in San Francisco.68 Van Cauwelaert, President of Chamber of Deputies, ranking member of Parliament and leader Catholic Party, cancelled proposed trip to San Francisco to be here to deal with problems arising if and when King should return.

As indicated previous reports and particularly in our despatch 157, January 12,69 substantial body of opinion within and without Government circles unfavorable to Leopold and would view his return Belgium with misgivings. Many persons who share this feeling hesitate, however, advocate Leopold’s abdication because they presume he would abdicate in favor of his fifteen-year old son Baudouin. While this would probably lead to continuation of present regency until Baudouin attains his majority at 18 and although there is almost universal satisfaction over Prince Charles’ conduct of affairs and attitude there is feeling that Belgian and world affairs in 3 years will be far too complicated entrust to 18 year old sovereign. Because of this many who are personally unfavorable to Leopold may refrain from voicing objection to his return. Opinion practically unanimous, however, certain things are necessary upon King’s return. These are:

King must dismiss immediately from his entourage at least two men who are believed, if not known, to be strongly pro-Nazi,…
King must indicate immediately his intention conduct Government in accordance with spirit as well as letter of Belgian Constitution.
He must make unequivocal statement as to sympathy with Allies and repudiation of any totalitarian ideology.

Unless this is done he will face serious trouble Socialist Party generally would be pleased if King did not return or if he abdicated. Communist paper Drapeau Rouge has openly urged his abdication [Page 121] and there are indications that Liberal Party would not feel badly if he said he did not care continue rule. There are deep currents affecting this matter some of which are suspected of being encouraged by certain French elements. King’s most bitter opponents are free-thinking Walloons while his most ardent supporters are Catholic Fleming including the Cardinal and it is conceivable that if appropriate formula is not found Walloon extremists will find opportunity convenient speak for secession. It is possibility of such occurrence which would have repercussions far beyond borders of Belgium that is causing thoughtful Belgians to be so concerned about whole question of King and his return.

  1. The United Nations Conference at San Francisco was in session April 25–June 26, 1945.
  2. Not printed.