Albert was the 5th child (and second surviving son) of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen. At birth he was third in line to the throne, as his first cousin, Prince Leopold, the only son of King Leopold II, had died at the age of nine in 1869. (King Leopold II had three daughters as well: Louise, Stephanie and Clementine, but succession was governed by Salic law -- males only -- so after Prince Leopold's death, Leopold II's younger brother, Philippe, became the heir presumptive.)
Albert had an older brother, Prince Baudouin (1869-1891) was groom for eventual succession, but on January 23, 1891, the young prince was killed in a duel with the husband of his mistress.
The Count of Flanders died in 1905, and Prince Albert became Leopold II's heir presumptive. Albert succeeded to the throne on December 23, 1909.
Albert met his future wife, Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria, the daughter of Duke Karl-Theodor in Bavaria (the noted oculist) and Infanta Maria Josefa of Portugal, at a family funeral. This was a true love match. Albert and Elisabeth, named for her paternal aunt, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, married in Munich on October 2, 1900.
|Second wife of Leopold II|