Charles-Theodore Henri Antoine Meinrad was the second son of Prince Albert and Princess Elisabeth, née Duchess in Bavaria, future King and Queen of the Belgians. He was born on 10 October 1903 in Brussels. Since 31 January 1910 he was known as Count of Flanders. He received his primary education in Brussels, but during the Great War he was sent to Great Britain, where he joined the Royal Naval College at Osborne, on the Isle of Wight. In 1918 he was admitted to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, and after he completed his naval training there, he spent some time on board of various British warships. He completed his naval training in Portsmouth and Greenwich. In 1926 he attended the Royal Military Academy in Brussels, where he was appointed Second Lieutenant to the First Pathfinder Regiment. From 1926 until the beginning of the Second World War he carried out royal duties around the country.
In 1939 he was made Colonel, and he served at the Headquarters of the Cavalry Corps during the German invasion in Belgium. During the occupation, he lived quietly in Brussels. In the last few months of the war he retreated to a Walloon village under a false name. Right before the liberation of Belgium, King Leopold was deported by the Nazi troops. Prince Charles was asked to be regent while the King was absent. He took the constitutional oath on 20 September 1944, and would continue to rule until 1950.
During his reign, the country faced the Royal Question – should Leopold return or not – and it had to recover from the consequences of the Second World War. Charles saw no less than nine governments come and go during his regency. It was a time of great change. The economy revived fairly quickly, women were allowed to vote in parliamentary elections, and the basis for the current Belgian social security system was laid. He also guided Belgium into joining the UN in 1945, NATO in 1948 and the Council of Europe in 1949.
When Leopold returned to Belgium in 1950, Prince Charles withdrew from public life. He lived on the royal domain of Raversijde in Ostend. He was embittered by the way he was pushed aside in 1950 in favour of an underage Prince. He also resented his brother for not allowing him to marry the woman he loved because she was a commoner – especially after Leopold himself married a commoner during wartime. He pointedly refused any dotation offered to him by the government, and he did not undertake any further public functions until his death in 1983. He spent his time painting under the name Charles of Flanders. His works were regularly exhibited. He never officially married and has no children anyone knows of. It is subject of speculation whether or not he married Jaqueline Peyrebruyne in 1977. Although the marriage is quoted in the Almanach de Gotha, there seems to be no evidence of a civil or religious ceremony taking place. Prince Charles died in the royal villa in Ostend on 1 June 1983.